Amit Goyal, 34
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Remember high-temperature superconductors? These high-tech darlings of the late 1980s brought a Nobel Prize to their discoverers and generated endless hype about how their near-perfect conduction of electricity would revolutionize energy transmission. Well, it hasn’t happened--at least not yet. One big obstacle has been the difficulty of forming flexible, long superconducting wires that can carry large amounts of current.
Amit Goyal, an Indian-born materials scientist, may have found a way over this hurdle. His contribution: growing thin layers of ceramic superconductors on a polycrystalline metal template, using the highly aligned metal to line up grains of the superconductors. The resulting structure of the superconductor resembles a single crystal, and the method has allowed Goyal and his co-workers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to form superconducting wires capable of very high current densities.
That might--might--be enough for superconductors to fulfill their delayed promise. Within several years, says Goyal, high-temperature superconductors in wires for transmission cables and transformers could be a reality. If you sold all your stocks in companies with the word "superconductor" in their name, Amit Goyal might make you regret it.