Superconducting wire could solve some grid growth problems


Amperium wire is a second generation high temperature superconductor. Ribbon-shaped wire is typically only 400 microns thick. It comprises a core of the material clad with thin strips of metal such as copper or stainless steel.

Amperium wire is a second generation high-temperature superconductor wire. Previously called “344 superconductors,” the new name is intended to reflect the product’s ability to conduct more than 100 times the electrical current of copper wire of the same dimensions. For perspective, in high-voltage power transmission systems, just one of these ultra-thin wires can carry enough power to serve the needs of about 10,000 U.S. homes. The high power density of the wire significantly reduces the footprint and cost of large-scale electrical equipment, such as power cables and wind generators. Applications for Amperium wire include power transmission and distribution cables, fault current limiters, ship propulsion motors and generators, wind turbine generators and degaussing systems for naval ships.

Korea Electric Power Co., the country’s only power grid operator, has forecasted wide deployment of superconductor power cables in the Korean grid starting in the 2012-2013 timeframe. LS Cable Ltd. of Korea already uses Amperium wire to manufacture the first power cable system for Korea’s commercial grid, which is scheduled in late 2010.

In the U.S., Amperium wire is being used by power-cable manufacturer Nexans, to produce an extension of the superconductor power transmission cable system that has been running in Long Island Power Authority’s primary power corridor since April 2008. Additional cable projects are expected to use Amperium wire include the Tres Amigas SuperStation, which aims to connect America’s three power grids for the first time ever to unlock the country’s renewable energy resources.

Other applications include FaultBlocker surge-suppressing power cables and fault current limiters for city grids, electric generators for AMSC’s SeaTitan superconductor wind turbines, large electric motors, and U.S. Navy degaussing systems.

The wire is manufactured using a proprietary process at AMSC’s headquarters in Devens, Massachusetts – the world’s largest commercial-scale HTS wire manufacturing facility. The process involves coating 40-mm wide metallic strips that are slit into ribbon-shaped wires of varying widths, depending on the end-use application, and then laminated with thin strips of metal to tailor mechanical and non-superconductor electrical properties. Amperium wire for use in power cables is, for example, typically 4.4-mm wide while wire for use in generators and motors is typically 12-mm wide. AMSC has begun to migrate its manufacturing process to 100-millimeter-wide starting strips, which will significantly increase its existing manufacturing capacity while also significantly reducing manufacturing costs.

American Superconductor

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