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Science

Metal structure and properties

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Superconductors

maglev train

Maglev trains are held just above the tracks by powerful superconducting electromagnets.

At low temperatures, some metals can become superconductors. They will have little or no electrical resistance. For example, mercury is a liquid metal. It solidifies at –38.8 °C and becomes a superconductor at –268.8 °C.

Superconductors have potential benefits, including:

  • Power transmission without losses
  • Super-fast electronic circuits
  • Powerful electromagnets

Superconducting electromagnets are used in hospital MRI scanners for example.

Drawbacks - Higher tier

At the moment, superconductors only work at very low temperatures. They have to be kept very cold with liquid nitrogen or liquid helium. A lot of work is going into developing superconductors that will work at normal temperatures. Until this happens, their uses will be limited.

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