Milestone-Proposal:High-Temperature Superconductivity

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Docket #:2011-01

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on the edit button in toolbar above, indicated by an icon displaying a pencil on paper. At the bottom of the form, check the box that says "Submit this proposal to the IEEE History Committee for review. Only check this when the proposal is finished" and save the page.

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? No

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? No

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Discovery of High Temperature Superconductivity, 1986

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

In this building, in January 1986, J. Georg Bednorz and K. Alex Müller demonstrated superconductivity in a copper oxide ceramic at temperatures as high as 35 K. This remarkable discovery generated worldwide research activity to find compounds with even higher transition temperatures. Superconductivity causes electrical resistance to vanish, a property of great value for many applications. The two physicists received the Nobel Prize in 1987 for their important breakthrough.

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?


IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: IEEE Section Switzerland
Senior Officer Name: Han van Loon

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE Section Switzerland
Senior Officer Name: Andreas Doering

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: IEEE Section Switzerland
IEEE Section Chair name: Andreas Doering

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Andreas Doering
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

IBM Research Laboratory, Rueschlikon

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The plaque will be installed in the park-like are of the IBM Research Laboratory. It will be publicly visible. IBM Research GmbHIBM Research - ZurichSäumerstrasse 4CH-8803 RüschlikonSwitzerland Lat 47.309272 Lon 8.545346

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

Currently, the area is not protected and is publicly accessible. However, because of recent terrorist threads the construction of a fence is planned. The plaque will be installed such that it will be well visible from outside the fence.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?


What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

In the early 1980s the highest critical temperature (c) for superconductivity attainable was about 23K. A few studies had indicated that certain oxides might super conduct. Hence, at the milestone site, the IBM Zurich Research Laboratory, a systematic search was carried out by K. Alex Müller and Georg Bednorz In 1986 the two succeeded in achieving superconductivity in lanthanum barium copper oxide (LBCO) at a temperature of 35K.Over the previous 75 years the critical temperature had risen from 11 K in 1911 to 23K in 1973 where it had remained for 13 years. Thus 35 K represented a massive jump. Since High-temperature Superconductors can be cooled with liquid nitrogen the play an important role for any technical application using superconductors and high currents. Any non-superconducting connection to a low-temperature superconductor would under high currents generate so much heat that the low temperature could not be maintained. Hence, high-temperature superconductors are found in many applications for science (Large Hadron Collider at CERN) or energy (HTS Power Station at Bayin, China), or medicine (used in MRI coils).

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

At that time, it was not believed that superconductivity was possible at a temperature at above 35 Kelvin. The materials used were much different from the previously used ones. All superconducting materials known before the discovery were metals that conduct at room temperature, too.

The fact that the new found material isolate at room temperature opens a much wider field of materials and thus gave rise to the hope that there can be a room temperature superconductor. It triggered an intensive search for such materials, which is still going on.

But the copper oxides found are now commonly used HTS.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

While superconductivity was known before, the requirement to cool close to the absolute zero temperature made large-scale applications infeasible. The revolutionary jump of the critical temperature presents a milestone towards the technical use of superconductivity.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.