JANUARY 16, 2013
- Charging superconductors will get a lot more efficient and cost effective
The Department of Energy recently funded Fermilab scientist Tengming Shen $2,500,000 to develop Bi2Sr2CaCu2Ox superconductors. He expects he could use this material to build magnets with a reach of up to 50 Tesla. Shen's magnets could potentially be cooled with a simpler refrigeration unit. The superconducting material that has magnetic field upper limits surpassing 100 Tesla at 4.2 K and can be fabricated into a multifilamentary round wire, to practical magnet conductors that can be used to generate fields above 20 Tesla for the next generation of accelerators.
Studies suggest that reducing the present cost of the superconductor by a factor of two would bring the cost of 10-GW, 1200-mile-long, superconducting cables to within range of that of conventional overhead lines. Since underground dc cables also offer substantial environmental, siting, and aesthetic benefits over conventional overhead transmission lines, they may become an attractive alternative option in some situations. Superpower Inc, is on track to improving price performance of its superconducting wire by 4 times.
The UK company Magnifye has developed ways to charge superconductors in a vastly more efficient system. Magnifye has developed a heat engine which converts thermal energy into currents of millions of amps. The thermal energy is used to create a series of magnetic waves which progressively magnetise the superconductor much in the same way a nail can be magnetised by stroking it over a magnet.
Ferropnictide superconductors, i.e., superconductors that contain Fe and As, have superconducting transition temperatures (Tc) up to 56 K and high upper critical fields (Hc2) over 100 Telsa. The high Hc2 means these materials could be used in very high field magnets. Previous studies suggested that polycrystalline samples of these materials could not carry a large superconducting current because grain boundaries reduce the critical current density (Jc). Surprisingly, new results find that the opposite is true for wire made from (Ba0.6K0.4) Fe2As2. This material could enable superconducting magnets at 120 tesla.