SuperPower Achieves New Record Performance in 2G HTS Wire

SuperPower Achieves New Record Performance in 2G HTS Wire
01/28/2005
 
Intermagnetics Subsidiary Approaches Commercial Viability for Second-Generation HTS Wire with New Performance Milestone

  • SuperPower Achieves 10,050 Amp-Meters in 2G HTS Wire, Breaking its July 2004 Record Performance
  • Breakthrough Obtained with High Throughput, Low Cost Deposition Process
  • Remains on Target for Scale-Up to Commercial Manufacturing in 2006

Schenectady, NY - Intermagnetics General Corporation’s (NASDAQ: IMGC) Energy Technology subsidiary, SuperPower, Inc., announced that it has broken its July 2004 performance record by achieving critical current performance of 103.7 amperes per centimeter width in a nearly 100 meter second-generation (2G) high temperature superconducting (HTS) wire. This corresponds to a performance of 10,050 amp-meters, surpassing SuperPower’s world-record breaking 7,000 amp-meter performance announced at the 2004 DOE Peer Review meeting. “Amp-meter” is a common measure of HTS wire performance achieved by multiplying critical current carrying capacity in amperes by length in meters. SuperPower announced the breakthrough at the Department of Energy (DOE) Wire Development Workshop in St. Petersburg, Florida on January 19, 2005.

“Achieving better than 10,000 amp-meter performance propels SuperPower past an important threshold as we approach our fundamental objective of consistent production of commercially viable HTS technology,” said Glenn H. Epstein, chairman and chief executive officer of Intermagnetics. “The 100 meter piece length is considered a key parameter to enable utilizing HTS wire in device applications. We continue to be on track for commercial viability before the end of 2005 and for full scale production in 2006.”

The critical current distribution over the entire conductor length of 97 meters was measured in 1 meter intervals. The end-to-end critical current over 97 meters is limited primarily by the end segments, whereas the middle 50 meters of the conductor shows a critical current level of 150 amperes per centimeter width .
Progress in reaching the 10,000 amp-meter milestone has been rapid. Within three years of establishing reel-to-reel tape processing at SuperPower, orders of magnitude increases in wire lengths were achieved while maintaining the same high critical current performance of 100 amperes. While previous long-length results were achieved with Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD), the more recent results were obtained by SuperPower’s proprietary MOCVD (metal organic chemical vapor deposition) process.

Philip J. Pellegrino, president of SuperPower, added, “it is particularly significant that this new milestone was achieved with wire produced by SuperPower’s proprietary MOCVD process. We believe our MOCVD process is capable of producing wire at a much higher rate of throughput than competing processes, which we expect will result in a competitive advantage. We have obtained significant and encouraging improvements in the stability of the process, as well as uniformity of performance.”

SuperPower has achieved critical currents above 100 amperes even at linear tape speeds of 20 meters per hour, which is about an order of magnitude faster than that demonstrated with competing superconductor deposition processes. The critical current of MOCVD-based 2G wire processed at increasing linear tape speeds was measured. The superconductor film thickness decreases with increasing tape speeds, which leads to higher critical current densities (critical current divided by superconductor cross sectional area) and lower critical currents. This phenomenon has been universally observed by all 2G wire producers. High current densities of 3 million amperes per square centimeter (MA/cm2) have been achieved at tape speeds of 20 – 30 meters per hour.

In addition to high linear tape speeds, MOCVD processing can be conducted over very large areas, which further adds to the high throughput. To our knowledge, only MOCVD offers the unique combination of high deposition speeds and large area deposition. In superconductor deposition processes which are limited by low linear speeds, extremely large deposition areas are needed, which significantly increases the capital investment cost. Those companies whose superconductor deposition process suffers from slow linear tape speeds need to process wide tapes in order to make up for the reduced throughput. Use of wide tapes does not help in any way to produce long single pieces of wire. Hence, wires made by such processes may have to be spliced together, which is not desirable. Further, uniformity in critical current across the wide tapes will be a major challenge. Because of the very high linear tape speeds possible by SuperPower’s MOCVD process, we expect to produce long single pieces not possible by other competing processes. At the same time, a high production volume could be achieved even with a narrow conductor, which eliminates the problems associated with critical current uniformity in wide tapes.

