This graph shows the correlation between ethanol content and the improved SVF for the beverages. It clearly shows that the concentration has no appreciable effect on the improvement.  (Source: National Institute for Materials Science (Japan))

This graph shows the improved resistivity performance of the material in correlation with its temperature for each beverage type.  (Source: National Institute for Materials Science (Japan))
A man's passion for for alcohol breeds a better superconductor.

Superconductors aren’t a science-fiction creation, but many of the things people dream of using them for still are. In order for any known material to become a superconductor, it has to be cooled to very low temperatures.

Superconductors have the unique ability to ferry electrons through their structures with absolutely no resistance. No resistance means no energy loss. Room temperature superconductors could revolutionize everything from the ubiquitous television to basic electrical infrastructure such as power lines.

While the breakthrough at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science won’t be bringing these high temperature materials to market, it certainly gives reason for pause. Research pioneered by an inspired Dr. Takano Yoshihiko (in Japan, surnames preface given names) has found that ordinary consumer beverages of the alcoholic kind can enhance the performance of at least one known superconducting material.

The material, FeTe0.8S0.2, is a known superconductor when soaked in water or exposed to oxygen. After a business party, Takano began to wonder if the alcohol they had been drinking would have the same effect on the material as water or water-ethanol solutions.

To find out, he soaked samples of the material in water-ethanol solutions along with beer, whiskey, red and white wine, sake, and shouchu (a clear liquor which can be made from many different crops and is higher in alcohol content than sake) at 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit for the Celsius-impaired) overnight. The results were gratifying. 

Takano found that beverages improved the superconductivity of the FeTe0.8S0.2 up to 62% of the base superconducting volume fraction. Red wine took the top spot for both superconducting volume fraction (62.4%) and zero resistivity temperature (7.8 degrees Kelvin). Meanwhile, shouchu brought up the rear for the beverages, closer to 23% and 7.2 degrees Kelvin respectively. Interestingly, no matter what concentration of ethanol was used in the water-ethanol mixture, the improved volume fraction never reached above 15% -- much lower even than the shouchu. 

Another notable discovery was that the alcohol content of the different beverages did not affect the outcome of the test. Takano postulates that the differences in improvement are due to the abilities of the drinks to oxidize quickly, thus supplying the material with the oxygen it needs to become a superconductor and explaining why wine came out on top of the tests.

The full results of the study can be found here in PDF form.

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