ICEC 23 - ICMC 2010
07/29/10: Talk & Paper posted below
Conference Web Site

Superconductivity in Power Applications

The Role of Cryogenics in
Transforming the Power Enterprise Worldwide

"A Sober Assessment of Opportunities and Realities"

Plenary Talk
ICEC 23 – ICMC 2010
Wroclaw, Poland
8:30 – 9:15 AM
Thursday, 22 July 2010

Paul Michael Grant
Principal, W2AGZ Technologies
Visiting Scholar in Applied Physics, Stanford University (2005-2008)
EPRI Science Fellow (Retired)
IBM Research Staff Member Emeritus (this page)




   Next year, 2011, will witness the 100th anniversary of the original discovery of superconductivity in mercury at 4.2 K in liquid helium by Gilles Holst at the University of Leiden and will also mark a quarter-century since Georg Bednorz’ initial measurements in IBM Zuerich on a series of layered copper oxide perovskites obtained critical temperatures approaching 40 K, ushering in the era of “high temperature superconductivity.”  In early 1987, M. K. Wu at the University of Alabama found a member of this family exhibiting zero resistance at 91 K, 14 degrees above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen, enabling the use of this cheap and widely employed cryogen to support potential  future applications of superconductivity.
   From the very earliest days following its initial discovery, the hope arose that this new phenomenon might eventually drastically reduce, and perhaps even eliminate, ohmic losses in electrical power equipment, from transmission lines to rotating machinery.  However, it was not until the decade of the 1950s that superconductors, so-called “Type II,” sufficiently robust to withstand the large currents and magnetic fields encountered in power applications, were developed.  Since that time, perhaps more than fifty demonstrations and prototypes of superconducting power equipment, using both low and high temperature materials, have been successfully carried out worldwide, and several, primarily cables, have actually been placed in utility service, although as yet, none permanently.
   In this talk, I will point out that superconducting power technology is now essentially “on the shelf” awaiting deployment by the industry, much in the same way that silicon-based power electronics has been waiting for more than a decade in anticipation the development of a “smart grid.”  I will maintain that deployment of superconducting power applications is not necessarily cost-limited, but rather lacks at present a compelling economic, political and societal impetus to carry such out on a broad scale.  I will address those factors within the emerging energy society (e.g., a nuclear revival, the aggressive pursuit and insertion of energy efficient technologies, etc.) that could accelerate its acceptance. 
   Finally, with the far future in mind, I will outline a carbon-free, non-eco-invasive energy economy where not only is superconductivity used for the transmission of electrical power, but also the cryogen itself, in the form of  liquid or supercritical hydrogen or methane, as an agent to transmit chemical power as well.

References (In Chronological Order)

"High-Temperature Superconductivity: Four Years Since Bednorz and Müller," P. M. Grant, Adv. Mat. 2, 232 (1990).  [A review of the past and prediction of the future for high temperature superconductivity.  Some of the predictions were right on and some way'll have to read the article to find out.  This paper contains beautiful 3D structures of all the known layered copper oxide perovskites at the time, computed by the graphics group at the IBM Winchester Science Center. NB: NOTE ADDED 19 APRIL 2010.]
"Superconductivity and Electric Power:  Promises, Promises...Past, Present and Future," P. M. Grant, IEEE Trans. Appl. Super. 7, 112 (1997).  [Based on a Plenary Lecture at the 1996 Applied Superconductivity Conference held in Pittsburg. An in your face review of where power applications have been, were at in 1997, and where they might be going.  Contains a description of the "electricity pipe" concept of Grant, Schoenung and Hassenzahl]
"The SuperCable: Dual Delivery of Hydrogen and Electric Power," Paul M. Grant, Power Systems Conference and Exposition,2004,IEEE PES,PSCE04 Panel Session on Future Power Delivery Options for Long-Term Energy Sustainability, 10-13 October 2004, New York, Pages 1745 - 1749, Vol. 3, Digital Object Identifier 10.1099/PSCE.2004.1397675 (  [Original SuperCable paper concentrating on physical dimensions and losses.]
"The SuperCable: Dual Delivery of Chemical and Electrical Power," Paul M. Grant, IEEE Trans. Appl. Supercond. 15, 1810 (2005).  [The general design of a dual-purpose cable to deliver electricity via superconductivity and chemical potential power via cryogenic hydrogen or natural gas is presented.  A universal dimensionless scaling parameter for sizing each type of power is defined.]
"Cryo-Delivery Systems for the Co-Transmission of Chemical and Electrical Power," Paul M. Grant, (Adv. Cryo. Eng.), AIP Conf. Proc. 823, 291 (2006).  [Emphasis on the delivery of cryofuel in the form of liquid hydrogen or supercritical hydrogen gas at 77 K or as LNG along with wellhead generated electricity.]
"Superconducting Lines for the Transmission of Large Amounts of Electrical Power Over Great Distances: Garwin-Matisoo Revisited Forty Years Later," Paul Michael Grant, IEEE Trans. Appl. Supercond. 17, 1641 (2007). [Invited paper at the 2006 Applied Superconductivity Conference, a reprise of the first conceptual design of a high capacity 1000 km superconducting dc cable, 100 GW, +/- 100 kV, 500 kA proposed in 1966 by IBM researchers Richard Garwin and Juri Matisoo which employed Nb3Sn cooled to 4 K.  We revisit this vision in the light of the emergence of HTSC conductors operating in the 20-80 K range and conclude the Garwin-Matisoo is both technically and financially viable.]
"SuperSuburb - A Future Cryo-powered Residential Community," P. M. Grant, (Proceedings of ICEC 22 - ICMC 2008, ed. by Ho-Myung Chang, et al., Korea Institute of Applied Superconductivity and Cryogenics 978-89-957138-2-2, p. 543 (2009)).  [A visionary concept based on the SuperGrid/SuperCity model to supply the complete energy requirements of a typical American residential community via hydricity, a balanced combination of nuclear generated hydrogen and electricity delivered over HTSC superconducting cables.]
"A High-Power Superconducting DC Cable," W. V. Hassenzahl, S. W. Eckroad, P. M. Grant, B. Gregory, and S. Nilsson, IEEE Trans. Appl. Supercond. 19, 1756 (2009). [Conceptual design of a 1 GW (100 kV, 100 kA) superconducting DC cable, encompassing cryostat details and dissipation due to transients and ac ripple.]
"A Superconducting DC Cable," W. Hassenzahl, B. Gregory, S. Eckroad, S. Nilsson, A. Daneshpooy and P. Grant, EPRI Final Report 1020458 (Project Manager, S. Eckroad), December 2009. [This report culminates almost five years of effort by the coauthors underwritten by the Electric Power Research Institute.  It at present is the definitive study of the design and properties of SCDV cables. For more EPRI research on power applications of superconductivity, visit]

