By Helga Nowotny
The invention of high-temperature superconductivity was once hailed as a tremendous clinical step forward, inducing an extraordinary wave of pleasure and expectation one of the medical group and within the overseas press. This publication units this learn step forward in context, and reconstructs the historical past of the invention. The authors research the emergence of this new learn box and how its improvement used to be formed by means of scientists and technology coverage makers. additionally they research some of the institutional and nationwide settings within which the learn used to be undertaken in addition to contemplating the medical backgrounds and motivations of researchers who entered the sphere following the unique discovery.
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Extra resources for After the Breakthrough: The Emergence of High-Temperature Superconductivity as a Research Field
Between 1970 and 1990, cryogenic technology has achieved very high reliability. Helium availability has increased with the improvement of extraction techniques. Liquifiers, refrigerators, and cryostats developed for physical and medical applications are now so efficient and reliable that some HTS materials may be used - not because they have higher critical temperatures, but due to other good qualities - alongside LTS at liquid helium temperatures. 24 The context of the discovery technological optimism for LTS does not seem completely unfounded.
The Soviet Union (now the CIS) also continued its theoretical efforts; it had a long tradition in the field, and its scientific isolation was also an insulation from market constraints (Pippard, 1977; Waysand, 1987). Of the numerous groups participating in the rapid rise of LTS research in the 1960s, many subsequently switched to other areas of scientific interest requiring theoretical knowledge and lab equipment similar to those used to study superconductivity. Smaller waves of scientific interest in phenomena related in some way to superconductivity followed, which connected parts of the research groups in a wider network, including groups working on organic superconductivity, spin-glasses, and heavy fermions.
When these programs were scaled down, superconductivity was adversely affected by funding cuts as well as by the reduced prospects for the system as a whole. Some technical problems - like harnessing fusion - can't be solved by throwing money at them, but only by slowly accumulated expertise. Jean-Claude Derian has likened technological dreams to a "mirage": highly desirable but ultimately unattainable (Derian, 1990). But even in hindsight, the 1 Incidentally, the rapid development of cryogenics has shifted expectations for HTS.