From hoverboards and levitating trains to energy-saving power lines and faster electronics, superconductors are being used to create futuristic next-generation devices.
And for boisterous 25 year-old PhD student Frederick Steven Wells, from UOW’s Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM) and School of Physics, this important research field could not be more exciting.
“Superconductors sound really dull to anyone who’s not in the field, but anyone who knows me knows that I don’t do dull. For me, everything has to be colourful and exciting.”
“Superconductors have so many practical uses, and so many possibilities. A lot of people have probably seen the Lexus hoverboard that came out recently. And there’s also the magnetic shields that were proposed by NASA to protect astronauts from radiation.”
“If you’re into more down-to-earth things, then we can make more efficient wires and energy-saving power lines, as well as faster electronics for computers that don’t overheat. And if you’ve ever had an MRI, you’ve used superconductors.”
Superconductors are special materials that don’t have any resistance, meaning they don’t lose any energy as electricity travels through them, making them much more efficient than traditional conductors, such as copper.
Frederick is on the cutting-edge of the sphere; researching how magnetic fields work in superconductors to help create next-generation electronics such as super-sensitive light detectors for deep space telescopes and high-performance, low-energy computers.
The winner of UOW’s Three Minute Thesis competition, in which research students are challenged to explain their work to a lay audience in just three minutes, Frederick said he chose to study physics on a “whim” after having good marks in maths at high school.