As scientists approach absolute zero, the speed at which an electrical current travels increases tremendously, correct? If so, would it be possible to say that our computers would work a little faster if they were in a freezer?

Asked by: J.J. True


Whilst the question seems correct in it's formulation, there is one flaw, the speed of electrical current does not decrease linearly.

It is only when the material reaches it's critical temperature, Tc, at which it 'superconducts' - the resistance drops, and it doesn't drop to very low figure, it drops to a mathematical zero.

In the beginnings of superconductor science (Mercury was found to be first, superconducting at about 0.05 Kelvin in 1911), far to low to be of practical use! But these days people are frequently making materials which superconduct at liquid nitrogen temperatures, and it seems only to be a matter of time before room temperature superconductors are developed, then we might have superconducting computers, loss-free power lines and host of other new developments!

As to putting the computer in the fridge, unfortunately with today's over-bloat CISC chips (INTEL x86/Pentiums etc) they already need the equivalent of fridge to avoid burning out anyway! Hence the substantial fans fitted to modern processor chips).
Answered by: Ryan Hitch, MPHys Physics, Hull University, UK