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 Waste from paper and pulp industry supplies raw material for development of new redox flow batteries
12.10.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Low-cost battery from waste graphite
11.10.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

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: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Neutrons observe vitamin B6-dependent enzyme activity useful for drug development

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA finds newly formed tropical storm lan over open waters

17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>