AERTC firm nabs superconductivity stipend

Magnetic personality: A magnet levitating above a high-temperature superconductor.

A Department of Energy grant will help a Stony Brook-based advanced-energy firm develop high-temperature superconductor technology that could alter the future of global power grids.

The DOE’s Small Business Innovative Research program has issued a $1.15 million grant to Brookhaven Technology Group, a circa-1998 physical sciences innovator known for trendsetting work in nuclear reactor design, hyperspectral imaging, ion-source technology and other cutting-edge energy disciplines.

Brain power: (From left) AERTC Chairman Robert Catell, Brookhaven Technology Group President Vyacheslav Solovyov, Stony Brook engineering student Sergey Gelman and SBU Economic Development VP Yacov Shamash.

Brain power: (From left) AERTC Chairman Robert Catell, Vyacheslav Solovyov of Brookhaven Technology Group, Stony Brook engineering student Sergey Gelman and SBU Economic Development VP Yacov Shamash.

Next up for the resident of Stony Brook University’s Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center: commercializing its exfoliated high-temperature superconductor technology, known as ExoCable.

The clean-energy application is designed to be more cost-effective than “high-aspect ratio HTS tape,” the current superconducting material of choice.

According to conventional doctrine, loss of alternating current has severely limited the practical uses of high-temperature superconductor tape. Enter ExoCable, a novel architecture that replaces the tape’s substrate – a surface or layer, such as the silicon wafer supporting integrated circuits – with yttrium barium copper oxide, a family of crystalline chemical compounds known for superior high-temperature superconductivity.

The new design is predicted to offer the same electric current capacity – a.k.a. ampacity, or the amount of current a conductor can continuously deliver within its temperature rating – as conventional high-aspect ratio HTS tape while reducing “weight per unit length” of the superconducting substance by 70 percent.

ExoCable will also reduce alternating-current loss by as much as 50 percent, according to Brookhaven Technology Group, without reducing isotropic mechanical strength – that is, the physical strength of a superconductor, in all directions, within a mechanical construct.

Anyone not holding an advanced physics degree is likely to be confounded by the terminology – as a service to readers, Innovate LI is steering well clear of planar arrays, inter-filament separations and elevated hysteretic losses – but even laymen will understand the upshot: cheaper, cleaner and more efficient electrical power distribution.

Brookhaven Technology Group President Paul Farrell said development of the ExoCable architecture will open high-temperature superconductor technology to a wide range of new uses, including “rotating machinery [and] AC and DC power distribution,” while Jim Smith, SBU’s assistant vice president of economic development, predicted nothing less than the radical evolution of power systems around the world.

“Driving down the manufacturing cost of superconducting wire can provide the foundation for the next generation of electric power grids worldwide,” Smith said in a statement.

This is not the first time Brookhaven Technology Group, which has been an AERTC tenant for three years, has been backed by the DOE or its SBIR program. Since relocating to the Stony Brook incubator, the company has received $2.7 million in DOE grants supporting its clean-energy research.

Among other next-level projects, the company – in conjunction with Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University of Houston and various corporate partners – recently completed work for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory on the design and evaluation of a prototype superconducting magnetic-energy storage system. Specifically, Brookhaven Technology Group created a “large-bore picture-frame HTS superconducting magnetic energy storage coil,” designed to minimize the storage system’s AC loss.

The ExoCable project is led by principal investigator Vyacheslav Solovyov, an adjunct professor in SBU’s Department of Electrical Engineering who also worked on the magnetic-energy storage system coil.

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