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A Coffee-Cup Full of Helium. Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926)
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A Coffee-Cup Full of Helium. Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926)

(Dirk van Delft) The Low Countries - 2006, № 14, pp. 293-295

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On 10 July 1908, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes became the first person to bring helium under control. In room E' of his Natuurkundig Laboratorium, opposite Van der Werff Park in the heart of Leiden, at the end of a long and exhausting day, he succeeded in liquefying the last of the ‘permanent' gases. In so doing, he achieved a temperature of a few degrees above absolute zero (-273 °C), making Leiden the coldest place in the world. When working with frozen mercury in 1911 Kamerlingh Onnes discovered superconductivity, the phenomenon whereby electrical resistance suddenly completely disappears below a certain (extremely low) temperature. This achievement, together with the liquefaction of helium, earned him the Nobel Prize in 1913.

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