Levitating Energy Storage

Thursday 17th July 2014

A world record that has stood for more than a decade has been broken by a team led by University of Cambridge engineers, harnessing the equivalent of three tonnes of force inside a golf ball-sized sample of material that is normally as brittle as fine china. This record could have a major impact on energy efficiency - in time.

The Cambridge researchers managed to ‘trap’ a magnetic field with a strength of 17.6 Tesla - roughly 100 times stronger than the field generated by a typical fridge magnet - in a high temperature gadolinium barium copper oxide (GdBCO) superconductor, which we all have in the shed, beating the previous record by 0.4 Tesla.

It is of interest to us at the ESA as the research demonstrates the potential of high-temperature superconductors for applications in a range of fields, including flywheels for energy storage, let alone ‘magnetic separators’, which can be used in mineral refinement and pollution control, and in high-speed levitating monorail trains.

Superconductors are materials that carry electrical current with little or no resistance when cooled below a certain temperature. While conventional superconductors need to be cooled close to absolute zero (zero degrees on the Kelvin scale, or –273 °C) before they superconduct, high temperature superconductors do so above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen (–196 °C), which makes them relatively easy to cool and cheaper to operate.

Superconductors are currently used in scientific and medical applications, such as MRI scanners, and in the future could be used to protect the national grid and increase energy efficiency, due to the amount of electrical current they can carry without losing energy.

The current carried by a superconductor also generates a magnetic field, and the more field strength that can be contained within the superconductor, the more current it can carry. State of the art, practical superconductors can carry currents that are typically 100 times greater than copper, which gives them considerable performance advantages over conventional conductors and permanent magnets.

Hence this high-tech world record will no doubt impact on energy efficiency in the future, so watch this blog for further developments - and world records employing a a high temperature gadolinium barium copper oxide superconductor - where’s my shed key?

Read more in the original article here.

Picture by University of Cambridge reproduced under CCL.

Categories: General, Reviews, Technology

Thursday 17th July 2014


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