FSU researchers are collaborating with companies to develop next-generation superconducting cables

Image of the Round Core Cable Conductor, developed by researchers at the Center’s Center for Advanced Power Systems and Advanced Conductor Technologies. (Advanced Conductor Technologies)

Researchers at Florida State University’s Center for Advanced Power Systems (CAPS), in collaboration with Colorado-based Advanced Conductor Technologies, have demonstrated a new system of ready-to-use superconducting cables that enhances the development of superconducting technology. like fully electric ships or planes.

In an article published in the journal Superconductor Science and Technology, researchers demonstrated a system that uses helium gas in decisive cooling. Superconducting cables can move electric current without resistance, but they need very cold temperatures to operate.

Sastry is the Associate Director of the Pamidi Center for Advanced Power Systems and Professor and Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the FAMU-FSU School of Engineering.  (Mark Wallheiser / FAMU-FSU School of Engineering)
Sastry is the Associate Director of the Pamidi Center for Advanced Power Systems and Professor and Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the FAMU-FSU School of Engineering. (Mark Wallheiser / FAMU-FSU School of Engineering)

“We want to make these cables smaller, lighter in weight and lower in volume,” said paper author Sastry Pamidi, a professor at FAMU-FSU University of Engineering and associate director of CAPS. “They are highly efficient power cables, and this research is focused on improving the efficiency and practicality needed to achieve the promise of next-generation superconductor technology.”

Previous work has shown that the body of superconducting cables could be cooled by helium gas, but the ends of the cables needed a different medium to cool, such as liquid nitrogen. In this article, researchers overcame this hurdle and were able to cool an entire cable system with helium gas.

The work gives engineers greater design flexibility, as helium remains a gas at a wider temperature range than other media. Liquid nitrogen, for example, is not a suitable cooling medium for some applications, and this research brings superconductor technology closer to practical solutions for these scenarios.

This article is the final result of a collaboration between CAPS and Advanced Conductor Technologies (ACT) researchers. Previous teamwork has led to the development of other publications and the Conductor on Round Core (CORC)®) cables were the subject of this research.

“Removing the need for liquid nitrogen to pre-cool the power cable of the superconducting cable and instead using the same helium gas that cools the cable has allowed us to make a very compact superconducting power cable that can operate continuously,” he said. Danko van der Laan, founder of ACT. “So it has become an elegant system, small and lightweight, and makes it much easier to integrate into electric boats and planes.”

The ongoing collaboration is funded by the U.S. Army Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Fellowship. Grants encourage companies to partner with universities to conduct higher-level research.

The partnership benefits everyone involved. Companies receive support to create new products. Students see how their class work is applied to real-life engineering problems. Taxpayers reap the technical and economic benefits of innovation. And teachers receive a portion of a company’s research funding and are given the opportunity to tackle exciting work.

“We like challenges,” Pamidi said. “These grants come with clear objectives. The company says, “This is what we want to develop. Will you help us with that?” It’s motivating, and it also provides connections for students.

CAPS researcher Chul Kim and ACT researcher Jeremy Weiss co-authored this work. Along with the U.S. Army grant, this research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

CAPS is a multidisciplinary research facility affiliated with the FAMU-FSU School of Engineering, organized to advance the field of power systems technology. Researchers are investigating the modeling and simulation of electrical power systems, power electronics and machines, control systems, thermal management, cyber security for power systems, characterization of high-temperature superconductors, and electrical insulation.

Visit the SBIR Office of Research Development website for more information on the work of FSU researchers in this federal program.

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