Magnesium diboride (MgB2) is a superconducting material which can be potentially used in many applications such as magnetic resonance imaging system (MRI), wind turbine generators and high energy physics facilities. The major advantages of MgB2 over other superconductors include its relatively high critical temperature of about 39 K, its low cost of raw materials, its simple crystal structure, and its round multifilament form when in the form of superconducting wires. Over the past fourteen years, much effort has been made to develop MgB2 wires with excellent superconducting properties, particularly the critical current density Jc. However, this research has been limited by technical difficulties such as high porosity and weak connectivity in MgB2, relatively small flux pinning strength, low upper critical field Bc2 and relatively high anisotropy.
The goal of this dissertation is to understand the relationship between superconducting properties, microstructure, and reaction mechanisms in MgB2. In particular, the influences of connectivity, Bc2, anisotropy and flux pinning were investigated in terms of the effects of these variables on the Jcs and n-values of MgB2 superconducting wires (n-value is a parameter which indicates the sharpness of resistive V-I transition). The n-values of traditional “Powder in Tube (PIT)” processed MgB2 wires were improved by optimizing precursor species after the identification of microstructural defects such as so-called “sausaging problems”. Also, it was found that “high porosity and weak connectivity” was one of the most critical issues which limited the Jc performance in typical MgB2. To overcome this problem, highly dense, well-connected MgB2 conductors were successfully fabricated by adopting an innovative “Advanced Internal Magnesium Infiltration (AIMI)” process. A careful study on the reaction kinetics together with the microstructural evidence demonstrated how the MgB2 layer was formed as the infiltration process proceeded. As a result, it is possible to control the MgB2 layer growth in the AIMI-processed MgB2 wires. The best AIMI wires, with improved density and connectivity, accomplished an outstanding layer Jc, which was 1.0 × 105 A/cm2 at 4.2 K and 10 T, nearly 10 times higher than the Jcs of PIT wires. The engineering Je of AIMI wires, namely the critical current over the whole cross-sectional area in the wire, achieved 1.7 × 104 A/cm2 at 4.2 K, 10 T, 200 % higher than those of PIT wires. Finally, two promising dopants, Dy2O3 and O, were engineered to incorporate with MgB2. Dy2O3 nanopowders, co-doped with C in AIMI wires, enhanced the Jc performance at elevated temperatures such as 20 K. Oxygen, on the other hand, doped into MgB2 thin films through a newly-developed O2 annealing process, improved Bc2 to 14 T at 21 K. Both of the doping studies were helpful to understand the superconducting nature of MgB2.