superconductor

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A magnet levitating above a high-temperature superconductor, cooled with liquid nitrogen. Persistent electric current flows on the surface of the superconductor, acting to exclude the magnetic field of the magnet (the Meissner effect). This current effectively forms an electromagnet that repels the magnet.


Superconductivity is a phenomenon occurring in certain materials at extremely low temperatures, characterized by exactly zero electrical resistance and the exclusion of the interior magnetic field (the Meissner effect).

The electrical resistivity of a metallic conductor decreases gradually as the temperature is lowered. However, in ordinary conductors such as copper and silver, impurities and other defects impose a lower limit. Even near absolute zero a real sample of copper shows a non-zero resistance. The resistance of a superconductor, on the other hand, drops abruptly to zero when the material is cooled below its "critical temperature". An electrical current flowing in a loop of superconducting wire can persist indefinitely with no power source. Like ferromagnetism and atomic spectral lines, superconductivity is a quantum mechanical phenomenon. It cannot be understood simply as the idealization of "perfect conductivity" in classical physics.

Superconductivity occurs in a wide variety of materials, including simple elements like tin and aluminium, various metallic alloys and some heavily-doped semiconductors. Superconductivity does not occur in noble metals like gold and silver, nor in most ferromagnetic metals.

In 1986 the discovery of a family of cuprate-perovskite ceramic materials known as high-temperature superconductors, with critical temperatures in excess of 90 kelvin, spurred renewed interest and research in superconductivity for several reasons. As a topic of pure research, these materials represented a new phenomenon not explained by the current theory. And, because the superconducting state persists up to more manageable temperatures (past the economically-important boiling point of liquid nitrogen), more commercial applications are feasible, especially if materials with even higher critical temperatures could be discovered.

Elementary properties of superconductors

Most of the physical properties of superconductors vary from material to material, such as the heat capacity and the critical temperature at which superconductivity is destroyed. On the other hand, there is a class of properties that are independent of the underlying material. For instance, all superconductors have exactly zero resistivity to low applied currents when there is no magnetic field present. The existence of these "universal" properties implies that superconductivity is a thermodynamic phase, and thus possess certain distinguishing properties which are largely independent of microscopic details.

Zero electrical "dc" resistance

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Electric cables for accelerators at CERN: top, regular cables for LEP; bottom, superconducting cables for the LHC.
The simplest method to measure the electrical resistance of a sample of some material is to place it in an electrical circuit in series with a current source I and measure the resulting voltage V across the sample. The resistance of the sample is given by Ohm's law as . If the voltage is zero, this means that the resistance is zero and that the sample is in the superconducting state.

Superconductors are also able to maintain a current with no applied voltage whatsoever, a property exploited in superconducting electromagnets such as those found in MRI machines. Experiments have demonstrated that currents in superconducting coils can persist for years without any measurable degradation. Experimental evidence points to a current lifetime of at least 100,000 years, and theoretical estimates for the lifetime of a persistent current exceed the lifetime of the universe.

In a normal conductor, an electrical current may be visualized as a fluid of electrons moving across a heavy ionic lattice. The electrons are constantly colliding with the ions in the lattice, and during each collision some of the energy carried by the current is absorbed by the lattice and converted into heat (which is essentially the vibrational kinetic energy of the lattice ions.) As a result, the energy carried by the current is constantly being dissipated. This is the phenomenon of electrical resistance.

The situation is different in a superconductor. In a conventional superconductor, also known as a Type I superconductor, the electronic fluid cannot be resolved into individual electrons. Instead, it consists of bound pairs of electrons known as Cooper pairs. This pairing is caused by an attractive force between electrons from the exchange of phonons. Due to quantum mechanics, the energy spectrum of this Cooper pair fluid possesses an energy gap, meaning there is a minimum amount of energy ΔE that must be supplied in order to excite the fluid. Therefore, if ΔE is larger than the thermal energy of the lattice (given by kT, where k is Boltzmann's constant and T is the temperature), the fluid will not be scattered by the lattice. The Cooper pair fluid is thus a superfluid, meaning it can flow without energy dissipation.

In a class of superconductors known as Type II superconductors (including all known high-temperature superconductors), an extremely small amount of resistivity appears at temperatures not too far below the nominal superconducting transition when an electrical current is applied in conjunction with a strong magnetic field (which may be caused by the electrical current). This is due to the motion of vortices in the electronic superfluid, which dissipates some of the energy carried by the current. If the current is sufficiently small, the vortices are stationary, and the resistivity vanishes. The resistance due to this effect is tiny compared with that of non-superconducting materials, but must be taken into account in sensitive experiments. However, as the temperature decreases far enough below the nominal superconducting transition, these vortices can become frozen into a disordered but stationary phase known as a "vortex glass". Below this vortex glass transition temperature, the resistance of the material becomes truly zero.

