12 November 2012

Brian Møller Andersen receives 10 million to research superconductors

Brian Møller Andersen, associate professor of condensed matter physics at the Niels Bohr Institute has received 10 million kroner from the Lundbeck Foundation to research new super superconducting materials.

Brian Møller Andersen

Superconductivity means that a material can conduct electricity without resistance. In conventional conductive materials, like copper, up to a third of the electrical current is lost. In a superconducting material there is no loss at all.

Certain metals can become superconducting when they are cooled to almost absolute zero at 273 degrees below zero. But it is very difficult to work with. In recent years, new materials have been discovered that can become superconducting without having to be cooled down so far. They can become superconducting at higher temperatures, at only 100 degrees below zero, but it is still not understood why.

“The new materials, which are weakly metallic, are magnetic and the magnetism usually destroys the superconducting properties, but here the opposite happens – they become better superconductors and they can function at higher temperatures, at around 100 degrees below zero. The dream is to get superconductors that can operate at room temperature, so they don’t need to be cooled, but what kind of microscopic mechanisms are at work in the material are still a mystery and it is only when we understand these that we can control the process,” explains Brian Møller Andersen.

Brian Møller Andersen is a condensed matter physicist and will try to mimic the properties of the materials and calculate what is happening using computer models and theoretical calculations. Superconductivity is not just physics in the classical sense, it is quantum physics and thus has a completely different way of functioning. The research is performed in close collaboration with experimental physicists. 

Brian Møller Andersen received his PhD from the Niels Bohr Institute in 2004. He was then at the University of Florida for two years and at the Universite Paris-Sud d'Orsay for one year. In 2007 he returned to NBI, where he is now putting together his own research group. The grant from the Lundbeck Foundation is for 5 years and will mean hiring 2-3 new PhD positions and 2 postdocs.