Superconductivity emerges when certain materials are super cooled and enables energy to flow with zero resistance through electrical media (cables, wires, magnets, and magnetic fields). As a result, energy can be transported, stored, and reused without any loss. Magnetic fields created via superconductive materials are superbly controllable, and can sustain an immense amount of energy.
Low temperature superconductors such as NbTi require supercooling with liquid helium to operate. Helium is a finite resource that can escape from the Earth’s atmosphere, and as the MRI market has grown, amongst others including electronics manufacturing and scientific research, the price of helium has increased significantly and supply has not always kept up with demand.
Therefore the superconductivity market is seeking alternative materials that operate at temperatures above the boiling point of cryogenic liquids such as hydrogen and nitrogen, which are relatively inexpensive and readily available.
High temperature superconductors based on ceramic materials, despite their higher critical temperature, tend to be very expensive and therefore currently are not suitable for large-scale industrial application.
In January 2001 a new discovery made a huge impact on the possibilities of using superconductive materials in a wide range of applications. It was discovered that Magnesium Diboride (MgB2) becomes superconductive at about 40K implying that MgB2 can be cooled to an operational temperature by either liquid hydrogen or readily available low cost closed-cycle refrigerators. In addition, MgB2 consists of two simple elements Magnesium (Mg) and Boron (B), which are abundant in nature. MgB2 has found itself in a unique position in terms of replacing NbTi at high magnetic field applications (i.e MRI machines) and displacing high temperature materials at low field applications (i.e. power generation and transmission).