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Electric Energy Application of the New Superconductors
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Electricity has been the major energy form enabling many of the significant technological breakthroughs of this century. While radical changes have occurred in how electricity is used, the underlying materials used in electrical apparatus have been copper and aluminum for carrying the electricity and iron for use in magnets and motors. A different history exists where electricity has been used in information and signal processing. The electronics revolution has occurred because of new phenomena and changes in the underlying technologies (electromechanical, vacuum tube, transistors, microelectronics, etc.). Today, the possibility of a parallel revolution in electrical apparatus may finally be starting in earnest. This paper will provide a broad review of the importance of the new superconductors to electric energy generation, transmission and use and what performance will be needed for these new materials to compete with copper or aluminum wire and iron core magnets. Substantial efforts were made to develop Type II superconductors into a practical technology for electric generators and transmission lines during the 1970's and early 1980's. Both applications have been developed to the prototype level, but neither has proven successful in the marketplace. Success of a limited nature has been achieved with large superconducting magnets for high energy particle accelerators and medical diagnostic equipment. Practical industrial applications have, however, been very limited. Successful development of the new superconductors into materials which can be economically fabricated into practical wires with characteristics superior to copper and iron would enable a wide range of technologies which would offer new productive ways to utilize electricity and magnetic fields. A perspective on such applications will be presented including a wide range of possible applications to transportation, refrigeration, materials separation, material production, material fabrication, electric motors and power electronics.
Schneider, T. (1988). Electric Energy Application of the New Superconductors. Energy Systems Laboratory. Available electronically from