Soviet scientists say they have made a major electronics breakthrough by developing a ceramic substance that turns into a superconductor at temperatures dramatically higher than any recorded in the West. The researchers from the Academy of Sciences' Institute of Physics recorded the ``start of transition to superconducting state'' in a ceramic sample at a temperature of 250 degrees Kelvin (minus 9 F.), the Soviet news agency Tass reported.
Scientists have long known that certain metals can be superconductors - materials that conduct electricity without loss of energy - when they are cooled to absolute zero (minus 459 degrees F.). But those temperatures are too costly to maintain, and the challenge has been to raise the threshhold of conductivity to practical levels.
Tass said the breakthrough paved the way for a ``revolution in electronics,'' and Western scientific experts said that if the report was true, it represented a fantastic leap forward.
Superconductors are of intense world scientific interest because of their implications for power generation and the development of high-speed computers. The field is a likely one in which a future Nobel Physics Prize might be awarded.
Western experts said the West recorded one of its best temperatures in Stockholm recently when a substance became superconductive at 89 degrees Kelvin (minus degrees 229 F.).
Tass quoted the head of the institute's Laboratory of Superconductivity, Alexander Golovashkin, as saying: ``When experimenting with ceramic samples several days ago, we observed a drastic drop of tens of thousands of times of electrical resistance in a conductor cooled to only minus 23 degrees Celsius.
``As far as I know, nobody in the world has yet succeeded in obtaining such a result.''