Superconducting Chips With No Temperament Problems

Scores of research teams have by now used "warm" superconducting materials to whip up experimental integrated-circuit devices. Such superconducting chips would be the building blocks of new generations of superfast computers and other electronic systems. But so far, the processes used to make these laboratory devices seem infuriatingly temperamental: What works one day may or may not work the next.

Not so at Biomagnetic Technologies Inc., a small San Diego company. BTI has just applied for a patent on what it says is a technique for building Josephson junctions, the superconducting equivalent of the transistor. BTI President Stephen O. James won't reveal the particulars, but he boasts that the method has yielded 56 functioning devices in 56 tries, using a yttrium-barium-copper oxide. The process is also relatively inexpensive. It will take a few more months to confirm the early results. If the technique checks out, BTI plans to retain the rights to medical equipment applications but will license the knowhow for use in other markets.

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