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CERN has completed tests of the first of its kind power transmission line, which allows the transmission of a huge current through a relatively small cable without any losses.
Trials of an innovative system with a length of 60 m began last year. A current was passed along the line by force 40 thousand amperes, which is 20 times more than a conventional copper cable of the same size can withstand at room temperature.
System consists of magnesium diboride (MgB2) superconducting cables with zero resistance, which allows a much higher current density to be transported through them without any losses. However, for normal operation, the cables must be cooled to a temperature of -248 °C. Therefore, they are located inside the thermal insulation pipe, in which circulates gaseous helium.
Even despite cryogenic conditions, the line is flexible.
The system is designed to power CERN’s new High-Luminosity LHC accelerator, which is expected to be operational by 2026. It will connect power converters with magnets. Such superconducting power lines up to 140 m long will power several circuits and transmit electric current up to 100 thousand.
Engineers say that the creation of such conductors is a daunting task due to the complexity of working with several types of superconductors and various transition materials. However, according to them, in the future, such systems will be able to replace traditional urban power lines and will extend over huge distances..
The need to maintain a low temperature significantly complicates and limits the use of such lines, therefore many researchers are actively looking for materials that can be semiconductors under normal conditions. Previously we reported new record high temperature superconductivity.
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: CERN