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Almost total lack of electrical resistance in certain materials when they are cooled to a temperature near absolute zero. Superconducting materials allow low power dissipation, high-speed operation, and high sensitivity. They also have the ability to prevent external magnetic fields from penetrating their interiors and are perfect diamagnets (seediamagnetism). Since it was first discovered in mercury by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes in 1911, similar behaviour has been found in some 25 other chemical elements and in thousands of alloys and compounds. Superconductors have applications in medical imaging, magnetic energy-storage systems, motors, generators, transformers, computer components, and sensitive magnetic-field measuring devices.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on superconductivity, visit Britannica.com.