Editor’s note: Superconductivity, and in particular high-temperature superconductivity, holds great promise to improve most anything electrical. For the wind industry, it could mean more efficient generators and certainly more efficient long-distance transmission lines. Hence, our interest in the development and commercialization of this technology.
Business and education leaders, prominent scientists, engineers and government officials gathered in early May at New York’s Tech Valley region at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) in Albany for the Third New York State Superconductor Technology Summit. CNSE hosted this year’s summit, organized and co-sponsored by MTECH Laboratories, together with GE Global Research, Hypres, Inc., Philips Healthcare, and SuperPower Inc.
Summit organizers highlighted the successful MRI business of GE and Philips that is based on superconducting magnets and that newer applications of superconductivity, such as those focused on improving our electricity grid, are beginning to positively impact the economy.
Francis J. Murray Jr., President and CEO, NYSERDA, said in his keynote remarks, “As we continue to improve the state’s power transmission system, superconductor technology presents innovative and exciting opportunities to provide the power needed to make the grid smarter, more resilient, and more flexible to meet growing energy demands. The conference demonstrated once again what the Governor has repeatedly emphasized, namely the critical importance of partnerships among government, academia, and business in promoting investment in new technology. Innovation is essential for economic growth.”
Murray also pointed out three of the world’s leading programs: the Albany HTS Cable Project managed by SuperPower in which the world’s first superconducting cable in a live grid was demonstrated in the National Grid system between 2006 and 2009; the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) cable that is under construction, and the Project Hydra Cable that will be installed soon on the Consolidated Edison grid in New York City. Each of these world-class projects has been supported by NYSERDA in an effort to demonstrate the energy efficiency benefits of superconducting cables.
Dr. Michael J. Hennessy, President and Co-Founder of MTECH Laboratories of Ballston Spa, NY summarized a recurring theme of the day when he commented that “it is through partnering with each other, with government, with academia that we will be able to build this industry to its full potential.”
As in the previous two summits, this year’s event consisted of a series of panel discussions with world-class speakers representing many of the leading organizations in the state which are promoting the advancement of superconductivity. Panel topics included Energy and Power, Electronics and Computers, Medicine, and Science and Research.
Dr. Mark Johnson, Program Director with the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in Washington, D.C. joined the panel to highlight three development programs underway, including development of a superconducting magnetic energy storage system (SMES) by SuperPower and Brookhaven National Laboratory, together with ABB Inc. and the University of Houston; and two programs to develop alternatives to the use of rare earth elements for wind turbine generators – one including SuperPower, the other by Brookhaven National Lab.
The second panel focused on superconductivity in Electronics and Computers, and was moderated by Dr. Britton Plourde, Associate Professor at Syracuse University, who commented that “Recent developments in quantum computing, or information processing, show a promising future for computer designs that have the potential to solve problems that are intractable on conventional computers.”
Joining the panel was Dr. Jerry Chow, Research Staff Member, Experimental Quantum Computing, of IBM T.J. Watson Research Center who remarked that “although there are numerous candidate systems for realizing qubits for quantum computing, a superconducting Josephson-junction based system holds considerable promise for scalability. By leveraging existing fabrication and lithographic techniques, along with careful attention towards microwave engineering, it will be possible to build a system which tests the ideas of quantum error correction for scaling towards a fault-tolerant universal quantum computer.”
Dr. Oleg Mukhanov, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Government Operations, of Hypres Inc. said, “Low power, high speed, lossless data transmission available with superconducting electronics can dramatically increase energy efficiency of high-end computers. This will significantly increase the energy-efficiency of data centers and enable new generations of supercomputers.”
The panelists provided illustrations of how the technology is being used today to explore a broad range of applications in healthcare and other research areas, from NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) used as an analytical tool in drug development and genomics, to proton therapy, an advanced form of radiation therapy that uses high energy particles to deliver a precise, controlled dose of radiation for cancer treatment. These devices use high magnetic field superconducting coils for their increasingly powerful magnetic fields, resulting in sharper imaging and a broader range of use in scientific disciplines.
According to Dr. Ramesh Gupta, Leader, HTS Magnet R&D Program of Brookhaven National Laboratory, “The superconducting magnets for Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) were developed at BNL and then the technology was transferred to industry to be built in large numbers for two rings in a 3.8 km long tunnel. Brookhaven is working with SuperPower in demonstrating record field HTS magnets that can be used for energy storage and NMR. We are now beginning to move from basic demonstration devices to real facilities where HTS magnets provide a unique solution that is not possible with conventional superconductors.”
NY Superconductivity Summit
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