Superconductivity: The technology that could change everything if we just knew how it worked

For a century, the heat has been on for physicists to discover a zero-resistance wire for everyday use – and whoever does it first is going to make a fortune, writes Steven Cutts

<p>Power mad: the discovery will make all other cables obsolete, and one scientist very rich </p>

Power mad: the discovery will make all other cables obsolete, and one scientist very rich

It’s often said that if we see a fundamental breakthrough in physics, it takes about 20 years for the engineering world to find an application for the breakthrough. This is nothing new. Famously, in the 19th century, Queen Victoria was invited to visit Michael Faraday and inspect his workshop. Feigning interest to the end, Victoria turned to Faraday and asked: “But of what use is your invention?” (He’d recently developed the electric motor.)

Faraday replied: “Madam, of what use is a baby?”

It must have been awfully difficult for everyone to understand the potential of this strange new beast called electricity – and inevitably there would be those who chose to lampoon it. Later, the innovators of this world would make fools of these people. Nowadays we make immense amounts of electricity every year, and with a growing economy and the advent of electric cars, we look set to make even more.

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