Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Taking the Juice for Granted

27.08.2009
Barring the occasional thunderstorm, most Americans take the electric current behind their power buttons for granted, and assume the power will be there when they’re ready to juice an appliance or favorite tech toy. Little do most know, the strain on our electric grid – which has led to rolling brownouts and the massive 2003 blackout that left 40 million people across the Northeast in the dark – will only intensify in coming years.

According to the Department of Energy, the annual cost of power outages is approximately $80 billion. Now add to conventional challenges those risks posed by terrorists intent on crippling our economy. Suddenly, the aim of electrical engineers to develop a technology to keep the country’s electrical grid online (and recover faster) really begins to resonate.

The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is currently funding a promising solution – a superconductor cable that would link electrical substations and allow the sharing of excess capacity during emergencies. This generally is not done now, and so a flexibility like this strengthens the resiliency of the overall grid, reducing the likelihood of major power failures. This is S&T’s Resilient Electric Grid project, and the superconducting cable is called an inherently fault current limiting (IFCL) superconductor cable.

Engineers are putting decades of existing electrical research (by industry electricity leaders from American Superconductor, Southwire, and Consolidated Edison) into practice. S&T managers and scientists recently participated in a successful test of the new superconducting technology at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, as they eye the aging rats’ nest of power cabling under the crowded streets of New York City.

The benefits are simple but profound: these cables can deliver more power, prevent power failures, and take up less physical space. A single superconductor cable can replace 12 copper cable bundles, freeing up more space underground for other utility needs such as water, natural gas, or phone service. The technology is capable of carrying 10 times as much power as copper wires of the same size, while also being able to adapt automatically to power surges and disruptions from lightning strikes, heat waves, and traffic accidents, even sabotage.

“The IFCL superconducting cable being tested could well revolutionize power distribution to the country’s critical infrastructure,” said Dr. Roger McGinnis, Director of the Homeland Security Advanced Research Project Agency at S&T. “Eventually, these technologies will help incorporate localized clean, green electricity generation into the power grid.”

As for the science, the cables work by transmitting electricity with near zero resistance at higher temperatures than usual. “High” is a relative term among superconductors. The cables conduct electricity at a chill -320°F instead of an icy -460°F for traditional superconductor cables.

Holding and conducting energy better than traditional copper means these cables take up a fraction of the space. Manhattan’s electrical workers may be able to eventually clear out the subterranean congestion beneath Wall Street that amazingly, looks much the same today as it did a century ago.

Since the cables themselves better prevent extremely high currents from cascading through the system, they will help eliminate the power surges that can permanently damage electrical equipment, similar to a breaker switch in a home, explained McGinnis. The cable switches off during a surge or failure, but automatically resets when conditions return to normal.

For some context, electrical substations take electricity delivered over transmission and distribution lines and lower the voltage so it can be used by homes and businesses. Even if power is lost to an individual substation, by creating multiple, redundant paths for the electric current, the cables allow quick power restoration to all the surrounding power loads. Ultimately, these cables may allow substations that had been intentionally isolated from one another in the past, for fear of cascading failures, to be interconnected in order to share power and assets.

Cutting-edge high temperature superconducting cables have been successfully tested in laboratories, and can be found in a handful of demonstration projects around the country, but they remain an emerging technology. S&T is interested in advancing the technology so that it can be used nationwide, and is pursuing an opportunity to connect two Con Edison Manhattan substations with the cable.

The Department hopes to enable the Department of Energy and various utility companies around the country to replace more than 2,000 circuit miles of power cables in U.S. cities with resilient, safe, and green IFCL cables.

John.Verrico | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.dhs.gov

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht A big nano boost for solar cells
18.01.2017 | Kyoto University and Osaka Gas effort doubles current efficiencies

nachricht Multiregional brain on a chip
16.01.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>