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UH Moment

UH Moment: “Applied Research Hub”

Solar and wind power are part of our energy vernacular. Research at the UH Texas Center for Superconductivity is what’s making it work. Learn more in this week’s UH Moment.


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Superconductive wire developed at the UH Texas Center for Superconductivity

Superconductive wire developed at the UH Texas Center for Superconductivity

A superconductive wire developed at the University of Houston may revolutionize how power is generated, transported and used.

“Superconductivity is sort of a magical phenomenon,” said Venkat Selvamanickam, professor and director of the Center’s Applied Research Hub.  “Over 20 years ago, right here at the University of Houston, Paul Chu and his colleagues created a new class of superconductors.  That makes it amazingly powerful to carry a lot of current, useful in a variety of applications, mainly transmitting power over long distances, making electrical machinery efficient.”

Superconductivity defines certain metals and ceramics that lose their electrical resistance when they are cooled to the temperature of liquid nitrogen.  That means power current can flow freely and efficiently through them. 

UH Texas Center for Superconductivity's Applied Research Hub

UH Texas Center for Superconductivity’s Applied Research Hub

Selvamanickam and his research colleagues have developed a superconductive wire that is flexible and thin and can be used to carry current over many miles. A prototype was installed in the grid in Upstate New York as a successful model of modernizing the U.S.’s aging power grid with high temperature superconducting wire.   In less than five years, the wire will used as part of a fault limiting superconducting transformer in Southern California Edison utility substation, California’s largest grid.

“The project with Waukesha Electric, the University of Houston, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and SuperPower (Selvamanickam’s former company) will build the device incorporated into a transformer.  When there is a power surge, the material limits the surge to allow a limited amount of power through, so the power never goes away,” he said.   “This is the future because as we are concerned with energy efficiency, superconductors can play a major role.” 

High Temperature Superconductivity is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.  I’m Marisa Ramirez.

Telling the stories of the University of Houston, this UH Moment is brought to you by KUHF, listener supported radio from the University of Houston.