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Scientists Create New Type of Superconductor Wires

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the greased-lightning dept.

Power 96

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists in Israel have used technology created at a U.S.-funded national research lab to created a new kind of wire spun from sapphire crystals, that is a vastly better conductor than traditional copper wires. The research could have profound implications for renewable energy since much of the generation is in remote locations. It could help bring more electricity from renewable sources to cities."

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Not Superconductivity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37334488)

I'm thinking that this doesn't actually exhibit the phenomenon known as "superconductivity" and is simple a low-resistance conductor.

Re:Not Superconductivity? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334514)

That was my thought, there's no mention of superconductivity in the article, just higher capacity. Plus you've got to keep it bathed in liquid nitrogent. Which isn't bad, it wasn't that long ago that you needed much more expensive coolants, but this isn't a superconductor so it's somewhat moot.

I'm not sure where they got the idea that it's a super conductor when there was no mention at all of resistance.

Re:Not Superconductivity? (1)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334592)

They claim at LN2 temperatures it is superconducting (or the article says so, it might be making the mistake the really good conductor is "superconducting" whereas the definition is Restistance of 0).

LN2 temperature superconductor is fantastic for superconductors, LN2 is really easy and cheap, room temp would obviously be much nicer but is a ways away. And from the sound of what they are doing this is actually usable and not ridiculously fragile and rigid and hard to make.

I did notice no mention of publication/article/verification

Re:Not Superconductivity? (5, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334754)

I looked into this, and apparently this invention is not about the sapphire itself being superconductive or even conductive- things might be different with the right doping, but ordinarily, a sapphire crystal is a very good electrical resistor. This is about using a precisely crafted sapphire thread as a support for laying down a high temperature superconductor. Known high temperature superconductors, being ceramics, are difficult to make into practical wires, something that has limited their use (for most applications that need superconducting wire, niobium alloys are used, which make fine wire, but these only superconduct under liquid helium temperatures).

Re:Not Superconductivity? (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336654)

So basically the invention is the justification for Monster Cables charging what they do? While concurrently, not providing the absurdly scifi star trek science backed explanations of why they rock, but actual reasons?

I would have never thought it possible in my life time....

Re:Not Superconductivity? (1)

black soap (2201626) | more than 3 years ago | (#37344620)

I would point out that sapphire, being Al2O3, (aluminate), should qualify under some translations as "transparent aluminum."

Re:Not Superconductivity? (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 3 years ago | (#37344836)

Cool.

So I can see the 1's and 0's clogging up the cable and where to try and unclog it.

That's added value.

Re:Not Superconductivity? (1)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336852)

where did you find this. everywhere I have looked has claimed it is extremely long single crystalline sapphire strands

Re:Not Superconductivity? (1)

gringer (252588) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337382)

where did you find this. everywhere I have looked has claimed it is extremely long single crystalline sapphire strands

You could start with the article:

They are made from single crystals of sapphire strung together and glued in place with a specialized ceramic coating.

Re:Not Superconductivity? (1)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 3 years ago | (#37343616)

This just means they are coated in ceramic, copper wires are often coated in insulation, but that doesn't mean the insulation is the conducting material. The ceramic could just as likely be a part of the heat dissipation and completely insulating

I'm not saying you are wrong, I just dont see where you are getting your info from - are just you making assumption without any specific facts to back it up.

Re:Not Superconductivity? (1)

Dthief (1700318) | more than 3 years ago | (#37343684)

http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20100298150 [faqs.org]

ok, this older patent for doing the same process to macroscopic sapphire (by the same people) supports your claim.

Re:Not Superconductivity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37335454)

I'm thinking that this doesn't actually exhibit the phenomenon known as "superconductivity" and is simple a low-resistance conductor.

Perhaps you should re-read the following, copied from article:

The TAU research team took the project a step farther by combining the fibers with a self-contained cooling system based on liquid nitrogen, which keeps the sapphire wire in a highly efficient superconducting state without overheating.

when can I buy some (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37334502)

excellent, i'm very excited. when can I buy a roll of this new wire at home depot?

Re:when can I buy some (4, Funny)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334780)

excellent, i'm very excited. when can I buy a roll of this new wire at home depot?

