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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Academics & Research

UH team conducts renewable energy research

UH, along with three other institutions, received a $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for a research and development project aimed at creating an affordable and efficient manner of transporting and storing energy.

This comes in the form of a Superconducting Magnet Energy Storage device — a wire that has the capability of carrying over 200 times more energy than regular copper wires — and was developed by Superpower Inc. of Schenectady, NY.

Venkat Selvamanickam, M. D. Anderson Chair Professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Applied Research Hub of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH has been put in charge of the operation at the University.

“The ultimate use of this would be to store renewable energy,” Selvamanickam said. “This device is very efficient and the life cycle is very long, since the energy is stored in a magnetic way.”

Since the technology already exists, Selvamanickam said the challenge now for him and his team is to develop a way to implement it into commercial life.

“The wire has already been manufactured, but the performance and cost of the wire are not at a level where something commercially useful can be done with it,” Selvamanickam said. “Our goal is to enhance wire performance and decrease the cost.”

Selvamanickam believes that the SMES will eventually become a common instrument used worldwide. Part of what he and his team will be working on over the next few years is a matter of scaling up the prototype, so that it can be implemented into commercial use.

“Assuming everything goes well, initial commercial devices should start to come out in a five year time frame,” he said.

The SMES will benefit power sources like solar and wind. It stores large amounts of energy when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, allowing the SMES to release power into the power grid and keep the lights on during overcast or windless days.

“This will benefit the public by allowing us to make pollution reducing energy much more feasible and widespread,” Selvamanickam said. “Energy storage is a big deal; in fact, it will be critical in order for renewable energy to be successful.”

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