This initiative is presented by the European Society of Applied Superconductivity (ESAS), The Cryogenics Society of Europe (CSE) and the Consortium of European companies determined to use Superconductivity (Conectus) and supported by a large number of European institutes, laboratories and companies involved in the field. It covers the whole chain from fundamental research to practical applications of superconductivity and so it involves the coordination between many European scientific societies in the areas of Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering with industrial and final users consortia.
What is the challenge and the vision?
Superconductivity is a "macroscopic quantum phenomenon" which some materials exhibit at low temperatures (typically below 90 K). The superconducting state shows a number of extraordinary features: it allows, for example, an electrical DC current to flow with no loss. Today large and powerful superconducting magnets, exploiting this zero resistance, are routinely used in science, research and technological development (RTD) and in medical diagnosis, using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), the latter representing the biggest current market for superconductivity. In addition, the ultralow AC losses of superconductors may also result in potentially large energy savings in power applications, and demonstrations of power cables, transformers, motors or current limiters have already been made. Still another application is in exceedingly sharp, low noise microwave filters for base stations of radio communication systems. Finally, "Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices" (SQUIDs) based on weakly coupled so-called Josephson Junctions, enable us to monitor magnetic fields, which are more than a billion times weaker than the earth magnetic field, and made it possible to successfully record functions of the heart and the brain. These quantum interference effects have also been utilized in a new class of ultrafast, ultralow-power superconductor electronics, which in the future are expected to play an important role in areas like communication and computing, where traditional semiconductor electronics have reached their performance limit.
Discovery of novel superconducting materials and the fast development of the superconducting technologies and their dissemination in the European market and society will lead to a new paradigm.
Superconductors and related technologies will translate into significant benefits to our life, our societies and economies across a broad range of endeavors. Superconductors offer the promise of important major advances in efficiency and performance in electric power generation, transmission and storage; medical instrumentation; wireless communications; computing; transportation and scientific instruments that will result in new paradigms and in societal advances that are cost effective and environmentally friendly.
Why is it good for Europe?
Streams of information, energy, goods and people continue to steadily increase and will probably do so throughout the 21st century. At the same time we begin to face effects of the related global climate change which the ongoing growth of the world population will further enhance and so the need of novel technologies for an “Energy transition” has become unavoidable. Already today, the growth rates of energy consumption in rapidly developing countries like China, India or Brazil are high. Moreover, current cost trends e.g. for copper or rare earth materials demonstrate the worldwide growing demand and our dependency also on the affordable access to limited raw materials. Thus both energy and raw materials are becoming increasingly expensive, and constraints with regard to environmental protection are becoming more stringent. The correlation between the electricity consumption and the prosperity of society on the one side, and the necessity for a sustainable and most efficient use of all resources on the other, will continuously increase the demand for best practice solutions in electrical, communication computing and electronic engineering.
Thousands of MRI systems which have been operated reliably over decades worldwide, with a huge impact on the health policies, demonstrate that superconductors and cryogenics can be made invisible, efficient & reliable. Green computing and data centres based on energy efficient superconducting electronics would also save Europe vast amounts of energy and will define a new market for the future. Then the ultimate performance of "super"-conductor technology stands for enabling sustainable solutions and saving rare raw materials. It contributes to overcoming technological barriers, to implementing novel concepts and to meeting many current and future needs which are both economically important and environmentally desirable. System integration of superconductor technology could thus become one of the key competences of the 21st century and it is crucial to develop existing expertise in cryogenics and superconductor technologies and to extend it into fields of future strategic importance.
What would it take to do it?
The proposed flagship will extend and integrate the existing and future initiatives in Superconductivity between the European leading research institutes in academic and non-academic environments and the high-tech industries and companies. This will give a critical mass to boost the development and the dissemination of the superconducting technology applications in the industry and the society, and will lead in 10 years to a new paradigm for an energy-efficient, ecological, healthier and connected society as well as to continue to cultivate the world-class European scientific excellence and leadership in this field. It will give a unique opportunity not only to sustain investment and coordinate public investments and strategies in Superconductivity, but also to attract new researchers into the field and to Europe.