IEEE Milestones in Superconductivity

IEEE Milestones Program

The IEEE Milestones program honors significant technical achievements in all areas associated with IEEE. Milestones recognize the technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity found in unique products, services, seminal papers, and patents. Milestones are proposed by any IEEE member and are sponsored by an IEEE Organizational Unit (OU)—such as an IEEE section, society, chapter or student branch. After recommendation by the IEEE History Committee and approval by the IEEE Board of Directors, a bronze plaque commemorating the achievement is placed at an appropriate site with an accompanying dedication ceremony.  [Milestone Proposal Guidelines]

Each milestone recognizes a significant technical achievement that occurred at least twenty-five years ago in an area of technology represented in IEEE and having at least a regional impact. As of 2016, more than one hundred and sixty IEEE Milestones have been approved and dedicated around the world. A listing of IEEE Milestones dedicated to date can be found here.

To date, there have been three IEEE Milestones dedicated to events and accomplishments in the area of superconductivity:


Discovery of Superconductivity

A milestone plaque was dedicated on 8 April 2011 in the Kamerlingh Onnes Building at the University of Leiden, Leiden, The Netherlands to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the phenomena of superconductivity by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes and co-workers.   

The inscription on the plaque, in English (and on another plaque in Dutch) reads


On 8 April 1911, in this building, Professor Heike Kamerlingh Onnes and his collaborators, Cornelis Dorsman, Gerrit Jan Flim, and Gilles Holst, discovered superconductivity. They observed that the resistance of mercury approached "practically zero" as its temperature was lowered to 3 kelvins. Today, superconductivity makes many electrical technologies possible, including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and high-energy particle accelerators.

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Leiden Milestone Plaque
Leiden Milestone Plaque


High-Temperature Superconductivity

On 14 November 2014, an IEEE Milestone was dedicated at the Department of Physics at the University of Houston, Houston, TX to commemorate the discovery of superconductivity at temperatures above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen (at atmospheric pressure) by Paul C. W. Chu and co-workers in 1986.    

The citation on the plaque is as follows:


On this site in 1987, yttrium-barium-copper-oxide, YBa2Cu3O7, the first material to exhibit superconductivity at temperatures above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen (77k), was discovered. This ushered in an era of accelerated superconductor materials science and engineering research worldwide and led to advanced applications of superconductivity in energy, medicine, communications, and transportation.

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High-Temperature Superconductivity Milestone Plaque
High-Temperature Superconductivity Milestone Plaque


Superconducting Magnet System for the Fermilab Tevatron Accelerator/Collider, 1973-1985

On 13 November 2017, an IEEE Milestone at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), Batavia, IL to commemorate the development of the superconducting magnet system for the TEVATRON Accelerator.    

The citation for this Milestone is as follows:


The first large-scale use of superconducting magnets enabled the construction of the Tevatron. By 1985, the Tevatron achieved energy above 1 Tera electron-volt (TeV) in proton-antiproton collisions, making it the most powerful particle collider in the world until 2009. The Tevatron construction established the superconducting wire manufacturing infrastructure that made applications such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) viable.

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Tevatron Milestone 2017
Tevatron Milestone 2017

The Council on Superconductivity encourages the identification of additional IEEE Milestones that have benefited humanity from within the field of superconductivity. Suggestions for such achievements should be sent to Martin Nisenoff.