Superconductivity was discovered in 1911 by Kamerlingh Onnes and Holst in mercury at the temperature of liquid helium (4.2 K). It took almost 50 years until in 1957 a microscopic theory of superconductivity, the so-called BCS theory, was developed. Since the discovery a number of superconducting materials were found with transition temperatures up to 23 K. A breakthrough in the field happened in 1986 when Bednorz and Müller discovered a new class of superconductors, the so-called cuprate high-temperature superconductors with transition temperatures as high as 135 K. This surprising discovery initiated new efforts with respect to fundamental physics, material science, and technological applications. In this brief review the basic physics of the conventional low-temperature superconductors as well as of the high-temperature superconductors are presented with a brief introduction to applications exemplified from high-power to low-power electronic devices. Finally, a short outlook and future challenges are presented, finished with possible imaginations for applications of room-temperature superconductivity.
Dedicated to: Professor Arndt Simon on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
We gratefully acknowledge encouraging and constructive discussions with Prof. K. A. Müller. Special thanks are devoted to Prof. A. Simon for fruitful discussions and continuous support of our work in the field of high-temperature superconductivity and related research topics. We also kindly thank R. Noack for preparing the figures.
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