American Superconductor, Siemens Renew Alliance to Develop Advanced Grid Reliability Technology

January 31, 2006 by Jeff Shepard

American Superconductor Corporation and the Corporate Technology unit of Siemens AG announced the two firms have renewed their strategic alliance for a second year to develop and explore the commercialization aspects of high temperature superconductor (HTS) fault current limiters by building and testing components based on American's second generation (2G) HTS wire.

Fault current limiters are expected to serve as high-voltage surge protectors for power grids. The companies said they had exceeded technical performance expectations during the first year of their alliance and that they have targeted the demonstration of a small-scale 2G HTS fault current limiter device by the end of the second year of the alliance.

During the first year, Siemens and American successfully demonstrated fast and uniform switching of American's 2G HTS wire to a resistive state in response to surges of current — a response that was much better than expected at this early stage — confirming the functionality of the wire for use in the production of economically viable fault current limiters. They are expected to become available commercially over the next couple of years.

Superconductors are smart materials because they possess unique physical properties that allow them to react instantaneously to current surges, passing electricity along with no resistance while also being able to recognize and then suppress large surges of electrical current by switching rapidly to the resistive state. Suppressing spikes of electrical current is important because it prevents damage to expensive electrical equipment in power grids.