Optimization of properties and microstructure of bulk superconductors

Optimization of properties and microstructure of bulk superconductors

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New superconductors destined to revolutionize domestic and industrial applications. Credit: Muralidhar Miryala from SIT, Japan

Superconductors are increasingly finding applications in different areas, such as medical imaging techniques, drug delivery systems, energy storage systems, levitation processes and water purification methods. This can be attributed to their extraordinary zero resistance capability, which ensures that a high amount of current is passed through them, making them well suited to revolutionize power transmission and transportation.

Magnetic superconductors are commonly synthesized by the ‘top seeding spindle growth technique’ (TSMG). However, this process has some drawbacks, such as a huge loss of liquid source material during production. This results in material composition changes, cracks in the formed material matrix, mechanical deficiencies and even low thermal conductivity.

Alternatively, the infiltration growth process, which involves stacking secondary phase pellets on top of a liquid phase pellet, has been developed for improved efficiency in production and applications. Various compositions of a liquid phase have been used to fabricate such bulk superconductors. However, large, single grain, bulk rare earth (RE) materials, such as RE-123, are still difficult to synthesize using the infiltration growth process.

Now, however, Japanese researchers focus on using heavy elements such as gadolinium (Gd), yttrium (Y), and erbium (Er), to synthesize bulk single-grain and ternary superconductors, with liquid composition and infiltration growth technique. Furthermore, they carefully analyze the microstructure and properties (superconducting and electromagnetic) of the superconducting material formed (Gd, Y, Er)-123.

Their results reveal a huge improvement in the performance of these ternary bulks, compared to materials currently available on the market. The study was led by Professor Miryala Muralidhar of the Shibaura Institute of Technology and was made available online in Journal of Alloys and Compounds.

First, the researchers evaluated the performance of multiple starting materials from liquid sources to grow a mass of (Gd, Y, Er)-123 single grains. After ascertaining that Er123 and Ba3Cu5OR8 in a 1:1 ratio was the best stock material in the liquid phase, they proceeded with the addition of other primary element components, using the respective oxide powders as starting material.

By evaluating the current flow at critical temperatures, it was found that the resulting superconductor allows the flow of the highest current density through it, which was 81.09% higher than previously available materials in this category. Microstructural analysis with scanning electron microscopy revealed a significant reduction in secondary phase particle size, with an average particle reduction of 43.13%, compared to conventional Ba3Cu5OR8.

Discussing these results, Prof. production.”

Furthermore Er123+ Ba3Cu5OR8 also produced the highest critical current density (jc) of 81.91 kA/cm2 in its own field and 28.29 kA/cm2 at 1 T for (Gd, Y, Er)-123 liquid source of the ternary system.

The greatly improved current density in the newly synthesized material is the most remarkable aspect of this research and has enormous potential for magnetic superconductor applications. “These improvements have the potential to revolutionize real-life applications such as magnetic levitation, superconducting bearings, electric motors, magnetic drug delivery (MDD), and flywheel energy systems,” says Prof. Miryala.

With such outstanding properties, superconducting materials such as these can greatly enhance and affect energy transmission and transportation systems in the near future. They can also transform more industries and become instrumental in tackling climate change while supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In summary, this novel approach to bulk superconductor synthesis has clearly opened the door to mass production of high-performance superconductors and is regarded as an exciting breakthrough for a wide range of applications.

More information:
Akash Garg Agarwal et al, Exploring the effects of liquid source on superconducting properties and microstructure in ternary mass (Gd, Y, Er)123 by infiltration growth process, Journal of Alloys and Compounds (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.jallcom.2023.170506

Provided by Shibaura Institute of Technology

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