Explainer: What is a superconductor?

Michael Sutherland, The Conversation

Credit: Shutterstock Materials can be divided into two categories based on their ability to conduct electricity. Paired electrons on the other hand are given a priority pass to travel in the fast lane through a material, able to avoid congestion. Credit: Shutterstock One interesting and potentially useful property of superconductors arises when they are placed near a strong magnet. The magnetic field causes electrical currents to spontaneously flow on the surface of a superconductor, which then give rise to their own, counteracting, magnetic field. The fact that superconductors will levitate above a strong magnet also creates possibilities for efficient, ultra-high speed trains that float above a magnetic track, much like Marty McFly’s hoverboard in Back to the Future.

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