Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Einstein and Superconductivity

While Einstein is more well-known for his work in Relativity, Photoelectric Effect, attempts at a Unified Field Theory, it is less well-known that at some point, he dabbled in the theoretical aspect of Superconductivity. This preprint gives an overview of Einstein's role, and his thoughts, on the phenomenon.

It is interesting to note that superconductivity is the clearest manifestation of quantum pheonomenon at the macroscopic scale. According to Carver Mead[1]:

Although superconductivity was discovered in 1911, the recognition that superconductors manifest quantum phenomena on a macroscopic scale (4) came too late to play a role in the formulation of quantum mechanics. Through modern experimental methods, however, superconducting structures give us direct access to the quantum nature of matter. The superconducting state is a coherent state formed by the collective interaction of a large fraction of the free electrons in a material. Its properties are dominated by known and controllable interactions within the collective ensemble. The dominant interaction is collective because the properties of each electron depend on the state of the entire ensemble, and it is electromagnetic because it couples to the charges of the electrons. Nowhere in natural phenomena do the basic laws of physics manifest themselves with more crystalline clarity.


[1] C.A. Mead, PNAS v.94, p.6013 (1997); or you may be able to access it here.

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