The Franklin Institute Logo
Case Files logo

Invention of the Point Contact Transistor, 1954

Insulators and Superconductors

If the next empty track in an atom is so far away that the electrons in the outermost filled track cannot jump to it even when they are given a jolt of energy, then the atom is known as an insulator. If an atom is an insulator, it is not a conductor of electricity.

Atoms known as superconductors are still being explored and experimented with, and are fascinating because their electrons achieve a kind of attraction for each other. Since electrons are negatively-charged particles, they usually repel each other. However, the ability of superconductors to attract electrons enables electrons to jump easily from one atom to the next. Superconductivity has to date only been achieved at very low temperatures, though scientists are in the process of discovering materials that "superconduct" closer to room temperature.

In order to conduct Medal Day ceremonies properly, The Franklin Institute inquired after the marital status, proper name and title, and university affiliation of its award recipients. In addition, the secretary of the Institute made hotel arrangements for medal winners and invited them to bring guests. You can read the letters regarding Brattain's Harvard affiliation by clicking on the thumbnails at right.