by Lauren Barnett
Distinguished Professor of Physics PETER HIRSCHFELD has been named a 2022 recipient of the prestigious John Bardeen Prize, sponsored by the University of Illinois. Hirschfeld was honored for his groundbreaking studies exploring the nature and potential of superconductivity.
Superconductivity, which occurs when an electrical charge can move through a material without resistance, has the potential to enable a variety of technological advances. Although physicists have worked to uncover many of the mechanisms involved over the last few decades, the phenomenon still holds many of the greatest mysteries in materials physics.
“It’s significant because it recognizes that my work with many students and collaborators has influenced the way people think about superconductivity,”
Hirschfeld has devoted most of his career to finding or designing materials that can conduct electricity entirely without electrical resistance at room temperature — a discovery Hirschfeld deems the “holy grail” of his field. Currently, metallic conductors must be cooled to extremely low temperatures to become superconductors. If materials could superconduct at room temperature, it would save enormous quantities of energy and revolutionize transportation, electrical power transmission and magnet technology.