Super New Zealand science on display
8 January 2008
Super New Zealand science on display
Holidaymakers passing through Wellington International Airport have a chance to view some super science and technologies developed in New Zealand and now being commercialised here.
The technology is High Temperature Superconductivity (HTS) developed by national science enterprise Industrial Research Limited (IRL) and being commercialised by joint venture companies HTS-110 and General Cable Superconductors Limited. The display is the centrepiece to the current Science New Zealand exhibit in the domestic airport concourse.
High temperature superconducting materials have already begun to replace copper wire in sophisticated electrical equipment and HTS-110 has developed a healthy export market in magnets for a wide range of areas from scientific instrumentation and minesweeping through to marine motors and industrial processing. That trend is expected to continue, with HTS being used in the transmission of electricity, in medical devices, transportation and wireless communications.
The advantages are that HTS materials can carry up to ten times the energy of copper wire of the same size and the Wellington airport display illustrates how products using HTS technology are much smaller and lighter than conventional ones. For example, visitors can compare the compact size of a model HTS generator with one using conventional technology.
Also on display is an example of superconducting Roebel cable developed by scientists and engineers at IRL to carry AC electricity – extending the range of products that can use HTS materials.
This breakthrough New Zealand technology is now being scaled up for commercial manufacture in Christchurch through a joint venture company with General Cable Corporation.
The IRL centrepiece to the Science New Zealand display features a working example of a cryocooler - the ultra-cold refrigeration unit that maintains the superconducting material at optimum operating level and provided especially for the display by HTS-110. Keen-eyed passersby might spot that the cryocooler has a magnet seemingly floating magically in space above the cryocooler.
This is a physical phenomenon known as the Meissner Effect where the superconductor repels magnetic fields when in the superconducting state, creating a force which levitates the magnet.
The HTS display will be on view at Wellington airport departure hall until mid-January.
IRL is a national science enterprise with the New Zealand Government as shareholder. It specialises in world-class science and engineering in support of industry and the New Zealand economy.
A joint venture company formed in 2004 to commercialise HTS R&D coming out of IRL. It specialises in powerful HTS magnets for a range of research and industrial applications. When originally set up, HTS-110 had a staff of three. That has now grown to 15 and the company has a sales office in Boston and product distributors in Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the US.
About General Cable
General Cable Superconductors Ltd was established in December 2007 in a joint venture between IRL and General Cable Corporation. The company is taking an effective and cost-efficient manufacturing method for HTS cable pioneered by IRL scientists and engineers and developing it for commercial production.
Science New Zealand is the representative body for New Zealand’s eight Crown Research Institutes: AgResearch, ESR, GNS Science, IRL, Landcare Research, NIWA, Plant & Food Research and Scion. It fosters appreciation of the value of science for New Zealand. The Science New Zealand display space at Wellington International Airport highlights the wide range of science undertaken by the Crown Research Institutes and the impact of that research on the everyday lives of New Zealanders.