“MOCVD technology has been employed in semiconductor wafer batch fabrication for decades, so it is not new,” noted Pellegrino. “However, we believe we are the first to adapt it to this extent for the continuous reel-to-reel process used to deposit the superconducting material referred to as ‘YBCO’ in the fabrication of 2G wire. Aside from high throughput, our patent applied MOCVD technology exhibits low capital equipment cost, and is both modular and scalable. Consequently, production capacity can be ramped rapidly to meet product demand, permitting almost a “just-in-time” approach to supply augmentation.”

“Fujikura in Japan is the only company in the world that has surpassed SuperPower’s performance milestones. In October 2004, Fujikura reported that it used Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) to achieve its record performance. SuperPower has employed PLD technology since establishing its pilot manufacturing facility in Schenectady, NY in the fall of 2001. While that technology can be very effective, it has relatively low throughput, due to a narrow deposition zone, and very high capital equipment costs. That combination could preclude cost effective application for commercial purposes. It is also noteworthy that much of the underlying PLD know-how is published technology, which means that anyone can use it. On the other hand, we anticipate that other organizations may encounter high barriers to entry with MOCVD by virtue of the substantial know-how developed at SuperPower, which we expect to be fully patent protected,” Pellegrino added.

In addition to announcing this new performance milestone at the DOE Wire Development Workshop, Pellegrino also noted that SuperPower has achieved critical currents of greater than 400 amperes in short samples, 265 amperes over 1 meter and 200 amperes over 8 meters. The critical currents indicated are per centimeter width and all the wires were produced with MOCVD.

In a review of the world status of 2G wire development, critical currents of 200 to 400 amperes have been achieved by many groups in R&D lengths of 50 meters or less. Only SuperPower and Fujikura have demonstrated high performance in commercial lengths of about 100 meters or more. The plethora of demonstrations in R&D lengths and the limited demonstrations in 100 meter lengths are indicative of the challenge involved in establishing a capability for producing 100 meter lengths of 2G wire. SuperPower believes that the lead it has over most of the competition by virtue of having scaled up its 2G wire processes to 100 meter lengths would enable it to enter the commercial market as a virtual first mover. Moreover, SuperPower still remains the only company in the world to produce lengths of a practical 2G wire, i.e., slit to 4 millimeter width and stabilized with copper, and to have demonstrated prototype devices with such wires. The 1 meter cable demonstrated by Sumitomo Electric in July 2004, and demonstrations by Rockwell Automation relative to HTS motor technology, both using SuperPower’s 2G wire, are believed to be the first devices fabricated with a practical 2G wire anywhere in the world.

SuperPower’s 2G HTS wire development effort has received consistent funding from the DOE since 2000. Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with several of the National Laboratories, including a two-year, $3.4 million CRADA with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to scale up 2G HTS technology to manufacturing have also been effectuated. The program is also jointly funded under Title III of the Defense Production Act by DOE and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

The award of a new contract to SuperPower for the development of AC loss tolerant 2G wire by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) in Dayton, Ohio was announced by Intermagnetics in November 2004. AFRL will provide $3 million in funding. Prior to that contract, SuperPower had a three-year, Dual Use Science and Technology (DUST) contract, which AFRL funded at $1.2 million.

Dr. Paul Barnes, superconductivity group leader at AFRL, said “Second generation HTS wire is expected to be a critical component for airborne high power generators, as well as in naval applications such as the all electric ship. We are pleased with the progress SuperPower has demonstrated with its MOCVD process technology, in part as a result of its collaborative efforts with the Air Force. The consistent improvement in performance being achieved with 2G HTS wire provides confidence that a reliable domestic supply of 2G HTS wire can be available for a variety of military applications.”

SuperPower, Inc. (www.superpower-inc.com), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Intermagnetics General Corporation, uses core capabilities in materials, cryogenics and magnetics to develop state-of-the-art second-generation HTS wire and electric power components such as underground transmission and distribution cables, transformers and fault current limiters.

Intermagnetics (www.intermagnetics.com) draws on the financial strength, operational excellence and technical leadership in its expanding business within Medical Devices that encompass Magnetic Resonance Imaging Magnet Systems, Invivo Diagnostic Imaging (focusing on MRI components and imaging sub-systems), and Invivo Patient Care (focusing on monitoring and other patient care devices.). Intermagnetics is also a key supplier to the markets within Instrumentation and has become a prominent participant in superconducting applications for Energy Technology. The company has a more than 30-year history as a successful developer, manufacturer and marketer of superconducting materials, high-field magnets, medical systems & components and other specialized high value-added devices.

Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd.
SuperPower Inc. is subsidiary
of Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd.
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