OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Nov. 12, 1996 -- The Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has signed a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with American Magnetics Inc. of Oak Ridge to produce a new superconducting electric current lead for powering cryogenic systems, which operate at temperatures of -452 degrees Fahrenheit or 4.2 Kelvin.
The current lead will contain the ceramic yttrium-barium-copper-oxygen, known as a high-temperature superconductor. Superconductors are materials that can transmit electricity without loss due to resistance. They offer the possibility of powering electric equipment with improved energy efficiency, smaller size and lower operating costs.
High-temperature superconductors, discovered in 1986, are those materials that can operate above liquid nitrogen temperature, a relatively high -321 degrees Fahrenheit or 77 Kelvin.
Ken Efferson, president of American Magnetics, said the lead will open new avenues in superconducting technology.
"Industrial applications place high importance on performance, practicality, ruggedness and long-term reliability of the current leads," Efferson said. "American Magnetics will engineer a high-performance, vapor-cooled upper stage to couple with ORNL's innovative high-temperature superconducting material. The use of high temperature superconductor leads can greatly reduce cryogen costs and thus help many superconducting applications become more commercially attractive."
The CRADA calls for American Magnetics and ORNL's Metals and Ceramics Division to develop a prototype lead in three months to transmit electricity more efficiently to an electromagnet in a cryogenic system manufactured by American Magnetics. The cryogenic system can be used in laboratory-scale magnets, MRI systems and industrial magnetic fields.
"The lead will be stronger, smaller and carry more current in a magnetic field than today1s high-temperature superconducting leads," said Bob Hawsey, director of ORNL's Superconductivity Technology Center. "The lead will be stronger because it will have an engineered metal, ceramic or other structural material that is designed to contain the high-temperature superconducting material. It will be smaller because of the novel way we are processing the superconductor and it will carry more current in a magnetic field because the superconductor is better aligned than conventional ceramic superconductors used for leads."
Don Kroeger, group leader in ORNL's Metals and Ceramics Division, said the CRADA may provide future benefits in other industries, as well.
"I can foresee this being used in motors, generators and energy storage systems that use coils," Kroeger said.
Hawsey noted this is the third CRADA in high-temperature superconductivity that ORNL has signed, and the first one with an Oak Ridge company.
"American Magnetics will be able to use the strength of the superconducting technology we have developed at ORNL," Hawsey said.
The CRADA is funded by a DOE Small Business Innovative Research grant.
ORNL, one of DOE's multiprogram national research and development facilities, is managed by Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corp.
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