Superconductivity in Power Applications
Role of Cryogenics in
Transforming the Power Enterprise Worldwide
Assessment of Opportunities and Realities"
ICEC 23 – ICMC 2010
8:30 – 9:15 AM
Thursday, 22 July 2010
Principal, W2AGZ Technologies
Visiting Scholar in
Applied Physics, Stanford University (2005-2008)
EPRI Science Fellow (Retired)
IBM Research Staff Member Emeritus
http://www.w2agz.com/BD_WROC10.htm (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
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
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 off...you'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.]
and Electric Power: Promises, Promises...Past, Present and
Future," P. M. Grant, IEEE Trans. Appl. Super. 7, 112
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
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.]
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.]
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.]
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.]
- 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.]
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
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.
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
(no animation) (7 MB),
(as presented) (20.7 MB),
ppt (w/extra slides) (27.8 MB))
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
US DOE OE HTSC Peer Review,
6. Workshop on High Temperature Superconducting Wires
(Houston, June 2010)
7. Fleshler, S.,
Some Industry Perspective
for DOE Workshop on HTS Wires,
8. Grant, P.M. and Sheahen,
T.P., Cost Projections for High Temperature Superconductors,
Applied Superconductivity Conference, Palm Springs, CA
9. Ashworth, S.,
Cables: Opportunities and
Needs, Ref 
10. Grant, P.M.,
Potential Electric Power Applications for Magnesium Diboride,
Mat. Res. Soc. Symp. Proc. (2002) 689 3-9
Tres Amigas Interaction
12. Project Hydra
13. A. Foner, S. and
Superconductors: The Long Road Ahead, MIT Technology
Review, February/March (1988) pp. 36-47
14. Duckworth, R.,
Fault Current Limiting
Equipment Overview and Discussion,
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
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
19. Grant, P.M.,
The SuperCable: Dual Delivery of Chemical and Electric Power,
IEEE Trans. Appl. Supercon. (2005) 15
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
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: http://www.oe.energy.gov/budget.htm
Download Publication (pdf (1.2 MB))
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