As a graduate student 25 years ago at UAH, Jim Ashburn invented the first high-temperature superconductor. (The Huntsville Times/Eric Schultz)
Recognition denied for a quarter century finally arrived for a UAH graduate student who played a key role in the development of superconductivity. In a Sunday afternoon ceremony in front of UAH’s Wilson Hall, Dr. Jim Ashburn witnessed the unveiling of a plaque commemorating his achievement.
The plaque, placed by the Alabama Historical Society, recognized Ashburn’s research and efforts in the discovery of a quartet of elements that combined in the right way allows the conductivity of electricity with virtually no losses to resistance. It termed the discovery “a major advance in science.”
In January 1986 Jim Ashburn was a young, first-year graduate student at UAH, pursuing his Ph. D in Physics. He and Dr. M.K. Wu, who directed the UAH physics lab at that time, were working on a NASA research project involving various metal alloys to be processed in space.
NASA allowed the team to alter the research project to focus on a search for a better superconductor, following a breakthrough in superconductivity that had occurred a few years earlier.
Aided by friends and colleagues, Ashburn worked 12-14 hour days, often alone, before hitting on the right combination of three elements, yttrium, barium, copper and oxygen that form the basis of his superconductor. His research became the subject of his doctoral dissertation.
To learn more about Dr. Ashburn and his discovery, you can read the full article in the The Huntsville Times here:
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To read Dr. Ashburn’s historic article on his discovery from the March 1987 issue of Physical Review Letters , which has been cited 769 times in Scopus since 1996, click on the below link (courtesy of the UAHuntsville Salmon Library):
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