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ARPA-E seeks to develop superconducting cables for fusion, grid, electric aviation, motors & generators

The US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) announced up to $10 million in funding to develop novel manufacturing technologies for superconducting tapes. (DE-FOA-0002784 Modification 06) Enabling widely available low-cost, high-performance superconducting (HTS) tapes could help enable the market growth and proliferation of nuclear fusion, superconducting cables for the electric grid, electric aviation, and superconductor-based electric generators/motors.

The funding is part of a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Exploratory Topic, Novel Superconducting Technologies for Conductors.

Although they have superior performance, HTS are more difficult to manufacture than low-temperature superconductors (LTS). LTS such as niobium–titanium are simple metal alloys which are malleable and are easily and cheaply manufactured into wires or tapes. However, they generally have critical temperatures less than 30 K, use liquid helium cooling (i.e., ≈ 4 K) to improve their critical current Ic, and are not capable of operating in very high magnetic fields.

Conversely, the most promising high-temperature superconductors, such as REBCO, are brittle ceramics which often require a combination of multiple sequential processing steps, multiple layers of sequential deposition, and highly controlled growth processes. These factors lead to difficult and costly manufacturing for HTS tapes.

The primary focus of this research topic is on novel fabrication methods for HTS tape or wire that can concurrently:

  1. increase the continuous tape or wire length;

  2. reduce the electrical variation along the tape or wire;

  3. increase the overall production rate;

  4. significantly reduce the production costs; and

  5. maintain a high level of tape performance characterized by Ic/w and Je.



MgB2 LH2 Superconductor according to a study is much cheaper than copper for long distances and very high currents, using LH2 for cooling.

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