New superconductor cable set to surpass all records

The Supercable project, jointly presented by the Institute of Material Science of Barcelona, the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona Department of Physics and the company Nexans, received the Novare Prize in Energy Efficiency from the Spanish energy company Endesa

The ̈́4;500,000 prize will be invested in developing the most advanced superconductor cable in the world. The aim of the project is the construction of a 30m cable and the terminals needed to connect it to the network, which will be built with the high-temperature superconductor material BSCCO.

The cable can transport the electrical strength of 110MVA, five times more than a conventional copper cable of the same dimensions. It is expected to be finished by 2010.

The project's framework includes the work of scientists developing new materials based on a second generation of superconductors, known as YBCO, which will be able to transport electricity up to 50 times the capacity of BSCCO cables and 100 times that of copper wires. Moreover, the loss in electricity of second-generation superconductors in comparison to BSCCO cables will be reduced tenfold.

Superconductor technology's ability to carry larger amounts of electricity than conventional systems offers a viable alternative to the efficiency needs of the world's electrical systems, which presently channel 40 per cent of the world's total consumption of energy.

Energy demands are expected to double by the second half of this century. Thus the construction of more efficient motors, generators, transformers and superconductor cables would help to satisfy this demand in energy and at the same time reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

The use of superconductor energy systems could also reduce primary energy consumption by 10-15 per cent, with no decrease in user consumption (final energy). This is due to the fact that 60 per cent of the energy presently produced is wasted.

The technology based on superconductor materials also increases the security and reliability of network installations, given that these transformers are non-flammable and current restrictions would be easier to apply, which allows for a greater control of the network.

The Novare Prizes by Endesa were first awarded in 2005 and aim to promote different R&D activity in scientific areas related to technology and innovation strategies in businesses. The Supercable project was awarded the prize in 'Energy Efficiency', while the other three prizes were awarded to projects from Italy, Chile and Spain. A total of 40 proposals were sent from ten different countries.

Image: Superconductor technology holds great promise for future power transmission

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