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University of Alabama in Huntsville honored for physics milestone discovery

UAH discovered the world's first super conductor that reaches above a significant temperature of liquid nitrogen.

Posted: Aug 19, 2019 6:54 PM

The University of Alabama in Huntsville received big honors on Monday for what is known as the "Holy Grail" of physics. The discovery was the world's first super conductor that reaches above a significant temperature of liquid nitrogen.

The school was honored by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers with a Milestone Plaque for the discovery in 1987.

Jim Ashburn was a student at the time of the discovery and told WAAY 31, "we wanted to find one that worked at more feasible temperatures and this material was a big step in that direction."

Ashburn also said the discovery came after IBM discovered superconductivity, but students at UAH decided to dig and find a material that works three times the temperature than IBM's.

It paved the way for electricity in computers. The material discovered in 1987 was first tested in a UAH physics laboratory and it paved the way for more practical applications like electricity and computers.

The historical discovery happened in Wilson Hall on the UAH campus, and the discovery of the superconductor has been instrumental in the electronics we use today but also in the medical field.

"The day I went home after the discovery, I actually passed an accident scene and in my mind, I was actually thinking about EMTs arriving on a scene like that, and with this material, the prospects of a portable MRI unit could possibly be realized," said Ashburn.

Michael Nance, an incoming student at UAH, said that discoveries like this are important to the school and its programs.

"It makes me feel like whatever I do here will have an impact on a lot of people and it will be extremely important. It's not a casualty. This is really important stuff going on here," Nance said.

This groundbreaking discovery has also been referred to as the "Woodstock of Physics." UAH is the 199th place to receive this recognition globally.

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