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Venture a milestone for High Temp Superconductors

Media release
19 December 2007

IRL/General Cable joint venture a milestone for High Temperature Superconductivity

Industrial Research Ltd (IRL) has today signed an agreement with General Cable Asia Pacific for a joint venture to develop and commercially manufacture high temperature superconductor (HTS) cabling in New Zealand.

IRL research has produced an effective and cost-efficient method of manufacturing HTS cable and the Chief Executive of IRL, Shaun Coffey says the joint venture with General Cable to scale up and commercialise that process is an exciting development for the HTS industry in New Zealand.

“Many applications require more than the single HTS wire that has been available to date and that wire has not been suitable for AC currents. Having access to this cable from General Cable New Zealand’s manufacturing plant in Christchurch, widens the range of products such as magnets and transformers that can be produced in a potentially important new export area for this country,” he says.

“I’d also like to acknowledge the work New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has done in providing leadership and direction for the future of an HTS industry in New Zealand. I know this joint venture will provide an important impetus for the further development of that vision.”

A major customer for the cable will be IRL’s spin-off company, HTS-110 which was formed in 2004 to transfer years of HTS research and development at IRL into a range of products. HTS-110's CEO, Donald Pooke, says the cable will significantly enhance the company’s position at the forefront of HTS product development especially for large or rapid-cycling magnets and devices for the power industry.

“HTS-110 is already developing AC machines to meet customer demand, but there are limits to what can be achieved with existing conductor packaging,” he says. “The IRL cabled conductor will allow device performance to be taken to new levels, and this means wider markets and greater commercial opportunities for us."

The HTS cabling technology is the latest product of 19 years of research at IRL into high temperature superconductors, much of it funded by Government through the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and the Marsden Fund administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Superconductors are materials which carry electrical currents with effectively zero resistance at low temperatures. The cable developed by IRL is designed for applications at liquid nitrogen temperature (-196°C or 77K) and below.

Recent IRL research has focused on the application of HTS technology in devices such as magnets, motors and generators. In finding a process whereby HTS wire can be effectively and cost-efficiently formed into a cable, the IRL researchers have opened the way for much broader uptake of the technology with its potential to carry high electrical currents with lower losses of energy. The cable will be useful in very high current rated devices such as large generators, transformers and motors and also in devices operating with AC current such as some magnets and. induction heaters.

IRL HTS research is also developing other technologies which are essential if HTS is to be widely applied within the electrical devices market. In particular, researchers are developing a cooling system that is robust enough to withstand industrial use and significantly cheaper than the current cryogenic refrigerators.

The joint venture agreement was signed at IRL by the Director of General Cable’s Superconductor Investment Ltd, Aaron Gilmore and the Chairman of IRL, Brian Rhoades before an audience including the Minister of Research, Science and Technology, the Hon Pete Hodgson.

The new joint venture company will be known as General Cable Superconductors Ltd.


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