Advances in materials and manufacturing process are yielding the second generation of high-temperature superconducting materials. These so-called 2G materials are now making their grid-connected debut in New York. As reported in the Physics Today article by Jeremy N. A. Matthews, “Next-generation high-Tc superconducting wires debut in the power grid”, a new material called YBCO (YBa2Cu3O7–x) has emerged to replace first-generation BSCCO (Bi2Sr2Ca2Cu3O10-x) high-temperature superconducting cable. YBCO has several advantages over BSCCO including increased energy carrying capacity (106 A/cm2 versus 104 A/cm2 for BSCCO) and reduced dependence on expensive silver sheathing.
In addition to its higher capacity and economic advantages, 2G cable has an inherent security feature. Above a critical current, 2G YBCO wire transitions from being a superconductor to a resistor. This feature enables passive suppression of power surges that can cause current faults in the grid. This novel attribute has attracted funding from the Department of Homeland Security for live, utility-scale testing of YBCO wires, and the intrinsic safety of 2G wire may elevate superconducting cable from a niche curiosity to a mainstay component of the US electricity grid. By strategically replacing power lines with 2G cable, grid failures resulting from current surges could be mitigated.
During a teardown of the iPad Air and Microsoft Surface Pro 3 at the Medical Design & Manufacturing Show in Schaumburg, Ill., an engineer showed this "inflammatory" video about the dangers of maliciously mishandling lithium-ion batteries.
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
Much has been made over the potentially dangerous flammability of lithium-ion batteries after major companies like Boeing, Sony, and Tesla have grappled with well-publicized battery fires. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution to this problem with a smart sensor for lithium-ion batteries that provides a warning if the battery is about to overheat or catch fire.
In this new Design News feature, "How it Works," we’re starting off by examining the inner workings of the electronic cigarette. While e-cigarettes seemed like a gimmick just two or three years ago, they’re catching fire -- so to speak. Sales topped $1 billion last year and are set to hit $10 billion by 2017. Cigarette companies are fighting back by buying up e-cigarette manufacturers.
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