Scientists have long known that almost all substances resist the transmission of electricity, but they also know that this resistance disappears if the temperature is made low enough. Low enough is very low indeed--near absolute zero (-459 degrees Fahrenheit), which requires a lot of fancy footwork to achieve and maintain.
Recently, though, researchers led by Paul C. W. Chu of the University of Houston reported that they had developed a material that loses its resistance and becomes "superconducting" at much higher temperatures than previously imagined. Chu's material became superconducting at -283 degrees Fahrenheit. This may not sound like much, but it has some important consequences, not the least of which is that the temperature can be maintained by cooling with liquid nitrogen rather than liquid helium--a big saving in cost and a big increase in efficiency.
The implications of the discovery are even more important, for it indicates that superconductivity may be obtainable at still higher temperatures--perhaps even close to room temperature, which would eliminate the need for cooling at all and open the way to large-scale applications such as no-loss transmission over electric power lines, trains that levitate magnetically and large magnets for medical magnetic resonance imaging as a diagnostic tool for doctors.