Applied Superconductivity Laboratory

QUT’s Applied Superconductivity Laboratory (ASL) was established as part of the Heavy Current Laboratory (HCL) at Banyo Pilot Plant. Initially, the HCL was established to assist the electricity distribution industry to test and characterise new network deployed technology. Most of the devices tested were specifically developed to manage the power network impact of the rapid take-up of solar power by the consumer.

As a result of interest from the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), the HCL was augmented to begin research and development on applied superconductivity. This boosted existing superconductivity research at QUT, building on expertise in superconducting materials, cryogenics and industrial applications.

A four-way agreement has been established between Siemens Germany, Siemens Australia, the DSTG and QUT to research and test the potential of superconducting technology applied to maritime propulsion technology. This research is non-exclusive and has subsequently led to the further inclusion of Thales Australia, linking with the ASL to research superconducting applications in mine sweeping.

Distribution engineers are also concerned with emerging power network issues and are actively involved with the ASL to consider the potential of superconductivity being applied to:

  • distributed (embedded) generation (DG)
  • demand side management (DSM)
  • ageing network components
  • carbon pricing (tax).

For more greenfield electrical power projects, involving power network augmentation, refurbishment or establishment, the power industry is considering how superconducting components might be included. Based on a number of superconducting installation programs from around the world (Essen in Germany and Sumitomo in Japan and Korea), QUT has run seminars reviewing issues and considerations including:

  • network topology and flexibility
  • HTS cable types and configurations
  • overload provisions
  • system faults and protection
  • cable cooling options
  • cable laying
  • commissioning
  • system status monitoring and maintenance.

Our ASL team is actively involved in the Council on Large Electric Systems (Conseil International des Grands Réseaux Électriques or CIGRE) which allows a worldwide view of superconducting installations. CIGRE publishes a number of technical brochures to which the ASL has contributed. These cover applications by companies around the world using HTS material in power cables and wires for distribution of loads up to ten times higher than conventional underground cables. This work is continuing in companies in North America, Europe and Asia.

A very quick snapshot of HTS applications in the power grid around the world includes:

  • cables operating at 13kV, 3 kA up to 128 kV, 2.4 kA
  • rotating machines of 5MW and 1MW as ship propulsion
  • transformers of 500kVA, 6.6kV/3.3kV and 1MVA 23kV/6.6kV
  • fault current limiters of 12 kV at 600A and 35kV at 90 MVA.