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No resistance to superconductivity.

No resistance to superconductivity

If it's true that sound travels faster than the speed of light in the nation's capital, then the phrase "high-temperature superconductivity' might have set new records last week, prompting a pack of political proposals designed to speed commercialization of an as-yet-unproven technology.

Led by President Reagan, official announced the creation of councils, committees and consortia to aid the push to move superconductivity out of the lab and into the marketplace before foreign competitors do so. The proposals came at a Washington, D.C., gathering of more than 1,000 government officials, industry experts and academics brought together by invitation only for the Federal Conference on Commercial Applications of Superconductivity.

The major thrust of government involvement came under the President's Superconductivity Initiative, an 11-point plan designed to speed research on the technology that enables certain materials to lose their electrical resistivity at temperatures high enough to replace today's expensive liquid-helium cooling with more affordable liquid-nitrogen cooling techniques (SN:3/28/87, p.196). If scientists can overcome the obstacles needed to perfect the technology, high-temperature superconductivity could eventually cut costs and increase performance of many existing electrical and electronics systems.

The initiative includes:

three legislative proposals that would relax antitrust laws to allow manufacturers to enter into some types of joint ventures, amend patent laws so that U.S. companies may seek damages when imported products infringe on patents, and change the Freedom of Information Act so that federal labs may withhold from the private sector information deemed commercially valuable.

creation of a three- to five-person group from industry and academia that would advise the administration on superconductivity research and commercialization policies.

initiating measures that would speed the commercialization of superconductivity, including "quick start' grants for research into processing superconducting materials and allocating $150 million for the Department of Defense to apply the technology to military systems over the next three years.

The initiative also calls for several federal departments and agencies to set up a number of Superconductivity Research Centers across the United States to conduct research and disseminate information. The Department of Energy will set up three: the Center for Superconductivity Applications at the Argonne (Ill.) National Laboratory, the Center for Thin Film Applications at the Lawrence Berkeley (Calif.) Laboratory and the Center for Basic Scientific Information at the Ames (Iowa) Laboratory. The Department of Commerce will establish a center at the National Bureau of Standards laboratory in Boulder, Colo., which will focus on electronic applications.

Reagan also announced the formation of a Council on Superconductivity for American Competitiveness that will be headed by former White House Science Adviser George A. Keyworth. Based in Washington, D.C., the council will serve as a clearinghouse of information on superconductivity for those who want to commercialize the technology.

In addition, the Energy Department's Office of Scientific and Technology Information has started a computer data base for superconductivity.

And on Capitol Hill, Rep. Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.) and Rep. Don Ritter (R-Pa.) introduced separate bills last week to facilitate the manufacturing of superconducting materials through additional funding and the formation of more cooperatives among government, industry and academia.
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Title Annotation:federal aid to superconductivity research
Author:Hartley, Karen
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 8, 1987
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