Home / Superconductivity / Keywords


Superconductivity explained through keywords. Run through the continuously updated list and view or download the PDF “flashcards”.

Particle accelerator

In particle physics, a particle accelerator is a machine whose purpose is to produce ion beams  or subatomic particles (electrons, positrons, protons, antiprotons, etc.) with “high” kinetic energy. Such machines are primarily used for: industrial purposes (60% - ion implantation , sterilization), medical applications (35% - production of radioactive isotopes, hadron therapy, etc.), materials structure studies (for example, using the radiation produced by synchrotrons) and particle physics research (5% - a high-energy particle beam allows for probing very small objects).

The methods for accelerating particles are based on the use of electric and magnetic fields. The former supply the particles with energy, accelerating them, while the latter are needed to curve the particles’ trajectory, using the Lorentz force (for example, in circular accelerators: cyclotrons and synchrotrons) or to correct spatial and impulse dispersion of the accelerated beams

Hadron therapy

Medical treatment whereby tumor cells are radiated with heavy hadron particles (protons or carbon ions). The procedure has a lesser impact on the surrounding healthy cells compared with other techniques.

Magnetic field

The magnetic field consists in an electrostatic alteration of the surrounding space, generated – for example – by a magnet.


A cyclotron is a machine used to accelerate beams of electrically charged particles (usually light ions) utilizing a high frequency and high-tension alternate current, in association with a perpendicular magnetic field.

Starting from the center, the particles follow a spiral-shaped trajectory. Once they reach the outside edge of the machine, the beam has been accelerated to almost the speed of light.

The cyclotron was invented January 27, 1930 and perfected in 1932 by the physicist Ernest Orlando Lawrence and it is still used today in medicine, principally for the diagnosis of tumors.

Electric current

A  flow of electric charge, typically through a cable in metal or some other conducting material, for a long period of time. 

Meissner effect

The Meissner effect is the expulsion of a magnetic field from a superconductor during its transition to the superconducting state. A superconducting material, in the presence of an applied magnetic field, if cooled down below the transition temperature cancels nearly all interior magnetic fields. 


Cryogenics is  the study of the production and behavior of materials at very low temperatures (below -150° C, -238° F or 123 K).

Nuclear fusion

Nuclear fusion is one of the few forms of truly sustainable energy for the planet among those probably available in the medium- to long-term. This technology offers the prospect of functional safety as well as environmental compatibility and a widely available and safe supply of combustible.


International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor

An international project which will demonstrate the feasibility of a nuclear fusion reactor to reproduce – in a controlled manner – the process which takes place in starts. This will lead to the future production of clean energy without the collateral effects (waste, contamination risk) typical of current fission technology.

To learn more www.iter.org


Large Hadron Collider
As the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, the LHC’s mission is to unveil the secrets of the origins and development of the Universe, by reproducing in a laboratory the conditions similar to those of the Big Bang.


A state of high ionization of gasses, obtained by increasing their temperatures or subjecting them to electric discharges.

Plasma is considered the fourth state of mater, while the term “ionized” indicates that a significantly high fraction of electrons have been torn away from their respective atoms.

Free electric charges render plasma a good conductor of electricity and make it highly responsive to electromagnetic fields.


An elementary particle with a positive charge equal but opposite  to that of an electron. Together with the neutron, it is the basic component of atomic nuclei.

Proton therapy

Proton therapy is used in the treatment of various types of cancer. It is particularly indicated in situations where normal treatments and radio therapy present excessive risks to the patient, such as in tumors of the central nervous system, eyes, spinal cord, prostate, liver, breast and in children.

Electrical resistivity

Electrical resistivity is an intrinsic property that quantifies how strongly a given material opposes the flow of electric current.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to investigate the anatomy and physiology of the body in both health and disease. MRI scanners use magnetic fields and radio waves to form images of the body.


An accelerator of charged subatomic particles – like protons and electrons – in which the accelerating field varies as needed in order to keep the particles’ orbit circular.


A solenoid is a coil of cylindrical shape formed by a series of circular turns very close to each other and realized with a single strand of conductive material.
If the length of the winding of the turns is less than 10 times the radius of the single turn is defined coil, while if the length of the winding is greater than 10 times the radius is defined solenoid.


Superconductivity is a phenomenon of exactly zero electrical resistance and expulsion of magnetic fields occurring in certain materials when cooled below a characteristic critical temperature

CT – Critical temperature

Under a certain temperature, the material acquires superconducting properties, while above this temperature the material begins to offer resistance to the passage of current.


The tokamak is doughnut-shaped machine that – through the magnetic confinement of a hydrogen isotope in the plasma state – creates the conditions for energy-generating nuclear fusion to take place.