Japanese scientists at a boozy office party stumbled across a discovery they hope will help revolutionise efficient energy transmission one day: red wine makes a metal compound superconductive. The researchers plan to showcase their surprise findings later this year, the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the phenomenon of superconductivity, the zero-loss flow of electricity through certain materials.
The “eureka” moment came when National Institute for Materials Science researchers found that an iron-based compound became superconductive after being soaked in alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine and sake. Red wine was the hands-down winner in producing the desired physical effect, although no one is quite clear yet on how exactly it worked, said researchers at the institute in Tsukuba, east of Tokyo. The ratio at which compounds became superconductive was seven times higher when dipped in red wine than for ethanol or water. It was four times higher for white wine and three times higher for beer, sake and whisky.
“The better it tastes, the more effective it is,” the institute’s lead researcher Yoshihiko Takano said, while allowing that taste is subjective. “There may be a connection between the substance we humans sense as a taste and the substance that induces superconductivity.