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 Energy-efficient spin current can be controlled by magnetic field and temperature
17.08.2018 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Scientists create biodegradable, paper-based biobatteries
08.08.2018 | Binghamton University

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: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte

17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Robots as Tools and Partners in Rehabilitation

17.08.2018 | Information Technology

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>