They have it, but it takes 45 minutes to find someone who knows where it is, and then you have to move 5 boxes of broken ones to find the one unopened box that has it. Then you find out it is a cheap Chinese knockoff made of "Saffire" instead of the sapphire superconductor that you wanted.

Re:when can I buy some (1)

webmistressrachel (903577) | more than 3 years ago | (#37335372)

Wow, sounds like Maplin's here in the UK. And to thing, their catalogue and store stockrooms used to legendary for their efficiency and range - now if you need a particular resistance or coils you gotta wait a week and if you haven't a debit card - forget it!

If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334508)

So, this stuff won't cure cancer, but it might help with renewable energy:

Among the many other possible beneficiaries of the team's new creation that comes to mind would be the hyper-ambitious international DESERTEC organization, which seeks to harvest massive amounts of solar energy in deserts and transmit it to population centers, for example from Africa to Europe.

Except for the small detail that it has to be cooled to liquid nitrogen temperature to act as superconductor and an entire desert transmission line sitting in LN would take a bunch of energy, what's not to like?

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334572)

It's less than ideal, but the fact that it's only liquid nitrogen and not some of the more expensive coolants that they used to use is a significant step.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334842)

Certainly better than liquid helium but I don't think that long distance LN cooled transmission lines are going to be a very useful concept.

I'm not saying that this tech isn't going to be useful - it very well might be. I'm just annoyed because stuffing it into a 'renewable energy' story seems silly. Just like every bit of biological research 'might help cure cancer'.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334868)

Depends on what is greater: the energy used to refrigerate the superconducting wires, or the transmission losses of regular wires over the same distance. By heavily insulating and burying the wires you could probably keep the cooling requirements down, and as the wires get longer the transmission losses increase. A trans-continental run would probably be long enough that transmission losses from conventional cables make it unfeasible.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37335116)

> as the wires get longer the transmission losses increase

It's superconducting wire; the point is that there's no transmission loss.

However, as the length increases, the coolant loss will increase. But even that isn't as bad as it sounds. After all, since the wire is superconducting, the wire itself isn't adding heat to the coolant - it's only the outside that is heating the coolant. So heavily insulated underground wiring would actually work pretty well. And if liquid nitrogen conducts heat well enough, you don't even need active cooling systems at many points (cool one end, and the heat redistributes). I suspect most of the energy spent on cooling is going to spent on the initial cooling - filling that entire pipe with liquid nitrogen before even turning the power on - after which it's much less to maintain it. Also, if the source is cheap and/or renewable (fission/wind/solar/hydro/wave and someday fusion), even 'expensive' cooling may still be worth it. Also also, you don't have to do every line in the world for it to be useful - even doing just the first few miles of heavy line right at the source would be beneficial.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (2)

chriso11 (254041) | more than 3 years ago | (#37335344)

I've heard that superconductors not only have no electrical resistance, but the have no thermal resistance too. That would mean superconductors have a constant temperature across them; is this true?

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (2)

blargfellow (948805) | more than 3 years ago | (#37335912)

Superconductors have a finite thermal conductivity, so there are temperature gradients. The substrate material (in this case sapphire) is actually responsible for most of the local heat dissipation in high temperature superconducting wires.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 3 years ago | (#37339212)

I've heard that superconductors ... have no thermal resistance ...

You're thinking of Scrith from Ringworld Engineers [wikipedia.org] . It's a thermal superconductor.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#37339338)

It's superconducting wire; the point is that there's no transmission loss.

He obviously was speaking about the losses of normal wires.

In short:
* Transporting a certain amount of power over a normal wire gives a certain loss due to electrical resistance.
* A superconducting wire gives a certain loss due to cooling (while the current flow itself has no losses, you have to additionally provide the power for cooling, so the effect is the same: You have to put more power in than you get out).

The question is: Which loss can be made smaller. Or more exactly: Which loss can be made smaller at reasonable cost.
Since the amount of power transported makes a difference (resistive losses are proportional to the power transported, while the superconductor cooling cost is independent of it), it is no surprise that they suggested projects like Desertec. If it's not the best option for such large projects, it's most likely not the best option for any other project either.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334884)

Yes, even at $14 or so a liter, the stuff isn't cheap, but it is a step in the right direction. I'm just surprised that they're suggesting that something like this that relies upon liquid cooling is acceptable for transmission lines. As it is they literally have to go around with guys in specially design suits, lowering them onto the transmission lines to alleviate hots spots. I can only imagine what would happen if a section of the transmission line were to start leaking coolant.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

aXis100 (690904) | more than 3 years ago | (#37335230)

Nah, it's much cheaper than that - in bulk and generated on-site it costs only cents per litre.

