Brock Physics

The first Canadian high-Tc superconductor


Professors Mitrovic, Razavi, and Koffyberg with their high-Tc sample. 22.Dec.86

From the Brock University Media Release, 87/1, January 19, 1987:

Brock University Professors F.P. Koffyberg, F.S. Razavi, and B. Mitrovic of the Physics Department, Division of Maths and Sciences, have proven the existence of a new superconductor.

Currently, superconductors are wires made from very brittle metal alloys containing tin and niobium which must be cooled to 20 degrees absolute (-253 degrees Centigrade or -423 degrees Fahrenheit) using helium, a costly and difficult coolant to handle.

The Brock University researchers have proven that a new material becomes a superconductor at about 80 degrees absolute, a record high temperature. This will mean that superconductivity can now be carried out at a considerable savings in energy and therefore, money.

This substance, a compound of the metals barium, lanthanum, copper and oxygen was prepared and measured for resistivity in the Brock University Physics Laboratory. The measurement of its magnetic properties is proof of its superconductivity.

The theory that such a substance might possibly be a superconductor was postulated in a paper published by researchers working at the IBM laboratories in Switzerland in early December, 1986. The Swiss researchers had not, however, been able to prove their theory. Professor Razavi spotted the article and quickly convinced his colleagues to try to prove what the Swiss lab had not. The race was on.

Classes had just concluded for the Christmas break, leaving Koffyberg, Razavi, and Mitrovic free to concentrate on the enormous task at hand. "When you have something this hot, you drop everything," says the elated Koffyberg. Professor Mitrovic agrees, "It isn't often in one's career that you come so close to the frontier."

The Brock research team immediately began work on the theory and by December 22, 1986, had their proof. They have since been checking their findings and preparing a paper which has been submitted to a prestigious scientific journal, "Physical Review Letters", in the United States. Professors Koffyberg, Razavi, and Mitrovic have been racing against research teams from Bell Laboratories in the United States, and the IBM researchers in Switzerland and were neck and neck with their competitors.

The research team of Koffyberg, Razavi and Mitrovic is an interesting blend of academic and cultural backgrounds. Professor Koffyberg, born in Holland and educated at the Free University of Amsterdam, came to Canada originally to work as a post-doctoral fellow at the National Research Council in Ottawa. Professor Razavi, born in Tehran, began his university studies at Meshed University in Iran and completed his doctorate at McMaster University in Hamilton. Professor Mitrovic was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where he began his studies at the University of Belgrade. He also completed his doctoral work at McMaster University in Hamilton.