Electricity powers the world. From houses to cars, everything runs using electricity. The sources of the world's electricity may now be more varied than ever, thanks to renewable options, but the way that energy is transmitted has remained largely the same. Researchers have been finding ways to improve things, specifically through the development of superconducting materials.
This week in Barcelona, a European research project on superconductivity called Eurotapes presented the findings of a four-year study into superconducting materials. First discovered in 1911, superconductivity is a property of certain materials — such as graphene — to conduct electricity with zero resistance and little to no power loss. In some metals, superconductivity is achieved when they are cooled to near absolute zero (-273 degrees Celsius, -459 Fahrenheit).
Graphene: A Superconducting Material
Among the industrial applications presented by Eurotapes was a superconducting tape made from carbon oxide. This threadlike material has the ability to conduct 100 times more electricity than copper, said project coordinator Xavier Obradors, from the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona, in an interview with AFP. Accordingly, they have produced 600 meters (1,968 feet) of this superconducting tape.
"With this thread you can for example make cables to transport much more electricity or generate much more intense magnetic fields than today," Obradors said.
Efficient Energy Transfer
Projects like Eurotapes can help us reach the goal of developing superconducting materials. However, while there are several potential superconductors we already know about, their use have been limited to small-scale pilot projects. This is mainly because researchers still haven't figured out a way for materials to be superconductors at room temperatures.
But these new superconducting tapes have positioned Eurotapes and its partners to make a big impact in the market of high-temperature superconducting materials, Eurotapes wrote in a statement. The company even went so far as to say that the new material technology "is already revolutionizing technological innovation in the energy sector."
"In the long term, the project will make renewable energy more competitive thanks to the fact that wind generators can generate more energy," Obradors said. "Superconducting generators will be more efficient and will reduce Kwh production costs."
Obradors predicted to AFP that their superconducting tape will make it possible to develop future wind turbines that double the potency of existing ones. But it isn't limited to just that. Superconductors can improve the way electrical devices work.
Pushing the technology further, imagine the effects of having superconducting materials as components of day-to-day electronic devices — smart gadgets both personal and at home. It will be an era of truly efficient energy generation and consumption.