Superconductivity was and continues to be the most astonishing collective electronic state of electrons in metals. Electricity can be transported without energy loss, and the superconducting state causes magnetic fields to be expelled or excluded from the metal. This latter property enables the superconducting state to be demonstrated on a tabletop: levitation of a magnet above a superconducting ingot. The zero resistance property appears to promise many energy-reduction applications. The challenge is that metals must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures to become superconducting, so the quest for higher superconducting temperatures has been a central goal amongst materials physicists for many decades. This talk will provide an overview of the intermittent but impressive progress that has been made over the last century, and spend some time describing the recent breakthrough of superconductivity that can exist on the surface of the earth – though it requires high pressure and must be kept at the coldest corner of Antarctica!
Warren Pickett obtained his PhD in Solid State Physics from Stony Brook University. He spent 18 years at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, obtaining Senior Scientist rank. In1997 he moved to the University of California Davis. His interest includes magnets and superconductors and magnetic materials that become superconducting; ferroelectric insulators that become ferromagnetic; materials with topological electronic states; nanoscale-structured materials such as metal-oxide interfaces and heterostructures. He has engaged in computational materials design since the early 1980s and has nearly 500 publications in the primary scientific literature. His professional awards included a von Humboldt Professorship in 2005-2006 and a year as Simons Fellow in 2012, half of the year spent in Singapore. He served as Physics Department chair from 2008-2011, and during the same period was in the Chair line of the Division of Condensed Matter Physics of the American Physical Society, serving as Chair in 2010-2011.