LN cooling? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336236)

Like Axis said, it's a lot cheaper if made on site. Also, as I understand it the way superconducting power lines are made(there are a few already), they're made of liquid-proof, but not gas tight highly insulated cables.

As the cable is superconducting, you don't have heat buildup from resistance, so it's all environmental. You simply have enough space around the tubes for the nitrogen to disburse. Nitrogen is non-toxic, though you might want an O2 mask in some circumstances.

As the nitrogen is a liquid, they only need to keep pumping more in as small amounts of it boil off.

I remember an article about it a while back - they were replacing 11 oil cooled power lines with 3 superconducting. The electricity needed to keep the lines cold was projected to be less than what was needed to pump the oil, much less what was lost as heat in the pipes.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

black soap (2201626) | more than 3 years ago | (#37344796)

The utilities in some places already hook up liquid nitrogen tanks to some underground lines, as the LN2 is a good way to drive moisture out of the lines. You might have seen them on the side of the road, often chained to a utility pole. A guy in a truck pulls up and changes the tank as necessary, no special gear required.

I can think of worse chemicals to have spill of than Nitrogen.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336378)

Certainly better than liquid helium but I don't think that long distance LN cooled transmission lines are going to be a very useful concept.

The ratio of energy saved by reduced conduction to that required to cool the nitrogen is huge. And distance doesn't really change that--energy saved increases with distance, just as does the amount of cooling required. Superconducting power lines have already been in use for some years to carry power from plants in New Jersey into Manhattan. Of course the Nevada desert is warmer than the water between NJ & NY, but the thermal conductivity of water is greater, so in reality add a little more insulation and it probably works.

The bigger problem is the cost of the superconducting cable. The NJ -> NY link is unique in that a fairly short link is needed to carry a huge amount of power, so the payback is pretty quick. The expense of running such a line from Nevada to LA would be huge.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

Nethead (1563) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334988)

But they'll have to heat it a bit for it to work in Fairbanks. ;)

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37335392)

I wonder if the energy required to cool the transmission line is more/less than the energy saved by superconducting?
It would only depend on the how effective the heat insulation is around the coolant. There should be no heat generated by the cable as there are no I^2R losses in a superconductor, which is the whole idea.

If you bury the conductor at a decent depth where it's actually quite cool, that would eliminate the radiant heat input, and all you need is an effective refrigeration-circulation-insulation system

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337064)

I was wondering if the extra complexity would generate more/more serious failures when wires get cut. A highly effective insulation mechanism might well result in a net energy gain, but if everything broke down a lot it might not be worthwhile.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337624)

I was wondering if the extra complexity would generate more/more serious failures when wires get cut.

Assuming only the cooling envelope was cut, but not the electricity-carrying cable:

  • the now exposed section of cable will eventually go over its superconducting temperature, and if electricity is still flowing,
  • the damaged section will start generating tremendous amounts of heat, causing the neighboring sections to go over critical temperature as well,
  • which will cause these sections to generate heat, which the cooling system won't be able to evacuate, as it was designed to cope with low amounts of environmental heat, and not huge amounts generated by the cable itself.
  • this will trigger a chain reaction eventually destroying the entire cable

So, monitoring the cable for coolant loss, and cutting power immediately when it happens is important.

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#37338336)

No. Either the heat generated will be enough to destroy cable material, or it won't be. If it is, the damaged part melts, the cable is cut, and the current ceases, thus stopping the heating. If it isn't, the net resistance of the cable increases as more and more of it falls out of superconducting state, leading to less and less heating, ultimately stopping the spread of the non-superconducting section.

In any case, simply monitoring resistance is sufficient to detect any problems.

Not cold enough wet dog (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337290)

In bulk liquid nitrogen costs less than milk.

