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Nano- and micro-scale engineering of higher-performance MgB2 composite superconductors for macro-scale applications


HIPERMAG aims to develop the recently discovered super conducting material Mob into a technical superconductor. This new material has the potential to become the conductor of choice in various existing applications, as well as to play a pivotal role in the breakthrough of super conducting technology in the energy domain. A key advantage of Mob over low temperature superconductors is its higher operating temperature, reachable with liquid-cryogen free coolers. This lowers cooling cost, simplifies system design and increases safety. Within a decade, Mob will replace Bit in all applications involving medium-range magnetic fields. The most significant of these is medical MRI, a substantial market in which European companies have a dominant position. Maintaining this competitiveness calls for European research to be at the fore of these developments. Compared to high temperature superconductors, Mob conductors will be a factor 10 less expensive. Presently, the cost of HTS wires slows down the penetration of super conducting technology in the energy domain, where superconductors offer substantial savings in monetary and ecological terms as well as additional functionality. The availability of a suitable low-cost conductor will greatly accelerate this evolution. However, before it can realise this double potential, the performance of Mob has to be enhanced in two respects. Firstly, the maximum magnetic field at which it can operate needs to be increased by modifying the structure-structure of the Mob crystallites inside the super conducting filaments. The effectiveness of such composites-composites has been demonstrated on a lab-scale, but now needs to be obtained with scaleable, low-cost processes. Secondly, the maximum current that Mob conductors carry is presently limited by thermal instabilities. These can be reduced through careful design of the conductor’s composite microstructure.

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