TSUKUBA, Japan, Nov. 24, 2020 /Kyodo JBN/ --
International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (WPI-MANA), National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS)
With their ability to transport electricity without loss and at zero resistance, superconductors are a technology that could solve a host of environmental and energy problems. The Nano Frontier Superconducting Materials Group at MANA, led by Prof. Yoshihiko Takano, is focusing on the physical properties of high-temperature superconductors, as well as magnetic refrigeration materials and other functional materials. The group is also developing cables incorporating new superconducting materials. Recently, they have been searching for new substances by utilizing machine learning, and have discovered a series of new superconductors as they work toward the ultimate goal: room-temperature superconductivity.
Currently, this research requires extremely low temperatures and extremely high pressures. So the team is also developing artificial intelligence for materials search as well as high-pressure technologies.
Q: What inspired you to enter the field of superconductivity?
“When I began my university studies in Japan, superconductivity was being talked about as a key technology to solve the world’s energy problems. So I decided to enter the field. I initially worked on high-temperature superconducting cuprates.
“Later I moved to the Institute of Solid-State Physics (ISSP) at the University of Tokyo, where I started a small project to investigate new materials, and discovered the niobium oxide superconductor KCa2Nb3O10. I put this material into an n-butyllithium liquid and kept it there for a few days; the material integrated, and gradually became superconducting.
“Superconductivity is of course a physical property, but the reaction between liquid and a solid is soft chemistry. So, by using a combination of physics and soft chemistry, I was able to find this new material. Many people who read my paper called the material a ‘tsukemono chodendo-tai,’ meaning pickled superconductor.”
Q: You are famous for discovering a new superconductor using red wine. What made you think of that?
“Well, we could have used soft drinks or soy sauce or something….”
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MANA International Symposium 2021