Re:Not cold enough wet dog (1)

cellocgw (617879) | more than 3 years ago | (#37341690)

In bulk liquid nitrogen costs less than milk.
In that case we'll clearly need some price support for LN2.
(Deep sarcasm, for those not familiar with the "distance from farm" pricing rules currently in effect for milk in the USA)

Re:If it's not cancer, it's renewable energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37343642)

It may not cure cancer, but may help diagnose them since magnets are an important part of MRI scanners.

Not Superconductivity? (1)

Elder Entropist (788485) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334512)

I'm guessing this does not exhibit the phenomenon known as "superconductivity" and is rather just a low-resistance conductor.

Re:Not Superconductivity? (2)

bassman998 (922503) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334564)

It's actually superconducting. From the article:

The TAU research team took the project a step farther by combining the fibers with a self-contained cooling system based on liquid nitrogen, which keeps the sapphire wire in a highly efficient superconducting state without overheating.

Science Reporting at its "best" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37334526)

Superconductor

Tina Casey, I think you meant "super conductor".

which can transmit about 40 times more electricity than a copper wire of comparable size

My brain....

Re:Science Reporting at its "best" (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334540)

If your brain is conducting 40 times more electricity than a copper wire of comparable size, please see a doctor immediately.

Re:Science Reporting at its "best" (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334756)

If your brain is conducting 40 times more electricity than a copper wire of comparable size, please see a doctor immediately.

Dr. Hank McCoy, preferably.

Re:Science Reporting at its "best" (1)

planimal (2454610) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334650)

>which can transmit about 40 times more electricity than a copper wire of comparable size they just jam more electrons into the series of tubes

Re:Science Reporting at its "best" (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334660)

Oh look, a nitwit who thinks he knows something about science.

According to the article, which you didn't both reading before bashing, these wires use legitimate superconductivity. And I don't even know what you think is wrong with the second phrase you quoted. Do you think superconductors actually carry infinite current? They don't.

Not only that. (2)

skrimp (790524) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334562)

Electrons on the outside, photons on the inside. Double the bandwidth.

Hey, even if it's not a super conductor... (1)

Commontwist (2452418) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334574)

Even if it needs liquid nitrogen cooling at least nitrogen is abundant unlike helium.

If the cost for cooling per mile/kilometer is less than the profit generated by solar power from a desert region then I can see someone giving it a go. Unfortunately, there isn't any rough costs for doing so in the article.

I wonder if they are using electric blue sapphires?

So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37334576)

... what's the advantage of using this over, say, BSCCO, or any other "high temperature" superconductor? They still have to be cooled with LN2, which means that long-distance power transfer, as proposed in the article, is completely infeasible.

Audiophiles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37334654)

Wires spun from sapphire?

It matches my diamond encrusted tube amp and mahogany power plug perfectly!

Re:Audiophiles (2)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334838)

I guess it's time to just throw away the gold speaker cables.

Details missing (1)

hanselda (2456326) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334690)

This news is quite strange. As far as I know sapphire itself is NEVER a superconductor at any temperature. The superconductivity might just come from the "specialized ceramic coating" that is mentioned, since the LN2 temperature superconductors are usually ceramics, so called "high temperature superconductor". The problem of such material is that it is quite brittle and you can never draw a wire with it. I assume the improvement here is how to fabricate such wire with this material.

This is why we can't have nice things. (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334768)

Is there any particular reason the USA is paying for a lab to be built in Israel while, at the same time, people are complaining about how we can't build or innovate anything in the USA?

Re:This is why we can't have nice things. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37334846)

Hush you Anti-Semite!

Re:This is why we can't have nice things. (1, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334852)

Is there any particular reason the USA is paying for a lab to be built in Israel while, at the same time, people are complaining about how we can't build or innovate anything in the USA?

If Israel were physically closer, it would either be the 51st state or a borough of New York City.

Re:This is why we can't have nice things. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37334904)

Quite a troll you got there. American kids don't do science anymore, for one. And much of the work was done in an American lab, by someone with a very Israeli sounding name: "To create their superconductors, the researchers turned to sapphire fibers, developed by Dr. Amit Goyal at the Oakridge National Lab in Tennessee and lent to the TAU team."

