ESPCI ParisTech celebrates superconductivity

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A magnet levitating above a disc of cuprate superconducting material - Lévitation d'un aimant placé au dessus d'une pastille de supraconducteur cuprate de type YBaCuO (Yttrium, Baryum, Cuivre, Oxygène) refroidie dans de l'azote liquide à -196°C.© CNRS Photothèque / Julien BOBROFF
A magnet levitating above a disc of cuprate superconducting material - Lévitation d'un aimant placé au dessus d'une pastille de supraconducteur cuprate © CNRS Photothèque / Julien BOBROFF
Exactly a century ago, in April 1911, Kamerlingh Onnes discovered superconductivity — the property of certain materials to conduct electricity with zero electrical resistance, and which is capable of causing certain objects to levitate. Superconductivity has been the subject of intensive research at ESPCI ParisTech for decades. To celebrate the centenary of the discovery, several events have been organized at the School, with a range of films, exhibitions, and creative activities. Some are factual and others are more fanciful. Here’s a review of the initiatives and a small selection of links.

Outreach : photographs on display outside the School

For three months starting in mid-June 2011, superconductivity will be brought into the open. An open-air exhibition of photographs, consisting of 14 large panels, will be installed on the fence in front of the School on rue Pierre Brossolette. Ten of the panels provide historical insight into the research since the discovery of superconductivity, and the other four show current research. Each photograph has an explanatory text. The exhibition is organized jointly wth Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS).

Sciences, arts, crafts, and design…

What if jewels could levitate, or knapsacks float without contact with the back ? Imagine a world with ordinary objects possessing superconductor properties. That’s the challenge that students in a school of design were asked to meet. Their prototypes could revolutionize how we live. The designs will soon go on display at the Espace Pierre-Gilles de Gennes.

Superconductivity in an educational comic strip

Spirou - Le labo Crédits : Jean-Yves Duhoo - Spirou
Jean-Yves Duhoo, the author and artist of "serious" comic books, met Prof. Jérôme Lesueur, the director of the Laboratory of Physics and Materials Research (LPEM) at ESPCI ParisTech and a specialist in superconductivity. The result is a particularly enticing 4-page comic published in the children’s magazine Spirou. Now available on the lab’s website (in French) LPEM. ((refaire le lien))

Superconductivity in motion pictures

Alain Monclin, the director of scientific films, also visited the Laboratory of Physics and Materials Research (and other labs at the School) with his film crew (CNRS, Université Denis Diderot). The outcome is a highly instructive 11-minute film that provides a comprehensive view, with a simply told history of superconductivity, the phenomenon itself, and the issues involved in the different kinds of research underway.

See below :

Events in Paris : real demonstrations in a mock lab

Brigitte Léridon, a researcher at ESPCI ParisTech, is now working with Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), Université Denis Diderot, and the Musée des Arts et Métiers, to set up a mock replica of a specialized laboratory. The exhibit will be visible from outside the Musée des Arts et Métiers, and will provide demonstrations of levitation, including human levitation.

Three public lectures

A series of three lectures for the general public will be held starting mid-November 2011. The topics are :

The history of superconductivity (November 17)

Experimental aspects of superconductivity (November 24)

Applications of superconductivity (December 1)

What’s on the web ?

A comprehensive overview in English ; the site is fun and easy to use.

CNRS Supra2011

The French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) has information on events to celebrate the centenary in France.

Research by CEA

CEA is a French government-funded technological research organization The site shows how research teams investigating the fundamental laws of the universe (at the Institut de recherche sur les lois fondamentales de l’Univers, IFRU) are using superconductivity in very large scale instruments (VLSI) to conduct observations and analyses.

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