Superconducting phase transition

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Behavior of heat capacity (cv) and resistivity (ρ) at the superconducting phase transition


In superconducting materials, the characteristics of superconductivity appear when the temperature T is lowered below a critical temperature Tc. The value of this critical temperature varies from material to material. Conventional superconductors usually have critical temperatures ranging from less than 1 K to around 20 K. Solid mercury, for example, has a critical temperature of 4.2 K. As of 2001, the highest critical temperature found for a conventional superconductor is 39 K for magnesium diboride (MgB2), although this material displays enough exotic properties that there is doubt about classifying it as a "conventional" superconductor. Cuprate superconductors can have much higher critical temperatures: YBa2Cu3O7, one of the first cuprate superconductors to be discovered, has a critical temperature of 92 K, and mercury-based cuprates have been found with critical temperatures in excess of 130 K. The explanation for these high critical temperatures remains unknown. (Electron pairing due to phonon exchanges explains superconductivity in conventional superconductors, but it does not explain superconductivity in the newer superconductors that have a very high Tc.)

The onset of superconductivity is accompanied by abrupt changes in various physical properties, which is the hallmark of a phase transition. For example, the electronic heat capacity is proportional to the temperature in the normal (non-superconducting) regime. At the superconducting transition, it suffers a discontinuous jump and thereafter ceases to be linear. At low temperatures, it varies instead as e−α /T for some constant α. (This exponential behavior is one of the pieces of evidence for the existence of the energy gap.)

The order of the superconducting phase transition was long a matter of debate. Experiments indicate that the transition is second-order, meaning there is no latent heat. In the seventies calculations suggested that it may actually be weakly first-order due to the effect of long-range fluctuations in the electromagnetic field. Only recently it was shown theoretically with the help of a disorder field theory, in which the vortex lines of the superconductor play a major role, that the transition is of second order within the type II regime and of first order (i.e., latent heat) within the type I regime, and that the two regions are separated by a tricritical point.

Meissner effect

When a superconductor is placed in a weak external magnetic field H, the field penetrates the superconductor for only a short distance λ, called the London penetration depth, after which it decays rapidly to zero. This is called the Meissner effect, and is a defining characteristic of superconductivity. For most superconductors, the London penetration depth is on the order of 100 nm.

The Meissner effect is sometimes confused with the kind of diamagnetism one would expect in a perfect electrical conductor: according to Lenz's law, when a changing magnetic field is applied to a conductor, it will induce an electrical current in the conductor that creates an opposing magnetic field. In a perfect conductor, an arbitrarily large current can be induced, and the resulting magnetic field exactly cancels the applied field.

The Meissner effect is distinct from this because a superconductor expels all magnetic fields, not just those that are changing. Suppose we have a material in its normal state, containing a constant internal magnetic field. When the material is cooled below the critical temperature, we would observe the abrupt expulsion of the internal magnetic field, which we would not expect based on Lenz's law.

The Meissner effect was explained by the brothers Fritz and Heinz London, who showed that the electromagnetic free energy in a superconductor is minimized provided



where H is the magnetic field and λ is the London penetration depth.

This equation, which is known as the London equation, predicts that the magnetic field in a superconductor decays exponentially from whatever value it possesses at the surface.

The Meissner effect breaks down when the applied magnetic field is too large. Superconductors can be divided into two classes according to how this breakdown occurs. In Type I superconductors, superconductivity is abruptly destroyed when the strength of the applied field rises above a critical value Hc. Depending on the geometry of the sample, one may obtain an intermediate state consisting of regions of normal material carrying a magnetic field mixed with regions of superconducting material containing no field. In Type II superconductors, raising the applied field past a critical value Hc1 leads to a mixed state in which an increasing amount of magnetic flux penetrates the material, but there remains no resistance to the flow of electrical current as long as the current is not too large. At a second critical field strength Hc2, superconductivity is destroyed. The mixed state is actually caused by vortices in the electronic superfluid, sometimes called fluxons because the flux carried by these vortices is quantized. Most pure elemental superconductors (except niobium, technetium, vanadium and carbon nanotubes) are Type I, while almost all impure and compound superconductors are Type II.