I would also like to point out that Israel's universities funding are primarily funded by the Israeli government and American Jewish organizations, not the US government itself. The US barely sends any

Re:This is why we can't have nice things. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37334982)

Didn't finish my sentence. My bad. The last sentence should read "The US barely sends any civilian aid to Israel anymore". Israel weaned itself off of civilian aid over the past 15-20 years. They do get a lot of military aid, which has its pros and cons. (Cons: Expensive, not the cool progressive thing to do. Pros: Israel is one of the very few Western democracies willing to defend itself and not depend on the US being world policeman.)

Re:This is why we can't have nice things. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37335646)

Is there any particular reason the USA is paying for a lab to be built in Israel while, at the same time, people are complaining about how we can't build or innovate anything in the USA?

Why do you hate pirates?

Re:This is why we can't have nice things. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336770)

Why does the US support Israel? Because Israel and the US have been all buddy-buddy for quite some time. They're some kind of democracy in the middle of the desert, don't you know. And let me tell ya, conservative Zionists here in the good ole US of A would just love to be able to treat the heathen, unpatriotic, sub-human liberals just like they treat the Palestinians!

Even if you realize that the Israel/Palestine conflict now runs generations-deep with atrocities on both sides, and with most of the world unhappy with inappropriate behaviors on both sides of the fence...or is that a wall now...try not to talk about it too much.

And please, try not to notice how Israel is committing the worst atrocities right now. 'Cause if you're not rooting for Zionist Israelis, you're part of the anti-Semitic problem, and probably would have helped with gassing at Auschwitz or something.

Re:This is why we can't have nice things. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37337616)

Doesn't take much for any thread to be turned into a Pali propaganda hatefest on /. these days

Re:This is why we can't have nice things. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37340836)

I guess not... It's just too damn easy to hate.

I hate it that while I'm having my coffee, others are suffering in no small part due to the support and policies of my government.

I hate it when a small but powerful minority drags the rest of the herd around for malevolent causes.

I hate it that these issues are descriptive of activity in US, Palestine, and other places.

I hate it that my species has every opportunity to grow up and learn from the past, but refuses to do so year after year and generation after generation. I hate it that we're too fucked up to leave the world a better place for our children because of our bigotry and greed today.

Re:This is why we can't have nice things. (1)

rocket rancher (447670) | more than 3 years ago | (#37338610)

AIPAC. Next question?

Too many promises, too little substance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37334862)

As an expert in superconductivity (Physical Review Letter in 1976, among others), I find no substance in this "news" article. Sapphire, of course, is not a superconductor. Since sapphire is a common substrate for making thin films of ceramic superconductors, that's likely what's being done. However, the current-carrying ability of these strands will be small, since the magnetic field caused by the current will destroy the superconductivity.

The sapphire is just a substrate (4, Informative)

Stenboj (1131557) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334882)

See http://www.rdmag.com/RD100-Awards-Rounding-The-Edges-On-Superconductor-Wires/ [rdmag.com] which I reached via the sapphire outfit's site. The sapphire is a substrate for epitaxial deposition of an unspecified superconductor. It is not the conductor and the story is making more sense now.

A famous challenge (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334900)

As Bernd T. Matthius, the famous physicist, used to say when people touted this or that new superconducting material, "Make me a cable!" Exotic materials that work in the lab often can't be made into a cable of any length or usefulness.

Re:A famous challenge (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#37335044)

Of course, supercondutors have many uses besides a 0 resistance cable.

Re:A famous challenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37335552)

Well, if you read the alternative article cited above, this is exactly the point of this new sapphire superconductor. The sapphire isn't a superconductor at all... It's a substrate that you coat with superconductor. Which means you can finally make a cable out of a material that would otherwise be too brittle.

"renewable"? (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#37334906)

It could help bring more electricity from renewable sources to cities

It could also help bring more electricity from non-renewable sources to cities. And villages.

Re:"renewable"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37338530)

villages produce electricity? I thought they were useless!

you got jewed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37335216)

The TAU research team took the project a step farther by combining the fibers with a self-contained cooling system based on liquid nitrogen

It sounds like all the Israelis did was to immerse the wire (developed by the Americans) in liquid nitrogen.
Not exactly what I would call created/developed by Israelis.

The Israelis also developed the Ferrari 458 Italia by filling the tank with gasoline.

Silly Article -- Sapphire doesn't conduct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37335366)

Sapphire is an insulator. It's not a conductor of electricity, let alone a superconductor.

