In Our Time

BBC Radio 4

Society & Culture, History

Chart Positions

Society & Culture 52
History 14

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas


Conductors and Semiconductors

February 23rd, 2012

Episode 188 of 515 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the physics of electrical conduction. Although electricity has been known for several hundred years, it was only in the early twentieth century that physicists first satisfactorily explained the phenomenon. Electric current is the passage of charged particles through a medium - but a material will only conduct electricity if its atomic structure enables it to do so. In investigating electrical conduction scientists discovered two new classes of material. Semiconductors, first exploited commercially in the 1950s, have given us the transistor, the solar cell and the silicon chip, and have revolutionised telecommunications. And superconductors, remarkable materials first observed in 1911, are used in medical imaging and at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. With:Frank CloseProfessor of Physics at the University of OxfordJenny NelsonProfessor of Physics at Imperial College LondonLesley CohenProfessor of Solid State Physics at Imperial College LondonProducer: Thomas Morris.