100% Efficient Electrical Devices Are Coming Sooner Than You Think

A digital recreation of what magnetic levitation would look like using a superconductor cooled with liquid nitrogen.

A digital recreation of what magnetic levitation would look like using a superconductor cooled with liquid nitrogen.
Image credit: Shutterstock

A superconductor transfers electrons from one atom to another without any form of resistance. In other words, no energy is lost during the energy transfer process. As of now, superconductors are merely hypothetical. But if scientists did manage to build one, that would spell the beginning of an era with 100% efficient electrical devices. The implication is that it would drastically reduce our energy usage.

The idea of a superconductor was first discovered by Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes in 1911. Onnes observed that when he reduced the temperate of liquid helium to 4 degrees Kelvin (-452°F or -269°C), its resistance suddenly vanished.

If that sounds like science fiction, well, that’s because it kind of is. In order to create a superconductor device, scientists would need the transfer of energy to occur at approximately 0 degrees Celsius (or 32°F). Currently, conductors operate at high temperatures, which results in energy loss. If scientists can just figure out how to dial the heat down to right around room temperature, energy would theoretically be able to travel freely without any energy loss.

A team at MIT is working on precisely that. So far, they’ve managed to cool gas to just above absolute zero, which has allowed them to basically trap atoms in sheets of glass and study them. Normally, you can’t physically see electrons. However, this new process has made it possible, which means that we can use this process to learn more about how electrons work. From there, it’s just a matter of time until we can make superconductors.

But don’t get your hopes up just yet; in all fairness, scientists are still years away from developing this kind of technology. However, researchers estimate that we will see the creation of an ultra-efficient superconductor within the next 20 years. When it does happen, you can say hello to smaller electric bills and a significantly smaller carbon footprint.

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