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).

Keep reading... Show less

Stay ahead of the latest trends in technology. Become an IEEE member.

This article is for IEEE members only. Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Video Friday: Drone in a Cage

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

3 min read
A drone inside of a protective geometric cage flies through a dark rain

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

ICRA 2022: 23 May–27 May 2022, PHILADELPHIA
IEEE ARSO 2022: 28 May–30 May 2022, LONG BEACH, CALIF.
RSS 2022: 21 June–1 July 2022, NEW YORK CITY
ERF 2022: 28 June–30 June 2022, ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
RoboCup 2022: 11 July–17 July 2022, BANGKOK
IEEE CASE 2022: 20 August–24 August 2022, MEXICO CITY
CLAWAR 2022: 12 September–14 September 2022, AZORES, PORTUGAL

Enjoy today’s videos!

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

Remembering 1982 IEEE President Robert Larson

He was a supporter of several IEEE programs including Smart Village

3 min read
A photo of two men in suits.  One behind the other.

Robert Larson [left] with IEEE Life Fellow Eric Herz, who served as IEEE general manager and executive director.

IEEE History Center

Robert E. Larson, 1982 IEEE president, died on 10 March at the age of 83.

An active volunteer who held many high-level positions throughout the organization, Larson was the 1975–1976 president of the IEEE Control Systems Society and also served as IEEE Foundation president.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less