CRI在线收听:Zhao Zhongxian profile: Superconductor breakthrough will speed up changes

Semiconductors, or microchips, have been changing the way the world works for the past half-century.

The technology has made radios, televisions and mobile devices commonplace.

In advancing the technology, researchers are now focusing on superconductors.

Chinese researcher Zhao Zhongxian is among them.

"He has been researching for more than 40 years," said one of Zhao Zhongxian's colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Physics Institute, "I've learnt that he has been on the frontier of superconductivity research for more than 40 years."

He was the first to design and develop a liquid nitrogen temperature superconductor back in 1987.

His work has since helped advance superconductivity research in many different countries.

Superconductivity basically refers to the electrical resistance of a material at absolute zero.

Components made from superconductors can help to improve the accuracy of atomic clocks on satellites, accelerate central processing units on computers, and increase the precision of gyroscopes on navigational devices.

Doctor Sun Liling says research into superconductivity has already had a profound and far reaching significance on everyday life.

"Actually, superconductivity is of great practical application value to many fields, such as energy, medical, information and transportation. Let's say hospitals, superconducting magnets are widely used in MRI machines. The image is of better resolution compared to a regular magnet. It is very important for doctors when diagnosing their patients. Another area is maglev technology for trains. It's also critical for quantum computing."

Despite the wide range of possible applications for superconductors, physicists, however, used to believe that superconducting properties only worked at temperatures no higher than – 233 Celsius.

However, Zhao Zhongxian and his team have discovered an iron-based superconductor that functions at much warmer temperatures.

"In research for iron-based superconductors, Zhao and his team discovered the superconducting critical temperature above 50-degrees Kelvin for the first time. The discovery created a new "family" of iron-based superconducting materials that lift the highest temperature for the free-flow resistance to 55-kelvin."

Beyond research, Sun Liling says Zhao Zhongxian has become a mentor to many aspiring Chinese scientists.

"He supervises doctoral candidates here at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He spends a lot of time talking to his students, giving advice for their next steps in researches. So he is always on the frontier of scientific research. Though in his seventies, he still works like a young researcher, putting in extra hours like they do. So he is a good example for all of us."

The work conducted by Zhao Zhongxian and his colleagues have helped turn China into a rising power in condensed matter physics.