Wearable Superconductors

What do you do with a discarded bit of superconducting wire? If you’re [Patrick Adair], you turn it into a ring.

Superconducting wire has been around for decades now. Typically it is a thick wire made up of strands of titanium and niobium encased in copper. Used sections of this wire show up on the open market from time to time. [Patrick] got ahold of some, and with his buddies at the waterjet channel, they cut it into slices. It was then over to the lathe to shape the ring.

Once the basic shape was created, [Patrick] placed the ring in ferric chloride solution — yes the same stuff we use to etch PC boards. The ferric chloride etched away just a bit of the copper, making the titanium niobium sections stand out. A trip through the rock tumbler put the final finish on the ring. [Patrick] left the ring in bare metal, though we would probably add an epoxy or similar coating to keep the copper from oxidizing.

[Patrick] is selling these rings on his website, though at $700 each, they’re not cheap. Time to hit up the auction sites and find some superconducting wire sections of our own!

If you’re looking to make rings out of more accessible objects, check out this ring made from colored pencils, or this one made from phone wire.

34 thoughts on “Wearable Superconductors

  1. Niobium and its compounds may be toxic (niobium dust causes eye and skin irritation), but there are no reports of human being poisoned by it. Apart from measuring its concentration, no research on niobium in humans has been undertaken.

    Niobium, when inhaled, is retained mainly in the lungs, and secondarily in bones. It interferes with calcium as an activator of enzyme systems. In laboratory animals, inhalation of niobium nitride and/or pentoxide leads to scarring of the lungs at exposure levels of 40 mg/m3.


    Effects of Exposure

    Acute Effects

    : May cause irritation of the mucous membranes. Inhaled particles may be retained in the lungs.

    : Metallic niobium has a low order of toxicity due to poor absorption from stomach and intestines.

    : May cause irritation.

    : May cause transient, mechanical irritation.

    Chronic Effects
    : Chronic eye exposure may cause conjunctivitis.

    Niobium crosses the placental barrier in animals.

    1. Inhaling any metal into your lungs will cause cancer, and any metal will irritate you eyes. Niobium and titanium are both used for piercings because they actually cause less irritation that other metals.

      1. It’s not likely you are going to inhale it unless you are machining it. Skin contact seems likely if you are wearing it and should at least be thought about. It’s certainly less likely to cause irritation than many other metals.

    2. Don’t fall into the trap of reading MSDS datasheets and being alarmed by everything that is on there. Consider the following:

      Potential Acute Health Effects:
      Very hazardous in case of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation. Severe over-exposure can result in death.
      Inflammation of the eye is characterized by redness, watering, and itching.

      Potential Chronic Health Effects:
      Repeated exposure to an highly toxic material may produce general deterioration of health by an accumulation in one or many human organs.

      Eye Contact: Check for and remove any contact lenses. Do not use an eye ointment. Seek medical attention.

      Inhalation: Allow the victim to rest in a well ventilated area. Seek immediate medical attention.

      Ingestion:Do not induce vomiting. Examine the lips and mouth to ascertain whether the tissues are damaged, a possible indication that the toxic material was ingested; the absence of such signs, however, is not conclusive. Loosen tight clothing such as a collar, tie, belt or waistband. If the victim is not breathing, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Seek immediate medical attention.

      Do you know what substance all these warnings are issues for? Silver. The same silver many wear every day and of which fine cutlery is made.

      1. Silver is a element that is not without any impact to living creatures, including some uses that are antibacterial, particularly when applied to surfaces. It is certainly in widespread use but that doesn’t mean it is completely benign either and it can be helpful to better understand some of the nuances about the effects it can have on living creatures. For example, it can cause your skin to turn blue if ingested.


        “People drink the silver solution in an attempt to keep infections at bay, but those who drink too much turn a disturbing shade of blue-gray, a condition known as argyria.”

        Plus, some people have skin reactions to silver. You also omitted Section 11. The part that says it is very hazardous in case of ingestion, of inhalation.

        Section 11: Toxicological Information
        Routes of Entry:
        Absorbed through skin. Eye contact. Inhalation. Ingestion.

        Toxicity to Animals:
        Acute oral toxicity (LD50): 100 mg/kg [Mouse].

        Chronic Effects on Humans:
        Not available.

        Other Toxic Effects on Humans:
        Very hazardous in case of ingestion, of inhalation

        You also omitted the part that says data is not available (which seems somewhat odd given it is literally an element).

        available. DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Not available.

        All told, silver metal exposure is not exactly a major, immediate concern but it does help to understand and interpret the intent of the MSDS and not just assume that just because something is in widespread use that is 100% safe to use in every circumstance. Humans used to x-ray their feet to help make their shoes fit better. Mercury was seen as something that improved health and lead salts do add flavor to beverages. Those are not the same degree of concern that solid silver metal exposure has but that still doesn’t make any of those good ideas in retrospect.

