The Meissner effect is the expulsion of a magnetic field from a superconductor during its transition to the superconducting state. Walther Meissner and Robert Ochsenfeld discovered the phenomenon in 1933 by measuring the magnetic field distribution outside superconducting tin and lead samples. The samples, in the presence of an applied magnetic field, were cooled below what is called their superconducting transition temperature. Below the transition temperature the samples canceled all magnetic field inside, which means they became perfectly diamagnetic. They detected this effect only indirectly; because the magnetic flux is conserved by a superconductor, when the interior field decreased the exterior field increased. The experiment demonstrated for the first time that superconductors were more than just perfect conductors and provided a uniquely defining property of the superconducting state.Explanation
Superconductors in the Meissner state exhibit perfect diamagnetism, or superdiamagnetism, meaning that the total magnetic field B=0 within them. This means that their magnetic susceptibility, χv = −1. Diamagnetism is defined as the generation of a spontaneous magnetization of a material which directly opposes the direction of an applied field. However, the fundamental origins of the diamagnetism in superconductors and normal materials are very different. In superconductors the diamagnetism arises from the persistent screening currents which flow to oppose the applied field; in normal materials diamagnetism arises as a direct result of an orbital rotation of electrons about the nuclei of an atom induced electromagnetically by the application of an applied field. Very recently, it has been shown theoretically that the Meissner effect may exhibit paramagnetism in some layered superconductors but so far this paramagnetic intrinsic Meissner effect has not been experimentally observed. Mario Rabinowitz and his colleagues showed that a virtual violation of the Meissner effect is possible.
A tin cylinder—in a Dewar flask filled with liquid helium—has been placed between the poles of an electromagnet. The magnetic field is about 8 milliteslas (80 G).
T=4.2 K, B=8 mT (80 G). Tin is in the normally conducting state. The compass needles indicate that magnetic flux permeates the cylinder.
The cylinder has been cooled from 4.2 K to 1.6 K. The current in the electromagnet has been kept constant, but the tin became superconducting at about 3 K. Magnetic flux has been expelled from the cylinder (the Meissner effect).