BCS Theory of Superconductivity

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Bardeen, Cooper, and Schrieffer Theory of Superconductivity

In 1972, Professor John Bardeen, postdoctoral associate Leon Cooper, and graduate student J. Robert Schrieffer were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for developing the BCS Theory of Superconductivity. The BCS Theory of Superconductivity gives a detailed explanation of the loss of electrical resistance in certain materials when they are exposed to low temperatures.


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Plaque on Entrance to Materials Science and Engineering Building (originally the Physics Building) commemorating the Nobel Prize for the BCS Theory

BBC Visions of the Future, The Quantum Revlolution

Superconductivity was first discovered by a Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes in Leiden, Holland on April 8, 1911. It is a quantum mechanical phenomenon that occurs in certain materials as they are cooled. As these materials cool they begin to lose their electrical resistivity and expel their magnetic fields.

Bardeen had recognized that an energy gap existed between normal and superconducting states in metal and was working on solving this mystery with others. Cooper was able to account for the gap and called his theory Cooper Pairs in 1956. There were still some skeptics about Cooper Pairs, but Schrieffer was able to calculate a wave function for Cooper Pairs that satisfied these critics one year later. This collaborative effort led to the Theory of Superconductivity and honors all three team members by including their initials in the title.

More information on superconductivity HERE from the Department of Physics.

– Materials Science and Engineering Building. Formerly the Physics Lab, this is where the BCS Theory was developed and the plaque commemorating the BCS theory is located here.

– Bardeen Quad. Historical Marker located on the west end of the Bardeen Quad, near Engineering Hall and south of the creek.


BCS Theory. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved November 13, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BCS_theory

Department of Physics. (2004, February 1). Revealing Hidden Order in High-Temperature Superconductors. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from https://physics.illinois.edu/news/article/553

Department of Physics. (n.d.). Nobel Laureates. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from https://physics.illinois.edu/images/history/laureates/BCS.png (Image of Bardeen, Cooper, and Schrieffer) (Updated link here).

Hutchinson, J. (2007, November 30). BCS Theory of Superconductivity Turns 50. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://www.ece.illinois.edu/mediacenter/article.asp?id=156#sthash.tLDPVwaR.dpu

Hyperphysics. (n.d.). BCS Theory of Superconductivity. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/solids/bcs.html

Illinois1867. (2011, July 26). Theory of Superconductivity. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://youtu.be/M9dOqP5lh5g