Superconductivity theory has a history of stretching beyond its traditional boundaries into other areas of physics. For instance, some even believe that the whole cosmos can be conceptualized as a giant superconductor to help explain interactions involving the weak force.

In this interview with physicsworld.com, Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology discusses superconductivity and how its impact is felt across seemingly disparate areas of physics.

"It's a rich mix that the theory of superconductivity has given us," he says, referring to concepts such as pairing and symmetry breaking as applied to topology. "All those ideas really have their deep roots in work on superconductivity and they've become dominant tools for fundamental physics."

Wilczek, who shared the 2004 Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction, also discusses more recent physics to benefit from the insights of superconductivity. He describes how the burgeoning field of topological insulators represents "a marvellous embodiment of concepts" from superconductivity and quantum field theory.

You can read more about the discoveries, theories and impacts of superconductivity in the April issue of Physics World. This special issue celebrates the centenary of superconductivity and it can be downloaded free of charge.