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Monday, August 3, 2020

Faculty & Staff

Professor improves power technology


One of UH’s most successful researchers is providing the U.S. electric power industry with an advanced technology in superconductivity.

Venkat Selvamanickam, a professor at the UH department of mechanical engineering, is developing high temperature super conducting wires that will change the way electric power is utilized.

“I’ve been working to make high temperature superconductors into practically useful forms ever since my graduate student days here at UH, began in 1987,” Selvamanickam said. “The ability of a material to carry large amounts of electricity without resistance is an amazing phenomenon, and once I was drawn into this field, it has been impossible to let go.”

Selvamanickam is hoping that the wires will be used in a multitude of ways, ranging from medical imaging such as x-rays to power cables and replacing copper wires with cheaper superconducting wires.

“Power cables made with HTS wires can transmit five to 10 times more power in the same volume occupied by conventional cables,” he said. “Hence, instead of trenching expensive metropolitan areas to add more conventional cables to bring more power in, a superconducting cable can be used in place of conventional cable and add more power without the significant construction cost.”

Selvamanickam was the chief technology officer at SuperPower Inc. before he returned to UH in 2008. The New York based power company signed a research agreement with UH to establish itself in Houston with a power plant in the Energy Research Park at UH. Selvamanickam will take the position of chief technical advisor presiding over the plant’s development and research of technology.

He has received awards including the Presidential Early Career Achievement Award in 1996 and  was also named the Superconductor Industry Person of the Year in 2005.

Despite his success, Selvamanickam said he is driven by the advancement of the technology rather than his own individual awards.

“The thrill of reaching a stretch goal and being the first one to do so is unmatched by any award,” he said. “I feel that these awards are recognition to my team that has executed the plans at a consistent high performance level that enabled us to create multiple world records and world firsts in (this field).”

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