These wires must be coated with a high-temperature superconductor (one that superconducts in liq-N).

What's the current / current density that they have achieved?

No mention of cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336138)

I guess with the inflated cost of copper, this ceramic coating on spun sapphire wire, encased in an insulating medium filled with liquid nitrogen, is really cheaper to manufacture and install than copper wire.

Re:No mention of cost (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336278)

Oddly enough it's probably going to replace aluminum more - while aluminum is less conductive than copper, it's sufficiently cheaper(and lighter) that you can simply pile more on and come up with a cable of larger diameter that actually conducts better for the same cost as a copper wire.

On the other hand, it's sufficiently more of a pain in the butt when it comes to connections* that most home wiring is copper - which I don't think is going to be replaced by a system that uses liquid nitrogen anytime soon.

*Basically the problem is that aluminum also expands more when heated. Combine larger diameter wire that expands and contracts more and you need connectors with better designs than what copper needs. If you only have a couple connections every few miles, that needs to be weather-proof, for large gauge cable, tamper resistant, and capable of massive amounts of current, making them for aluminum isn't a significant additional cost, at least compared to the additional wire cost if you went with copper.

Re:No mention of cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336574)

Seems sarcasm doesn't work very well in /.

An alternate approach (1)

olyar (591892) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336280)

Or we could - you know - boost the voltage a transformer and transfer the power over small conductors with relatively low losses,

And for longer runs we could use High Voltage DC [wikipedia.org]

But liquid nitrogen and sapphire would work too...

Re:An alternate approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336366)

Yeah, but once you get to about 10 million volts, the air starts to break down and arc too much. So there is a practical upper limit to high voltage transmission.

And another thing. (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336438)

If you're running superconducting lines, you can bury them because you don't need to worry about them getting grounded. That means fewer weather related power outages.

Re:And another thing. (1)

DinDaddy (1168147) | more than 3 years ago | (#37341678)

But a lot more graboid related ones. I hate those things.

Re:And another thing. (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#37342160)

If you're running superconducting lines, you can bury them because you don't need to worry about them getting grounded.

Why wouldn't you? The current presumably goes through the resistive coil in your oven; why would it not go through the ground as well?

Re:And another thing. (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#37343940)

Because superconductors work at much lower voltages, so they are easier to insulate. Typically if you're running high voltage lines underground you'd need to put too much insulation on them to be practical (and that insulation would result in the need for a lot of active cooling). With superconductors, that isn't a problem.

YBCO on Sapphire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336984)

I suspect this is YBCO grown on a sapphire wire. Previously, YBCO has been grown on flat substrates [tau.ac.il] .

My 2 cents (2)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337296)

Interesting approach, but the linked article is so bad even i had to scratch my head for a few minutes and follow the link to the company to understand it (Sapphire is a nearly perfect insulator, even at low temperatures, what the linked article calls glue seems to be the (epitaxially grown?) HTC SC material).

to address some comments here: the use of liquid nitrogen is not the special thing here. Cables cooled by liquid nitrogen have been in test for a long time.

What i am missing is a comparison to other superconducting cables, so AFAIU:

Normally to make HTC SC wire you grow HTC crystals (a dark art by itself, much like cooking), crush these and press it into a metal band to be able to bend the conductor and you essentially hope that somehoe the grains inside the filaments touch each other (they do). The current is only carried in the surface of the grains anyway and these HTCs are brittle, so you can in principle use a very stable insulator core (like sapphire), grow a thin layer of HTC on it (of which you can control the composition perfectly) and save the effort of providing additional mechanical stability.

Re:My 2 cents (1)

thed8 (1739450) | more than 3 years ago | (#37340704)

First all this is written in advertising speak so it gives few facts and as many buzz words as possible. Second what the heqq does it have to do with renewable power? If you can spin saphire fibers that carry 40 times what copper can that's significant. Take a 0000 cable it weighs about 640 pounds per 1000 feet. Thats a big mass change. It doesn't really fit but a 0000 can carry about 223 amps you could scale that back to a like an #18 gauge wire (which weighs about 5 pounds per 1000 feet) and carry the same amps. But as I said not enough detail, the point is the prize is huge I squared R is a huge isse for a global power system. I hope it works.

