Why do superconductors have zero electrical resistance

This article explains the phenomenon of superconductivity, the reasons why superconductors have zero electrical resistance and their potential applications.

Understanding Superconductivity

Superconductivity is a unique phenomenon where certain materials, when cooled below a critical temperature, lose all electrical resistance. This means that they can conduct electricity with zero resistance, resulting in high current densities and perfect energy efficiency.

The discovery of superconductivity dates back to 1911 when a Dutch physicist, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, cooled mercury to extremely low temperatures and observed a sudden drop in its electrical resistance. Since then, scientists have been exploring the properties and applications of superconductors.

Zero Electrical Resistance in Superconductors

The electrical resistance of a material arises from the collisions between electrons and impurities or defects in the material’s crystal lattice. As electrons move through the material, they collide with these obstacles, which causes a loss of energy and results in electrical resistance.

However, in superconductors, the electrons form Cooper pairs, which are made up of two electrons that are attracted to each other by lattice vibrations. These pairs have a net spin of zero and can move through the material without being affected by impurities or defects. As a result, there is no loss of energy due to collisions, and the material exhibits zero electrical resistance.

The critical temperature of a superconductor is the temperature below which it exhibits zero electrical resistance. This temperature varies depending on the material, but it is typically very low, close to absolute zero (-273.15°C or 0 Kelvin) for conventional superconductors.

Types of Superconductors

Applications of Superconductors

Superconductors have a wide range of potential applications in various fields. Here are some of the most promising ones:

Energy Transmission and Storage

Superconductors can be used to transport electricity over long distances with zero resistance. This means that less energy is lost during transmission, resulting in more efficient and cost-effective power grids. Superconducting cables can also store large amounts of energy, which can be released quickly when needed.


Superconductors can be used in high-speed trains, maglev trains, and other transportation systems to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency. They can also be used in motors and generators for electric vehicles and aircraft, resulting in lighter and more energy-efficient systems.

Medical Imaging

Superconducting magnets are used in MRI machines to produce high-resolution images of the human body. These magnets can generate extremely strong magnetic fields, which are necessary for imaging soft tissue and organs.


Superconducting circuits can be used to create ultra-fast, low-power computers and other electronic devices. These circuits can operate at higher speeds and consume less energy than traditional semiconductor circuits.

Challenges and Future Directions

Despite their potential, superconductors face several challenges that limit their widespread use. The most significant challenge is the need for extremely low temperatures to achieve superconductivity. Cooling systems are required to maintain these low temperatures, which can be costly and difficult to maintain.

Another challenge is the brittleness of many superconducting materials, which makes them difficult to work with and limits their practical applications.

In the future, scientists are exploring ways to overcome these challenges and improve the properties of superconductors. One promising area of research is high-temperature superconductivity, which could lead to superconductors that operate at temperatures closer to room temperature.

Overall, superconductors are a fascinating and promising area of research with the potential to revolutionize many areas of technology. As scientists continue to study and develop these materials, we may see even more exciting applications and discoveries in the years to come.