In 1911 H. Kamerlingh Onnes discovered the abrupt vanishing of the electrical resistance of mercury at 4.2 K and called this phenomenon “superconductivity”. Today, more than half a century later, superconductivity is still a fascinating topic both as regards basic research and applications. The main ideas of our present understanding of superconductivity are discussed. Furthermore, the problems involved in developing a superconductor suitable for technical applications are described. These applications started with the construction of very large superconducting magnets.
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