Milestone-Proposal:High Temperature Superconductivity

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Docket #:2012-06

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?

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)? Yes

Has the IEEE Section(s) in which the plaque(s) will be located agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

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:

High-Temperature Superconductivity, 1987

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

High-Temperature Superconductivity, 1987

On this site in 1987, yttrium-barium-copper-oxide, YBa2Cu3O7, the first material to exhibit superconductivity at temperatures above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen (77k), was discovered. This ushered in an era of accelerated superconductor materials science and engineering research worldwide, and led to advanced applications of superconductivity in energy, medicine, communications, and transportation.

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?

Region 5 Houston Section

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

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

Unit: IEEE Houston Section
Senior Officer Name: Donald Dunn

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

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

IEEE Section: Houston
IEEE Section Chair name: Donald G Dunn

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Willis King
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):

Science and Research Building 1, University of Houston Closest street address: 3577 Cullen Blvd., Houston TX 77004 GPS coordinates: +29° 43' 21.9318", -95° 20' 42.4968"

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 YBCO compound was first synthesized and tested for superconductivity in this building.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

The plaque will be mounted on a wall in the ground floor entrance hall

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

The intended plaque site is on the University of Houston campus, which is protected by the UH Department of Public Safety (Police Department, Security Services, and Fire Marshal). The building in which the plaque will be installed is locked during non-business hours. The intended plaque site is accessible to the public during University business hours, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday - Friday, excluding University holidays. Visitors will not need to go through security, make an appointment, or contact anyone in order to visit the plaque during business hours.

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

The University of Houston

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)

January 2012 marked the 25th anniversary of the discovery of superconductivity above the liquid-nitrogen temperature by Paul C.W. Chu and coworkers at the University of Houston[1]. Breaking the liquid nitrogen temperature barrier of critical temperature is a great milestone in the journey toward room temperature superconductivity, and is an impressive achievement in modern science. This discovery made application possibilities cost-effective, practical and closer to consumer needs to a degree never imagined before. As one of the great achievements of the century, this invention was invited as a contribution to the White House National Millennium Time Capsule at the National Archives in 2000 [2]. Paul Chu was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1988 [3].

Superconductors differ from usual conductors fundamentally in how electrons and therefore electric currents, transport in them, giving rise to performance benefits. Exceptional properties resulting in performance benefits include zero DC resistance (very low resistance at high frequencies), very high current carrying density, and very low signal dispersion, exclusion of magnetic fields, and very high sensitivity to magnetic fields when put in the superconducting quantum interference device configuration. Zero resistance and high current density have major

importance in high efficient power transmission and have technological benefits, for example in powerful electromagnets and powerful miniature motors. High sensitivity of superconductors to magnetic fields has made superior sensing applications possible, and magnetic field exclusion has made superconducting levitation a possibility. Further, superconductivity has made high speed computing and signal transmission possible that is well beyond the theoretical limit reachable by the semiconductor technology.

Prior to 1987, all superconducting materials had lower critical temperatures (Tc’s) and therefore functioned only at temperatures near the boiling point of liquid helium (4.2 K) or liquid hydrogen (20.28 K), with the highest being Nb3Ge at 23 K. This made refrigeration used to cool the material to below the critical temperature extremely costly and technologically challenging, limiting superconducting applications only to specialized critical needs. Inspired by the work of Georg Bednorz and Karl Mueller on high temperature superconductivity (HTS), Paul Chu and his associates at the University of Houston discovered in 1987 that YBCO (Yttrium1- Barium2-Copper3-Oxygen7) and iso-structural RBCO (Rare-earth1-Barium2-Copper3-Oxygen7) have a Tc of 93 K. Paul Chu’s group holds the current Tc-record of 164 K in the mercury barium based cuprate superconductor under pressure.[4] Their work led to a rapid succession of new high temperature superconducting materials, ushering in a new era in material science, chemistry and technology.

YBCO was the first material to become superconducting above 77 K, the boiling point of liquid nitrogen, and marked the beginning of the discovery of a series of high temperature superconducting materials. Aside from being the first liquid nitrogen high temperature superconductor, YBCO possesses superior superconducting and physical properties to those of current high temperature superconductors.

Among numerous application possibilities [5], YBCO receiver coils in NMR-spectrometers have improved the resolution NMR spectrometers by a factor of 3 compared to that achievable with conventional coils. YBCO coated conductor tapes of length have been produced by depositing YBCO on flexible metal tapes with buffer oxide layers that can have significant applications in power generation, transmission and storage. Advances in high temperature superconductors in general promise more compact, less costly and superior MRI-imaging, Magneto- Encephalography (MEG), Magnetic Source Imaging (MSI) and Magnetocardiography (MCG), noninvasive diagnostics. Use of high temperature superconductors in industry is expected to reduce power consumption significantly, and use of powerful HTS magnets in water remediation, material purification and industrial processing are being demonstrated. HTS filters are already widespread in cellular communication systems. Today continuing research and development in HTS could lead to new technologies ranging from clean abundant energy from nuclear fusion, to advanced medical technology, to computing at speeds faster than ever before.

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

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

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.

[1] M. K. Wu, J. R. Ashburn, C. J. Torng, P. H. Hor, R. L. Meng, L. Gao, Z. J. Huang, Y. Q. Wang, and C. W. Chu (1987). "Superconductivity at 93 K in a New Mixed Phase Y-Ba-Cu-O Compound System at Ambient Pressure,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 58 (9): 9089 (1987); P. H. Hor, R. L. Meng, Y. Q. Wang, L. Gao, Z. J. Huang, J. Bechtold, K. Forster and C. W. Chu, “Superconductivity above 90 K in the Square-Planar Compound System YBa2Cu3O7 with A = Y, La, Nd, Sm, Eu, Gd, Ho, Er and Lu,” Phys. Rev. Lett, 58, 1891 (1987). [2] National Millennium Time Capsule, [3] National Science Foundation - The President's National Medal of Science 1988, [4] L. Gao, Y. Y. Xue, F. Chen, Q. Xiong, R. L. Meng, D. Ramirez, C. W. Chu, J. H. Eggert and H. K. Mao, “Superconductivity up to 164 K in HgBa2Can-1CunO2n+2-δ (n = 1, 2 and 3) under QUASI-Hydrostatic Pressures,” Phys. Rev. B, (Rapid Communications) 50, 4260 (1994).

[5] Booklet, Superconductivity: Present and Future Applications (2008), Coalition for the

Commercial Application of Superconductors (CCAS) and IEEE Council on Superconductivity (IEEE CSC), 35 pages (2008). See

U.S. Patent 7,056,866, “Superconductivity in square-planar compound systems,” C. W. Chu, filed March 26, 1987; awarded June 6, 2006

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.