During the celebrations of the 100 years of superconductivity in 2011, many times the question came up about real applications and the commercial impact of superconducting materials. Actually, since already the Applied Superconductivity Conference 1998 themed “Superconductivity coming to market” had promised a positive answer to this long-standing question, we felt that the present situation should be evaluated and summarized. There exist a lot of very good textbooks on basics of superconductivity as well as some monographs concerning special applications for specialists in detail like the The SQUID Handbook edited by John Clarke and Alex Braginski.
The collections of articles like “Engineering Superconductivity” edited by Peter Lee in 2001, reflecting the status up to 1999, and “Applied Superconductivity” edited by Bernhard Seeber, already published in 1998, were first steps in the direction to discuss and introduce the applications for a wider audience. Nevertheless, today, they no longer represent the topical situation and latest developments. Thus, the immense progress in applications of superconductivity will be demonstrated within this new handbook on a level which covers the range from popular aspects for students and beginners till details for specialists.
Because of the finite size for a two-volume book, the basic knowledge on superconductivity had to be reduced to a minimum required for understanding the main part on applications. The historical development is not reflected in detail but sometimes with respect to the actual status in order to demonstrate the speed of progress. For historic details, we refer the reader to the book 100 Years of Superconductivity edited by Horst Rogalla and Peter H. Kes, which also covers many historic aspects of applications. This handbook wants to demonstrate that applied superconductivity has a rising impact in science and industry.
The breathtaking development within the last 20 years involved a large number of different fields, for example, in medicine, geophysics, high-energy physics, and power engineering. Thus, not all examples and details can be given here, but the references will guide the reader to additional sources. The dynamics of the development of superconductivity, especially in materials and technologies toward applications is astonishing. Applications even in niches like radio frequency (RF) filters for mobile communication are a strong forcing mechanism in this development.
As one example for the rapid development, the rise in critical current densities in high-Tc superconductors from 103 A cm−2 in the beginning about 20 years ago till today’s second generation of YBCO-coated conductors with some 106 A cm−2 should be mentioned. This progress is the basis for many magnet or power applications. But this example also illustrates the problem of production and availability of big amounts of superconducting materials adapted to the requirements needed for all the possible projects. A production of the coated conductors fixed by pre-contracts between producers and costumers as has been done for low-Tc superconducting cables for accelerators like CERN or fusion reactors like International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) may be a good practical way to cope with this problem.
There will be a rising importance of superconducting materials, technologies, and devices due to their superior properties in comparison with well-established commercial standards. The aspects of saving of energy and reduction of pollution open new possibilities for applied superconductivity as expressed in the topic of the ASC 2014 “Race to energy efficiency.”
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