Technically useful bulk superconductors must have high transport critical current densities, Jc, at operating temperatures. They also require a normal metal cladding to provide parallel electrical conduction, thermal stabilization, and mechanical protection of the generally brittle superconductor cores. The recent discovery of superconductivity at 39 K in magnesium diboride (MgB2)1 presents a new possibility for significant bulk applications2,3,4,5, but many critical issues relevant for practical wires remain unresolved. In particular, MgB2 is mechanically hard and brittle and therefore not amenable to drawing into the desired fine-wire geometry. Even the synthesis of moderately dense, bulk MgB2 attaining 39 K superconductivity is a challenge because of the volatility and reactivity of magnesium. Here we report the successful fabrication of dense, metal-clad superconducting MgB2 wires, and demonstrate a transport Jc in excess of 85,000 A cm-2 at 4.2 K. Our iron-clad fabrication technique takes place at ambient pressure, yet produces dense MgB2 with little loss of stoichiometry. While searching for a suitable cladding material, we found that other materials dramatically reduced the critical current, showing that although MgB2 itself does not show the ‘weak-link’ effect characteristic of the high-Tc superconductors, contamination does result in weak-link-like behaviour.
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Jin, S., Mavoori, H., Bower, C. et al. High critical currents in iron-clad superconducting MgB2 wires. Nature 411, 563–565 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/35079030
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