Theories of superconductivity

Since the discovery of superconductivity, great efforts have been devoted to finding out how and why it works. During the 1950s, theoretical condensed matter physicists arrived at a solid understanding of "conventional" superconductivity, through a pair of remarkable and important theories: the phenomenological Ginzburg-Landau theory (1950) and the microscopic BCS theory (1957). Generalizations of these theories form the basis for understanding the closely related phenomenon of superfluidity (because they fall into the Lambda transition universality class), but the extent to which similar generalizations can be applied to unconventional superconductors as well is still controversial. The four-dimensional extension of the Ginzburg-Landau theory, the Coleman-Weinberg model, is important in quantum field theory and cosmology.

History of superconductivity



Superconductivity was discovered in 1911 by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, who was studying the resistance of solid mercury at cryogenic temperatures using the recently-discovered liquid helium as a refrigerant. At the temperature of 4.2 K, he observed that the resistance abruptly disappeared.

In subsequent decades, superconductivity was found in several other materials. In 1913, lead was found to superconduct at 7 K, and in 1941 niobium nitride was found to superconduct at 16 K.

The next important step in understanding superconductivity occurred in 1933, when Meissner and Ochsenfeld discovered that superconductors expelled applied magnetic fields, a phenomenon which has come to be known as the Meissner effect. In 1935, F. and H. London showed that the Meissner effect was a consequence of the minimization of the electromagnetic free energy carried by superconducting current.

In 1950, the phenomenological Ginzburg-Landau theory of superconductivity was devised by Landau and Ginzburg. This theory, which combined Landau's theory of second-order phase transitions with a Schrödinger-like wave equation, had great success in explaining the macroscopic properties of superconductors. In particular, Abrikosov showed that Ginzburg-Landau theory predicts the division of superconductors into the two categories now referred to as Type I and Type II. Abrikosov and Ginzburg were awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize for their work (Landau having died in 1968.)

Also in 1950, Maxwell and Reynolds et al. found that the critical temperature of a superconductor depends on the isotopic mass of the constituent element. This important discovery pointed to the electron-phonon interaction as the microscopic mechanism responsible for superconductivity.

The complete microscopic theory of superconductivity was finally proposed in 1957 by Bardeen, Cooper, and Schrieffer. Independently, the superconductivity phenomenon was explained by Nikolay Bogolyubov. This BCS theory explained the superconducting current as a superfluid of Cooper pairs, pairs of electrons interacting through the exchange of phonons. For this work, the authors were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1972.

The BCS theory was set on a firmer footing in 1958, when Bogoliubov showed that the BCS wavefunction, which had originally been derived from a variational argument, could be obtained using a canonical transformation of the electronic Hamiltonian. In 1959, Lev Gor'kov showed that the BCS theory reduced to the Ginzburg-Landau theory close to the critical temperature.

In 1962, the first commercial superconducting wire, a niobium-titanium alloy, was developed by researchers at Westinghouse. In the same year, Josephson made the important theoretical prediction that a supercurrent can flow between two pieces of superconductor separated by a thin layer of insulator. This phenomenon, now called the Josephson effect, is exploited by superconducting devices such as SQUIDs. It is used in the most accurate available measurements of the magnetic flux quantum h/e, and thus (coupled with the quantum Hall resistivity) for Planck's constant h. Josephson was awarded the Nobel Prize for this work in 1973.

Until 1986, physicists had believed that BCS theory forbade superconductivity at temperatures above about 30 K. In that year, Bednorz and Müller discovered superconductivity in a lanthanum-based cuprate perovskite material, which had a transition temperature of 35 K (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1987). It was shortly found by Paul C. W. Chu of the University of Houston and M.K. Wu at the University of Alabama in Huntsville[1] that replacing the lanthanum with yttrium, i.e. making YBCO, raised the critical temperature to 92 K, which was important because liquid nitrogen could then be used as a refrigerant (at atmospheric pressure, the boiling point of nitrogen is 77 K.) This is important commercially because liquid nitrogen can be produced cheaply on-site with no raw materials, and is not prone to some of the problems (solid air plugs, et cetera) of helium in piping. Many other cuprate superconductors have since been discovered, and the theory of superconductivity in these materials is one of the major outstanding challenges of theoretical condensed matter physics.

As of October 2007, the highest temperature superconductor is a ceramic material consisting of thallium, mercury, copper, barium, calcium, strontium and oxygen, with Tc=138 K.

Applications

Superconducting magnets are some of the most powerful electromagnets known. They are used in MRI and NMR machines and the beam-steering magnets used in particle accelerators. They can also be used for magnetic separation, where weakly magnetic particles are extracted from a background of less or non-magnetic particles, as in the pigment industries.

