Photo of Paul (Ching-Wu) Chu

Paul (Ching-Wu) Chu

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For his wide-ranging contributions in achieving stable superconductivity at -290 degrees F, above the critical temperature of liquid nitrogen (-321 degrees F); and for his participation in the discovery of another superconducting compound, this one stable at a higher temperature (-243 degrees F) and not using rare-earth elements.

Physicist Paul Ching-Wu Chu spent nearly a decade working at universities on opposite sides of the globe. From 2001 to 2009, Chu, who was born in China and raised in Taiwan, served as president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology while also acting as T.L.L. Temple Chair of Science at the University of Houston.

While working at the University of Houston in the 1980s, Chu and his colleagues discovered superconductivity above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen, which is -321 degrees Fahrenheit.

Up until that point, scientists had only discovered stable superconductivity at -290 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chu’s innovation led to the improvement of devices like motors, generators and transformers.

Following his discovery, Chu became the founding director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston. Today, in his seventies, Chu still serves as a professor of physics at the university.

By Rachel Warren