The Race to Superconduct

The Race to Superconduct

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To the average person, the most striking image of high temperature superconductivity is that of a magnet levitating over a pool of liquid nitrogen, defying the law of gravity. But the potential of superconductor technology far transcends this singular image, and has become the object of intense global competition. Indeed, the future applications promise to pay lucrative dividends: ultra-fast microprocessors that can perform 1.1 billion operations per second, high speed rail transportation (Japan has already developed a prototype that travels 350 miles per hour), better spacecraft and ways to communicate in space, improved medical imaging techniques and a host of other innovations, from ultra-stable space clocks and magnetocardiography, to new methods to pasteurize Japanese liqueur. In The Race to Superconduct, C. David Chaffee examines the birth and growth of high temperature superconductivity, focusing on the international competition to perfect this technology. The editor of Superconductor Week, the leading publication in the field, Chaffee probes the reasons why the United States, which first made high temperature superconducting practical at liquid nitrogen temperatures, has become locked in a struggle with Japan to develop meaningful applications; why, by the summer of 1989, the Japan Patent Office had received over 4,800 patent applications while the U.S. Patent Office had received only 1,200 (with a fair portion of those being of Japanese origin); and why Japan may well become the first nation to develop new superconductivity applications in communications, transportation, and medical testing. He reveals how the Japanese government's effort to motivate industry led to the very early organization of The Superconducting Materials Forum, which includes over a hundred firms, including such industrial giants as NEC, Toshiba, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Sony, and TDK. And he contrasts this powerful force with America's own strong but fragmented effort, marked by a failure to provide national direction and cooperative action as well as a tendency in industry to place too much emphasis on uncertainty and caution. Chaffee reveals how inefficiencies and bureaucratic squabbles paralyzed the U.S. Department of Energy, and he explains how the Pentagon's more focused efforts kept America in the race to superconduct in the early, formative stages. Does America have a future in technology? Chaffee suggests reasons for optimism, among them, the creative thinking that has fueled America's response to this technology. As a constructive study of how America can improve its global competitiveness, The Race to Superconduct makes a real contribution to America's technological future.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 155 x 235mm
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195061276
  • 9780195061277

About C.David Chaffee

About the Author: C. David Chaffee is executive editor of Superconductor Week, the leading publication on superconducting compounds. He has been writing on science for over a decade and is also the author of The Rewiring of America: The Fiber Optics Revolution.show more