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.
Solar and wind energy are becoming more viable as a source of energy on the electric grid. For decades, the major drawback to solar and wind was that they’re temperamental. A cloudy day kills solar and a still day renders the wind turbines useless. Automation tools, however, are providing a path to help these renewables become practical.
In honor of Earth Day, the National Security Agency has launched the STEM Recycling Challenge in Maryland schools to encourage kids to think about where the garbage they throw out every day actually goes. The agency has also introduced “Dunk,” a muscular blue cartoon recycling bin wearing shorts and sneakers.
Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones used to fare quite well in the repairability department, but last year's flagship S5 model took a tumble, scoring a meh-inducing 5/10. Will the newly redesigned S6 lead us back into star-studded territory, or will we sink further into the depths of a repairability black hole?
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