Activities & Organizations

Conference conducts new methods to generate electricity


The Texas Center for Superconductivity focuses on developoing cutting-edge technologies for several disciplines | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Researchers are racing to create methods and designs that increase the effectiveness of superconductivity material while at the same time decreasing the cost decades after physics professor Paul Chu discovered a high-temperature superconductor above 77 kelvins.

“There is a lot of research going on here at UH and other places around the world to improve the performance of the wire,” said Steve Eckroads, technical executive at the Electric Power Research Institute.

The Texas Center for Superconductivity and CenterPoint Energy are hosting the 11th EPRI Superconductivity Conference, which will feature 20 presentations concerning advancements in electricity-generating and transmitting machines, at the Hilton UH this week.

“The Electric Power Research Institute conducts research, development and demonstration projects related to the generation, delivery and use of electricity,” according to a UH press release.

“The international membership supporting EPRI’s work comprises more than 1,000 organizations, including electric utilities, government agencies, corporations and public and private entities.”

Superconductivity involves the study of zero-resistance material that can generate or transmit electricity with no loss of energy. Contributions from the field have already prompted improvements in the medicine, transportation and communications fields.

According to the Coalition for the Commercial Application of Superconductors, 25 percent of electricity in the U.S. is consumed by industrial motors. Scientists in the field are targeting companies that could dramatically benefit in productivity and profits by using HTS, or low-temperature, wires.

The technology helps than more big business. Students experience advantages from HTS wires that are used in cell phones to enhance signal-to-noise ratios and make reliable service via fewer cell towers possible.

On Wednesday, William Hassenzahl from Advanced Energy Analysis will discuss the progress and future of superconductivity in making industries more environmentally safe and will summarize recent publications highlighting the science’s green application.

The final day of presentations will also include an overview of the latest achievements in resistive-type superconducting fault current limiters and a report on the development and commercialization of an HTS cable system in Korea.

TCS-UH Director Allan Jacobson said research funding for the UH program is provided by three main entities: the state, the federal government and the profits generated in the industry.

Despite the monumental strides made in superconductivity throughout the years, there is still a strong need to perfect superconductor technology in order to establish mass market appeal.

“The technology works. The problem it is that it is still too expensive to introduce it on a large scale,” Jacobson said. “This is sort of a chicken-and-egg problem because until you have it on a large scale, it’s difficult to work toward lowering the cost.”

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