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Reinventing the power line cable

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Posted April 2, 2013
An interior glimpse of centrifugal atomization apparatus constructed at the Ames Laboratory, showing the spinning disc. The disc will intercept a stream of molten calcium and fling off a spray of fine droplets. The droplets, less than one hundred microns in diameter, solidify as they cool and are captured in a quenching bath of hydrocarbon oil, which prevents the calcium from reacting.

An interior glimpse of centrifugal atomization apparatus constructed at the Ames Laboratory, showing the spinning disc. The disc will intercept a stream of molten calcium and fling off a spray of fine droplets. The droplets, less than one hundred microns in diameter, solidify as they cool and are captured in a quenching bath of hydrocarbon oil, which prevents the calcium from reacting.

Materials scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory are researching ways to perfect a next generation power cable made of an aluminum and calcium composite. Cables of this composite will be lighter and stronger, and its conductivity at least 10 percent better than existing materials for DC power, a growing segment of global power transmission. Its conductivity is about the same as that of existing conductors for AC power.

The cables used today, made of aluminum with a steel core, have been the industry standard for nearly half a century. They represent the best design thinking of the 1960’s, said Ames Laboratory materials scientist Alan Russell, but they are a classic example of engineering “trade-offs.”

“Pure aluminum power cable would be the perfect answer. Aluminum is light, highly conductive, easy to work with, and inexpensive. Its big failing is that it’s too weak. If you put pure aluminum cables up, they would sag right to the ground,” he said.

Read more at: Phys.org

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