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Mark Miodownik describes the discovery of superconductivity in solid mercury by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes in 1911. An animation is used to explain the cause of electrical resistance in metals and how, at low temperatures, electrons pair up and navigate between metal ions without experiencing resistance. In the years following Onnes' discovery, other metals were found to be superconductors at very low temperatures.
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First broadcast:
11 May 2012

Classroom Ideas

This clip could be used to expand on understanding of conductivity in metals, to explain how superconductivity occurs in metals at very low temperatures and to illustrate how this phenomenon was discovered. Following the clip, students could be asked to investigate which other materials become superconductors at temperatures close to absolute zero.

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