Superconductors have also been used to make digital circuits (e.g. based on the Rapid Single Flux Quantum technology) and RF and microwave filters for mobile phone base stations.

Superconductors are used to build Josephson junctions which are the building blocks of SQUIDs (superconducting quantum interference devices), the most sensitive magnetometers known. Series of Josephson devices are used to define the SI volt. Depending on the particular mode of operation, a Josephson junction can be used as photon detector or as mixer. The large resistance change at the transition from the normal- to the superconducting state is used to build thermometers in cryogenic micro-calorimeter photon detectors.

Other early markets are arising where the relative efficiency, size and weight advantages of devices based on HTS outweigh the additional costs involved.

Promising future applications include high-performance transformers, power storage devices, electric power transmission, electric motors (e.g. for vehicle propulsion, as in vactrains or maglev trains), magnetic levitation devices, and Fault Current Limiters. However superconductivity is sensitive to moving magnetic fields so applications that use alternating current (e.g. transformers) will be more difficult to develop than those that rely upon direct current.

References

1. ^ [1]
  • Tinkham, Michael (2004). Introduction to Superconductivity, 2nd ed., Dover Books on Physics. ISBN 0-486-43503-2 (Paperback). 
  • Tipler, Paul; Llewellyn, Ralph (2002). Modern Physics, 4th ed., W. H. Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-4345-0. 
  • Kleinert, Hagen, Gauge Fields in Condensed Matter, Vol. I, " SUPERFLOW AND VORTEX LINES"; Disorder Fields, Phase Transitions, pp. 1--742, World Scientific (Singapore, 1989); Paperback ISBN 9971-5-0210-0 (also readable online: Vol. I)
  • Larkin, Anatoly; Varlamov, Andrei, Theory of Fluctuations in Superconductors, OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2005 (ISBN 0198528159)
  • ScienceDaily: Physicist Discovers Exotic Superconductivity (University of Arizona) August 17, 2006
  • H.K. Onnes (1911). "". Commun. Phys. Lab. 12 (120). 
  • W. Meissner and R. Oschenfeld (1933). "". Naturwiss. 21 (787). 
  • F. London and H. London (1935). "". Proc. R. Soc. London A149 (71). 
  • V.L. Ginzburg and L.D. Landau (1950). "". Zh. Eksp. Teor. Fiz. 20 (1064). 
  • E.Maxwell (1950). "". Phys. Rev. 78 (477). 
  • C.A. Reynolds et al. (1950). "". Phys. Rev. 78 (487). 
  • J. Bardeen, L.N. Cooper, and J.R. Schrieffer (1957). "". Phys. Rev. 108 (1175). 
  • N.N. Bogoliubov (1958). "". Zh. Eksp. Teor. Fiz. 34 (58). 
  • L.P. Gor'kov (1959). "". Zh. Eksp. Teor. Fiz. 36 (1364). 
  • B.D. Josephson (1962). "". Phys. Lett. 1 (251). 
  • J.G. Bednorz and K.A. Mueller (1986). "". Z. Phys. B64 (189). 
  • 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". Physical Review Letters 58: 908–910. 
  • Kleinert, Hagen, "Disorder Version of the Abelian Higgs Model and the Order of the Superconductive Phase Transition," Lett. Nuovo Cimento {\bf 35}, 405 (1982) (also available online: http://www.physik.fu-berlin.de/kleinert/97)

See also

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Materials are physical substances used as inputs to production or manufacturing. Materials range from man made synthetics such as many plastics to natural materials such as copper or wood.
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trillion fold).]]

Temperature is a physical property of a system that underlies the common notions of hot and cold; something that is hotter generally has the greater temperature. Temperature is one of the principal parameters of thermodynamics.
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Electrical resistance is a measure of the degree to which an object opposes an electric current through it. The SI unit of electrical resistance is the ohm. Its reciprocal quantity is electrical conductance measured in siemens.
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magnetic field is a field that permeates space and which exerts a magnetic force on moving electric charges and magnetic dipoles. Magnetic fields surround electric currents, magnetic dipoles, and changing electric fields.
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Meissner effect (or Meissner-Ochsenfeld effect) is the expulsion of a magnetic field from a superconductor. The phenomenon was discovered by Walther Meissner and Robert Ochsenfeld in 1933 by measuring the flux distribution outside of tin and lead specimens as they were
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Electrical resistivity (also known as specific electrical resistance) is a measure of how strongly a material opposes the flow of electric current. A low resistivity indicates a material that readily allows the movement of electrical charge.
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In science and engineering, conductors, such as copper or aluminum, are materials with atoms have loosely held valence electrons. See electrical conduction.

