Japanese technologies behind Nobel Prize

Japanese technologies behind Nobel Prize
Furukawa Electric Co.’s Akira Takagai shows a sample of superconducting cable.

Two European researchers have won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, but behind the achievement were Japanese companies' advanced technologies and Japanese researchers' contributions.

Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of Britain were awarded the Nobel Prize on Tuesday for uncovering the mystery of why matter has mass.

However, what played a decisive role in winning the prize by providing proof to their theory was the discovery of the so-called Higgs boson particle, in which Japanese companies and researchers have made a huge contribution.

The discovery of the Higgs boson particle took place at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), where microparticle protons zip at near light-speed around a 27-kilometer underground ring beneath Switzerland and France.

Japan's Furukawa Electric Co. developed superconducting cable that is considered to be the heart of the equipment.

When the physicists' winning the Nobel Prize was announced in a TV news flash, people gave a cheer and applauded at Furukawa Electric's head office in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Akira Takagi, 48, who was a leading member of the team that developed the cable, said he feels honoured the team was able to contribute to the research. "I'd like to share the joy with my colleagues," Takagi said.

A simulated collision between protons at the LHC creates a condition that can be compared to the time immediately after the birth of the universe, and superconducting magnets covered with a cable made of a copper compound is technology considered to be central to proton acceleration.

Impeccably clean cable was a prerequisite for the creation of powerful magnetic field, but thin cable easily became disconnected in the early stage of development because of oil and other impure substances that attach to it.

What Takagi and others found as a solution to the problem is a household dishwasher. "We confirmed we were able to get rid of even tiny substances from the cable using a conventional dishwasher," Takagi said.

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