December 15, 2006
Low-cost MRI machines, super-fast Internet routers, and high-capacity power lines top the list of likely breakthroughs in the field of superconductivity in 2007, according to a 'Top-10' forecast list released today by Elie K. Track, Ph.D., senior partner, HYPRES Inc., a developer of superconducting microelectronics technology.
Dr. Track compiled the list of expected breakthroughs through industry research, conversations with scientific experts around the world, and through his work at HYPRES. The list was developed in an effort to pull together information on the wide variety of superconductivity projects worldwide and begin a dialog about the innovative advancements and breakthrough applications that are well positioned to occur next year.
"In my conversations with many respected colleagues, I continue to hear about new and exciting applications and breakthroughs that are likely to take place in 2007, largely because of the involvement of superconductor-based technologies," said Track. "I thought it would be useful to pull all these together into one list so we can truly realize and appreciate the profound impact that superconductivity will have on various industries, the scientific community, and the average person in the coming year."
Topping the list is an expected breakthrough announcement of laboratory demonstrations that can lead to an advanced, low-cost MRI machine that leverages superconducting technology. Ultimately, this will make it easier and cheaper to screen for many serious medical conditions, such as breast cancer and brain tumors. By using tiny magnetic fields, these advanced MRI machines will also work in a more open environment, easing concerns for claustrophobic patients.
Other expected breakthroughs on the list include:
2). Ultra high speed Internet switches that will carry Internet traffic to a much higher level of density and complexity, leading to an information highway that is much faster than what we currently have. The specific advancement would involve the use of superconducting technology to process optical signals in interconnecting circuits, leading to 100 Tbps routers.
3). High-capacity power lines that use cables made out of superconductors to efficiently carry electricity to areas that are without power infrastructure. These innovative cables carry 3-5 times more current than traditional power lines of the same size. Such a system was demonstrated in New York State in 2006, and Dr. Track expects further, more comprehensive demonstrations and implementations in 2007.
4). The demonstration of a wireless digital receiver, using superconducting electronics, outside of the laboratory. This breakthrough will ultimately lead to significantly improved wireless communication systems -- in speed, accuracy, and data capacity -- for military and commercial applications.
5). The Food and Drug Administration granting approval for use of superconducting sensors in advanced magnetic cardio-imaging machines that will be used to more effectively screen for coronary artery disease.
6). The proven design of a 10 teraflops workstation computer, to replace room-sized systems. This superconductor-charged system would have a number of applications, including greatly increasing the accuracy of weather forecasting.
7). Demonstration of a superconductor-based ship propulsion motor for the U.S. Navy, leading to dramatic savings in size, weight and power needs for future transportation systems.
8). Progress in the development of an analog quantum computer, which is expected to improve the speed for processing complex mathematical computations from years to minutes.
9). The successful demonstration of the SCUBA-2 infrared camera on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, the most complex demonstration ever of superconducting electronics – will provide an unprecedented view of the universe.
10). The addition of an AC Josephson voltage standard device, leading to sharp improvements in the fundamental accuracy of measurements of electrical signals. This would be an enormous breakthrough in the metrology community.
Honorable mentions: National Security Agency funding for superconducting supercomputer, demonstration of Bell's inequalities (fundamental advancement in quantum mechanics physics), and improved superconducting materials that allow superconductivity to take place at higher temperatures.
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