Conductors in context


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2, 1
(mildly basic oxide)
Electronegativity 1.90 (Pauling scale)
Ionization energies
(more) 1st: 745.5 kJmol−1
2nd: 1957.9 kJmol−1
3rd: 3666 kJmol−1

Atomic radius 135 pm
Atomic radius (calc.
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Silver (IPA: /ˈsɪlvə(ɹ)/) is a chemical element with the symbol Ag (Latin: argentum) and atomic number 47.
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Absolute zero describes a theoretical system that neither emits nor absorbs energy. The Absolute zero temperature is known to be (–273.15 °C).
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Ferromagnetism is the "normal" form of magnetism with which most people are familiar, as exhibited in horseshoe magnets and refrigerator magnets, for instance. It is responsible for most of the magnetic behavior encountered in everyday life.
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atomic spectral lines are of two types:
  • An emission line is formed when an electron makes a transition from a particular discrete energy level of an atom, to a lower energy state, emitting a photon of a particular energy and wavelength.

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quantum mechanics is the study of the relationship between energy quanta (radiation) and matter, in particular that between valence shell electrons and photons. Quantum mechanics is a fundamental branch of physics with wide applications in both experimental and theoretical physics.
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A perfect conductor is an electrical conductor with no resistivity. The concept is used to model systems in which the electrical resistance or resistivity is negligible compared to other effects. One such model is ideal magnetohydrodynamics, the study of perfectly conductive fluids.
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TIN may refer to:
  • Tax identification number
  • Triangulated irregular network, a data structure used in a geographic information systems

See also

  • Tin


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Aluminium (IPA: /ˌæljʊˈmɪniəm/, /ˌæljəˈmɪniəm/) or aluminum (IPA: /əˈluːmɪnəm/
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An alloy is a homogeneous hybrid of two or more elements, at least one of which is a metal, and where the resulting material has metallic properties. The resulting metallic substance usually has different properties (sometimes substantially different) from those of its components.
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A semiconductor is a solid that has electrical conductivity in between that of a conductor and that of an insulator, and can be controlled over a wide range, either permanently or dynamically.[1] Semiconductors are tremendously important in technology.
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Noble metals are metals that are resistant to corrosion or oxidation, unlike most base metals. They tend to be precious metals, often due to perceived rarity. Examples include gold, silver, tantalum, platinum, palladium and rhodium.
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GOLD refers to one of the following:
  • GOLD (IEEE) is an IEEE program designed to garner more student members at the university level (Graduates of the Last Decade).
  • GOLD (parser) is an open source BNF parser.

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Copper oxide could refer to:
  • Copper(I) oxide (cuprous oxide, Cu2O), a red powder.
  • Copper(II) oxide (cupric oxide, CuO), a black powder.

External links

  • National Pollutant Inventory - Copper and compounds fact sheet

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Perovskite (calcium titanium oxide, CaTiO3) is a relatively rare mineral on the Earth's crust. Perovskite crystallizes in the orthorhombic (pseudocubic) crystal system.
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ceramic is derived from the Greek word κεραμικός (keramikos). The term covers inorganic non-metallic materials which are formed by the action of heat.
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High-temperature superconductors (abbreviated high ) are a family of superconducting materials containing copper-oxide planes as a common structural feature. For this reason, the term is often used interchangeably with cuprate superconductors.
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In the physical sciences, a phase is a set of states of a macroscopic physical system that have relatively uniform chemical composition and physical properties (i.e. density, crystal structure, index of refraction, and so forth).
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electrical network is an interconnection of electrical elements such as resistors, inductors, capacitors, transmission lines, voltage sources, current sources, and switches.
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Ohm's law states that, in an electrical circuit, the current passing through a conductor between two points is proportional to the potential difference (i.e. voltage drop or voltage) across the two points, and inversely proportional to the resistance between them.
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An electromagnet is a type of magnet in which the magnetic field is produced by the flow of an electric current. The magnetic field disappears when the current ceases. British electrician William Sturgeon invented the electromagnet in 1825.
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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), formerly referred to as magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) and, in scientific circles and as originally marketed by companies such as General Electric, nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI) or NMR zeugmatography imaging
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ion is an atom or molecule which has lost or gained one or more electrons, making it positively or negatively charged. A negatively charged ion, which has more electrons in its electron shells than it has protons in its nuclei, is known as an anion
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