PerspectivePhysics

The fragility of distant Cooper pairs

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Science  06 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6320, pp. 26-27
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal2516

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Summary

The first superconductor was discovered in 1911, when elemental mercury was cooled below the helium liquefaction temperature. Suddenly, it ceased to show any resistance to the flow of electricity. Soon after, it became clear that some metals become superconducting upon cooling, and some do not. Half a century or so later, a quantum-mechanical theory of superconductivity was conceived by Bardeen, Cooper, and Schrieffer (BCS). On page 52 of this issue, Prakash et al. (1) report the surprise discovery of superconductivity at extremely low temperatures in bismuth, a familiar and extensively documented metal (2). The results mark a new episode in the history of superconductivity.