        1. You confirm my point: while MSDS sheets are not wrong, they are rather alarmist if you take the warnings at face value. For the sake of being accurate and complete, anything and everything is included. A material that is common and harmless in every day life can suddenly seem rather dangerous. Something that is ‘very hazardous in case of ingestion’ is used without problems for cutlery, of all things. A layman without any knowledge might very well look at the MSDS sheet and conclude that he is dealing with a very dangerous substance.

          In the case of Niobium, it actually appears to be quite a benign material. If you rub dust in your eye, it is inevitably going to mechanically irritate your eye.

          1. I generally agree that they bias towards MSDS sheets being more alarmist than benign by virtue of being fairly inclusive. In Niobium’s case, there are some concerns about inhalation hazards specifically becoming systemic effects and a few minor concerns about skin contact in terms of known effects. However, stainless does not share the same skin contact warnings.

            Stainless’s MSDS includes a warning about “sharp edges on solid products may cause cuts or
            lacerations. Contact with dust or fume created during processing may cause irritation and skin sensitization.” but nothing about skin contact being an issue. Though it does suggest wearing protective gloves when handling. Most likely to avoid lacerations?

            It also calls out for the eyes specifically but interestingly not for skin, the fact that it “contains nickel which may cause skin sensitization on contact.”

      2. “Don’t fall into the trap of reading MSDS datasheets…”

        The letters “D” and “S” stand for Data Sheet. So it is redundant to say MSDS data sheets.
        It is like saying “ATM MACHINE” when the “M” stands for Machine. I am not pointing this out to be mean or anything, a lot of folks do this and have no idea it is incorrect.

        1. It is redundant. MSD sheet sounds not quite right though. MS data sheet also doesn’t quite work. You could call it out by the full name but then it is no longer an acronym. Not sure how to improve this?

          1. I don’t really know. I used to say it like: “Hey, do you have those MSDS’s?” when it was plural but, asking about a single data sheet still sounds awkward. “Do you have the MSDS on this?” Maybe it sounds awkward because everyone has been doing it wrong for so long (me too) that we are used to hearing it that way?

  2. Something to think about..
    My step father was a pilot for the air force. He used to take his ring off whenever he was flying and apparently quite a few pilots do the same. From what he was saying there have been instances where a pilots ring has become hot and caused burns to the finger due to eddy currents. Could be interesting with a super conductor :)

    1. Only for the connoisseur, at the next Black Friday :
      – bracelet made out of Fusion Star Core dust – $990 (AKA brass bracelet – 75% discount included)
      – balloon filled with Bose-Einstein Condensate – $290 (AKA helium party balloon – 50% discount included)

      1. I guess you can buy superconductor wire at Home Depot and have it machined for free, but around here, they appear to have run all out. Even the constituent parts seperately are hard to come by and adding them together can be a hassle.

        Your examples are common items sold at ridiculous prices. Last time I checked, both the superconductor wire and constituent parts weren’t widely available at low prices. Unless you think basic economics are a scam, rarer items always command a premium.

        1. There is no superconductor in a “superconductor wire, or ring”, unless it is cooled to a temperature so low that it will make it impossible to use it as a ring. At room temperature it is not superconductor. So, unless it is sold together with a device capable of cooling it enough to became a superconductor, then it’s a scam. Price doesn’t matter.

          If there is any proof about that material being superconductive at room temperature, then please post it, and I will apologize for saying it’s a scam.

          1. They start with superconductor wire, which is the part that actually makes a superconductor a superconductor instead of just a very cold area. Then they made a ring out of this superconductor wire and call it a superconductor ring, as opposed to wire, which seems fair enough. No one ever claimed it is a ring that superconducts while you wear it, just that it is a superconductor ring. The latter is accurate, unless you want to be really pendantic and insist that it should be called a superconductor wire ring. Manufacturers of superconductor wire call it that even when it’s not cooled to it’s superconducting state, which means the nomenclature used for the ring is correct. The ring would even superconduct if appropriately cooled, albeit just over a short distance.

            In your examples, very common and easily obtained substances are taken out of context and sold at ridiculous prices. In this case, superconductor wire is not easily or commonly found and also not trivially constructed. That makes it a rare item and economics dictate that this increases the value. A better comparison that yours would be rings made from parts of the Eiffel Tower and calling them Eiffel Tower rings. You might complain that they are not a tower and therefore a scam, but most people would agree that it is a reasonable name and some would also be prepared to spend more money on them because of this.

            Looking at the common definitions of the word scam, none of them apply to this ring.

          2. I guess you are wright.

            “Scam” is not the appropriate word. The ring is indeed very well looking, and it is made out of rare materials. My bad. Sorry. I’ll take that word back.

            Please accept my apologies for calling it a scam.

          3. ““Scam” is not the appropriate word.”

            This is why I like this site so much. There are many people with lots of knowledge to be found, and a willingness to change an opinion when introduced to another line of reasoning. The latter is so incredibly rare. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.