Cable theft (1)

sifi (170630) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337828)

This is only going to make the problem of cable theft even worse! My train is frequently delayed because some selfish numbnut has stolen the signalling/power cables to sell the copper. Imagine what is going to happen when they find out that these cables are made out of sapphires!

Re:Cable theft (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#37338798)

Just wait until those same numbnuts find out about diamond tip industrial cutting tools, or diamond abrasives.

Re:Cable theft (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 3 years ago | (#37342908)

Assuming that you're serious (though doubting it):

Copper is malleable, and melts at a reasonable temperature. So you can take a piece of copper wire and melt it or cold work it.

Sapphire is brittle, and doesn't melt easily. (I forget whether you need a vacuum, an atmosphere of inert gasses, or whether nitrogen is required. But in any case it's not at a reasonable temperature.) So if you steal a piece of sapphire cable, what you have is a piece of sapphire cable. It's quite unlikely to be a pretty as a piece of cut glass. It is, of course, hard enough that you can use it to cut things. But the effort required isn't minor, and I doubt that your prices would be lower than that commercially available. And this omits the problem of getting at it through the liquid nitrogen. ("Are those your fingers shattered on the ground there?")

I don't expect cable theft to be a sizable problem. Small pieces of sapphire aren't that expensive, and there isn't a large market for them. And you would probably ruin the cable for it's original use in the process of getting it, so you can't even hold it for ransom.

Using "sapphire" makes it viable long distance?? (1)

Rsriram (51832) | more than 3 years ago | (#37338730)

Imagine a wires made out of sapphire. I am not sure they will be financially viable for long distance usage. Copper is getting stolen, imagine safeguarding sapphire wires!!

Another article (2)

ansak (80421) | more than 3 years ago | (#37338862)

Okay, so IEEE has the bulk of the article behind a pay wall but the abstract here [ieee.org] makes it plain that we're talking about superconduction at 77 K, close to the boiling point of Nitrogen [wikipedia.org] but as someone pointed out, Sapphire is the substrate on which another high-temperature superconductor is laid out and the resulting material only superconducts at microwave frequencies.

But any advance in this area is a good thing, if you ask me. We don't have enough copper to serve everyone's needs and its Ohm's Law losses are too much to be acceptable in the future.

cheers...ank

Sapphire is an insulator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37339148)

It is not a conductor, at any temperature.

I'm completly confused. (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 3 years ago | (#37339544)

First, I thought sapphires were less abundant than copper making it much more expensive no matter the process.

But advances in low cost production technologies has changed the equation, making the mass use of such fibers a potential possibility.

Second, I had no idea there was a self-contained liquid nitrogen system that could be applied to the actual wire. Why hasn't this replaced liquid nitrogen stations? Please tell me this is a confusion on the part of the writer.

The TAU research team took the project a step farther by combining the fibers with a self-contained cooling system based on liquid nitrogen, which keeps the sapphire wire in a highly efficient superconducting state without overheating.

Re:I'm completly confused. (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 3 years ago | (#37339950)

Nevermind. I posted before seeing the link to the article that makes sense. Sorry.

Australia == profit? (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 3 years ago | (#37339926)

Here is a thought. If you lived in Australia, close to both the desert and the ocean, and have the technology listed below; would you become our new OPEC style rich overlords?

1) You are capable of creating glass fiber from sand using solar energy (solar oven).
2) You are able to use the glass as an insulator for superconductive wire.
3) You are capable of using solar energy to create hydrogen from the ocean which then can then be used to super cool the wire.
4) You are able to run the wire on the ocean floor to surrounding Islands and sell electricity.

How hard is it to learn Australian?

Re:Australia == profit? (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 3 years ago | (#37340272)

How hard is it to learn Australian?

Extremely, we communicate largely using grunts. The only time we use actual words is to name venomous, or otherwise deadly creatures.

Re:Australia == profit? (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 3 years ago | (#37342246)

bummer

Say Whaa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37340204)

Lemme get this straight. Some nerdy-pants wants to pipe power from the middle of the Saharan Desert to Europe because that is renewable energy? HA!

How renewable will it be when a natural disaster wipes out the power plant in africa? Or the pipe? How much time and money will it take to FIND the break in the line or rebuild the plant? What happens when 'terrorists' blow-up or take control of the plant? Pfft...

It's only sustainable if it's local.

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