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  This paper will attempt a broad, concise and sober assessment of the opportunities and realities confronting future power applications of superconductivity.  Although current activity is indeed international in scope, we will focus principally on the United States inasmuch it is there that most development has and is taking place.  Moreover, we will concentrate on potential electric utility driven deployment of superconducting cables, rotating machinery and power conditioning equipment in that country.  We will conclude that major market penetration will not likely occur for decades to come, if ever.  Having said that, it is still possible that superconductivity could play a significant role as part of a redirection of power generation to new nuclear fission cluster sites, remotely sited natural gas reserves and massive renewable energy production. Such a scenario would be driven more by social and political policy than from future economic or technology developments in superconductivity itself.

Linkable References Only

2.  Grant, P.M.,  High Temperature Superconductivity: Four Years Since Bednorz and Mueller, Adv. Mater. (1990) 2 232-253 (The online version of this article was revisited and annotated 19 April 2010.)

3.  Grant, P.M.,  Superconductivity and Electric Power: Promises, Promises...Past, Present and Future, IEEE Trans. Appl. Supercon. (1997) 7 112-133

5.  US DOE OE HTSC Peer Review, July 2008

6.  Workshop on High Temperature Superconducting Wires (Houston, June 2010)

7.  Fleshler, S., Some Industry Perspective for DOE Workshop on HTS Wires, Ref [6]

8.  Grant, P.M. and Sheahen, T.P., Cost Projections for High Temperature Superconductors,, Applied Superconductivity Conference, Palm Springs, CA (1998)

9.  Ashworth, S., Cables: Opportunities and Needs, Ref [6]

10.  Grant, P.M., Potential Electric Power Applications for Magnesium Diboride, Mat. Res. Soc. Symp. Proc. (2002) 689 3-9

11.  Tres Amigas Interaction Project

12.  Project Hydra

13.  A.  Foner, S. and Orlando, T.P., Superconductors: The Long Road Ahead, MIT Technology Review, February/March (1988) pp. 36-47

14.  Duckworth, R., Fault Current Limiting Equipment Overview and Discussion, Ref [6]

15.  Grant, P.M., Superconducting Lines for the Transmission of Large Amounts of Electrical Power Over Great Distances: Garwin-Matisoo Revisited Forty Years Later, IEEE Trans. Appl. Supercon. (2007) 17 1641-1647

16.  Schoenung, S.M., Hassenzahl, W.M. and Grant, P.M., System Study of Long Distance Low Voltage Transmission Using a High Temperature Superconducting Cable, EPRI Report WO8065-12 (1997)

17.  Grant, P.M.,  Cryo-Delivery Systems for the Co-Transmission of Chemical and Electrical Power, Adv. Cryo. Eng.: Trans. Cryo. Conf.-CEC, AIP Conf. Proc. (2006) 823 291-301

18.  Hassenzahl, W., Gregory, B., Eckroad, S., Nilsson, S., Doneshpooy, A. and Grant, P., A Superconducting DC Cable, EPRI Report 1020458 (2009)

19.  Grant, P.M.,  The SuperCable: Dual Delivery of Chemical and Electric Power, IEEE Trans. Appl. Supercon. (2005) 15 1810-1813

20.  Grant, P.M., Starr, C. and Overbye, T. J., A Power Grid for the Hydrogen Economy, Scientific American, July 2006 76-83

21.  Grant, P.M. Extreme Energy Makeover, Physics World, October 2009  37-39

22.  Schewe, P.F., The Grid: A Journey Through the Heart of Our Electrified World,  Joseph Henry Press, USA (2007) (See Nature Review by PMG)

23.  Budget Forecast:  US DOE Office of Electricity:

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An Anthology Tribute to Wroclaw
on the Occasion of ICEC 23 - ICMC 2010

Interested in how much electricity Americans are generating/consuming right now?
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