How the Ford Motor Co. Invented the SQUID

In the 1960s, auto company researchers scored this key breakthrough in superconductivity, even though the work had nothing to do with cars

13 min read
Photo: Arnold Silver/Ford
Ford’s SQUID Team: The researchers who invented the SQUID were (from left) John Lambe, James Zimmerman, Arnold Silver, Robert Jaklevic, and James Mercereau.
Photo: Arnold Silver/Ford

Cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero, a superconducting quantum interference device, or SQUID, can do something amazing: detect a magnetic field only a millionth as strong as the human brain’s, or less than 5 quintillionths of a tesla.

Measuring such minute magnetic fields turns out to be useful for many things, including geophysical and archeological surveys, detection of the cosmic microwave background, nondestructive testing of materials and devices, and imaging the brain, heart, and other body parts. Invented some 50 years ago, the SQUID now comes in dozens of varieties, with different materials and circuitries, and operating temperatures both high (at the liquid-nitrogen range of around 77 kelvins) and low (less than 10 K, in the realm of liquid helium).

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Water Heaters Have Battery Potential

They’re more cost effective for energy storage than electrochemical batteries

3 min read
A water heater in a basement with a fusebox and blue tool box.

This article is part of our exclusive IEEE Journal Watch series in partnership with IEEE Xplore.

Water heaters are, according to new research, sizing up to be more than just water heaters in the modern, renewably-powered home. They could, in fact, be something closer to a battery.

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