Modern science places types of superconductors in two general categories, type one and type two. To better understand different types and uses of superconductors, we must first explore the origins of this phenomenon.
The earliest known observation of superconductivity, was in 1911, by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes. While cooling helium until it reached liquid state, he noticed its electrical resistance vanished. Onnes went on to perform similar experiments with lead, mercury and tin, searching for other types of superconductors.
It wasn’t until 1933, that it was discovered, superconductors actually repel all magnetic fields from within. This exciting discovery launched the scientific community into a frenzy of research for the next 54 years, in the hope of discovering new types of superconductors. The discovery in 1986, that ceramic would reach super conductivity at relatively high temperatures, opened this science up to many new possibilities.
Classified as type one, these types of superconductors are composed of metals and metalloids, that at room temperature settings, have conductivity. This was the original type discovered and researched by Onnes and his predecessors. The BCS theory explains, superconductivity will be extinguished at relatively low magnetic fields. This magnetic field is referred to as the critical field.
Other types of superconductors, named type two, are made up of, metallic compounds, alloys and ceramics. While not completely understood, it is known, that two different critical fields exist within this type of superconductor. Having two different critical fields, allows them to be magnitudes above a type one in power. This allows the manufacturing of extremely high strength magnets possible.
Searching for new types of superconductors has led to not only, numerous Nobel prizes in the research field, but an amazing technology, that has enhanced our world. The ability to use certain types of superconductors in magnetic resonance imaging, and power generators is just an example of how important this research is.