Even colder inside the turbines
(Image: Henrik Trygg/Naturbild AB/Corbis)

Wind turbines supercharged with superconductors

18 January 2013 by Paul Marks

WIND turbines may soon get a supercharge. Turbines wound with superconducting wire instead of regular copper could turn today’s 2 to 3-megawatt generators into 10-megawatt powerhouses, say teams in Europe and the US that are racing to produce the machines.

At heart, a wind turbine is simple – a series of wire coils attached to the rotor blade spin in the presence of strong magnetic fields, provided by stationary magnets. This generates a current, but the resistance in copper wire limits the amount of current that can flow through the coils. Making the coils from a resistance-free superconductor would cut down on weight and boost power generation.

Using superconductors will not be easy, though, partly due to the ultra-low temperatures they require. Developing a coil that can be cooled while simultaneously rotating with the turbine blades is a big challenge. A research project dubbed Suprapower, funded by the European Union, kicked off in December to address this problem.

Read more: Wind turbines supercharged with superconductors – tech – 18 January 2013 – New Scientist.

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