Study Reveals Alcoholic Beverages Induce Superconductivity

March 22, 2011

Whilst trawling through my emails the other day, a story involving potent potables caught my eye—not to mention tickle my taste buds. Many of us have heard about the potential health benefits of red wine, traditionally brewed beers, and whiskey, provided they are taken in moderate quantities. But who would have thought that dipping electronic-related substances into alcohol could increase operational efficiency?

Iron-based compounds usually become superconductive after being exposed to air. That process can take up to several months, though. However, scientists from the National Institute for Materials Science, Japan, found that immersing pellets of an iron-based compound in heated alcoholic beverages for 24 hours greatly increase their superconducting ability.

Due to the variety of technological applications of superconducting materials, there’s been a scramble for substances that may induce and enhance superconductivity in iron-based compounds. The alcoholic beverages used in this new study were red and white wine, beer, Japanese sake, shochu, and whiskey. Samples of the iron-based compound were immersed in each beverage, heated at 70°C for 24 hours, and then analysed. 

Red wine was shown to induce the best superconducting properties. However, other beverages with the same alcohol concentration showed a significant difference. This suggests that it may not be the alcohol contributing to the creation of superconductivity, but rather another component present in the beverages.

Iron-based compounds undergo a process called magnetic order, whereby the molecules align in a regular pattern. To achieve superconductivity, magnetic order must be suppressed.  To become superconductive, the elements in the iron-based compounds must be substituted with elements present in alcohol.

The exact mechanism behind this effect is largely unknown. Nonetheless, the researchers suggest that it may be due to the insertion of electrically charged particles into the layers of the compound.

An alternative theory is that the alcoholic beverages help to supply oxygen into the sample, which in turn causes superconductivity. A clearer understanding will be forthcoming once the structure and composition of the beverages are analysed to identify the key factor in inducing superconductivity.

Professor Yoshihiko Takano, member of the Nano Frontier Materials Group at the National Institute for Materials Science, Japan, says, “The iron compound becomes superconductive by air exposure, but the sample needs to be exposed to air for a few months to show superconductivity.  This is a very, very long time.

"However, the sample immersed in the red wine becomes superconductive only in one day, much faster than air exposure."

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