New research project could lead to breakthrough in energy technology

By State of Green, October 26, 2018

A research project at the Niels Bohr Institute will look into superconductors that can help ensure big energy savings by e.g. reducing the energy loss during transportation through cables.

Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark are going to learn more about the principle of high-temperature superconductivity, which may lead to massive savings in the energy sector.

To make a long story short, high-temperature superconductivity is a phenomenon that takes place when the metal, based on iron and copper conductor electrons, is cooled down to approximately minus 100 degrees.

The low temperature changes the interaction of the atoms and electrons in the metal, which then produces superconductive properties. Because of this, the electrons are able to move through the metal, without being slowed down.

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The objective of the research project, funded by Independent Research Fund Denmark, is to achieve a better understanding of the origin of the superconductivity.

“If we understand the principals behind high-temperature superconductivity, it can lead to huge advantages and energy savings in the future,” said Brian Møller Andersen, Associate Professor at the Niels Bohr Institute and head of the project, and continued:

“The superconductivity can lead electricity entirely without resistance. So if we are able to find materials, which have superconductive abilities at room temperature, it will lead to substantial energy savings, because we do not lose energy, when the electricity is directed”.

The Danish cable manufacturer NKT is excited for the research project in which they see great potential.

“The transportation of more electrical energy is a challenge for the electricity grid, and we see superconducting energy cables as an essential component of a stronger grid. We see great potential in the commercialisation of superconductive cable technology, and breakthroughs, especially on the cost side, will be of great importance,” said Dag Willén, Senior Development Engineer of the superconductive energy cables in NKT.

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Today, high-speed trains in Japan are using superconducting cables. Here, the challenge is the so-called conventional superconductors, which means that they have to cool down to minus 260 degrees to work. Consequently, they require massive cooling facilities, which use a lot of energy.

“It is correct that the energy is led without resistance, but the energy savings disappear because you use so much energy to cool the superconductive materials down,” said Brian Møller Andersen.

As part of the research project, the researchers will be conducting both theoretical calculations and physical experiments.

“The experiments will be conveyed by applying electrons onto the surface of the material and then measure what happens in different settings. For example, you can apply magnetic fields and see how the superconductor changes,” explained Brian Møller Andersen.

Source: Energy Watch (in Danish)

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