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.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
From home enthusiasts to workers on the manufacturing floor, everyone's imagination is captured by the potential of 3D printing. Prototyping, spare parts creation, art delivery, human organ creation, and even mass product production are all being targeted as current and potential uses for the technology.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.