The US Department of Energy announced Stage 1 winners of the Conductivity-enhanced materials for Affordable, Breakthrough Leapfrog Electric and thermal applications (CABLE) Conductor Manufacturing Prize. The 10 teams selected in Stage 1 of this $4.5-million, three-stage competition will work to develop affordable, manufacturable materials that conduct electricity more efficiently and upgrade the US manufacturing and transportation infrastructures.
For more than a century, the conductivity of materials that carry electricity has remained almost unchanged. The required increase in conductivity set in Stage 1 of the competition would be nearly 10 times greater than any previous increase. These conductivity-enhanced materials have the potential to lower the costs and impacts of adding renewables and electric cars to the grid, maximize next-generation energy storage technologies, and support electrification for energy-intensive sectors.
The 10 winning teams for Stage 1 submitted breakthrough concepts for more conductive and affordable materials for both electrical and thermal (heat-based) energy applications. Each winning team has earned a $25,000 cash prize and a stipend for third-party conductivity testing in Stage 2.
The Clean Carbon Conductors team, with members from Rice University and DexMat Co, is designing enhanced-conductivity CNTs by improving fiber quality, alignment, packing density, and by electrochemically doping the CNTs.
Team NAECO submitted its entry for Conductivity Enhanced Alloys with Nano Additives, which involves first mixing copper with trace amounts of additives before combining it with Graphene using solid phase processing.
MetalKraft Technologies, with members from Lehigh University, also is using solid phase processing to create Copper-Graphene Ultra Wire with small amounts of commercially available low-defect crystalline Graphene.
The GE Research team will use Electron Beam Melting Additive Manufacturing of Ultra-Conductive Components to fabricate a nano-carbon-metal composite from copper and low-cost graphite powder, carbon black, or possibly higher-cost nanostructured carbon.
VT Materials submitted an entry for an Enhanced Conductivity Overhead (ECO) Wire made from aluminum (potentially from recycled wires), Graphene, and other nano additives.
The 59701 Nano Innovations team is designing a Highly Conductive CNT-Composite-Cable made from CNTs that are manufactured from carbon dioxide and small amounts of metal, such as copper from a local mine.
For their Intercalation compounds of carbon fibers (ICF) project, the University of Texas at Austin team will create an high conductivity carbon fiber, which competes with CNTs in conductivity, by alternating layers of carbon fiber with transition metal chlorides.
The SuperWire team proposed A Manufacturing Strategy for CNT Power Cables to create a lightweight, high strength, braided CNT-metal composite cable by adding either Copper or Aluminum.
The Super Cool Conductor from Selva Research Group is making a rare-earth, high-temperature superconductor that could be manufactured at half the cost of copper and cooled with liquid nitrogen or cryocooling for applications such as long duration electric storage.
The NanoAL Lightning team is creating Ultra-High Strength/Highly Conductive Aluminum Alloys using traditional manufacturing equipment and specialized nano processes to replace steel cores in overhead power lines.
The CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize is led by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office.