WESTBOROUGH, Mass., Dec. 14 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- American Superconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: AMSC), a leading electricity solutions company, today reported it has doubled the electric performance of its latest high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire in strong magnetic fields at relatively high temperatures, an achievement necessary for incorporating the advanced wires in a range of commercial and military applications. The company attained an electrical current of 102 Amperes per centimeter of width (A/cm-width) of its second generation (2G) wire at 65 degrees Kelvin (K) in a strong magnetic field of 3 Tesla (T) applied perpendicular to the surface of the tape-shaped wire. This performance level is significant because it is already at 88% of the level for electrical current in high magnetic fields targeted for two years from now by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which supports this work. AMSC's DARPA program goal is to reach 115 A/cm-width by the beginning of 2007, all at 65K with a 3T magnetic field applied perpendicular to the surface of the 2G wire. By comparison, the earth's magnetic field is approximately 0.000025 T and a typical kitchen magnet has a field around a tenth of a Tesla. AMSC achieved the substantial performance improvement by adding a certain amount of the rare-earth metal holmium to the superconductor coating in its proprietary 2G wire manufacturing process. Under the proper manufacturing conditions, the addition of holmium leads to the creation of atomic-scale holmium-containing particles (nanodots). The nanodots serve to immobilize ("pin") the magnetic lines of force in place in the superconductor. The pinning allows higher amounts of electrical current to flow even in the presence of strong magnetic fields and at relatively high temperatures of operation. Today's technical media advisory was accompanied by the public release by AMSC of an updated version of its white paper on 2G HTS wire technology. This white paper, "2G HTS Wire Technology: An Assessment," can be found in the Learn More section of American Superconductor's home page at http://www.amsuper.com along with other supporting materials. Technical Background Designers planning to incorporate the latest high temperature superconductor (HTS) technology in their commercial and military products are paying close attention to this progress. First generation (1G) HTS wire is commercially available today and being applied in a variety of electric power grid, motor, generator and magnet applications (see http://www.amsuper.com/products/htsWire/index.cfm). 2G wire, which is designed to be a form, fit and function replacement for 1G wire, is expected to extend the reach of HTS technology by providing a combination of higher electrical performance and lower cost. AMSC currently is fitting out a pre-pilot plant for producing 2G HTS wire and expects to start shipping larger quantities of 2G wire to customers starting in the second half of calendar year 2005. Earlier this year, AMSC achieved a new record for 2G electrical performance of wire fabricated with its low-cost process: 380 A/cm-width at 77 K (liquid nitrogen coolant) with no applied magnetic field, well above the commercial threshold of 300 A/cm-width for applications such as power cables that operate in very low magnetic fields. Applications such as power cables do not require the presence of nanodots in the superconductor. By contrast the present nanodot-enhanced wire is optimized for coil-based applications, which require 2G wires to maintain their electrical performance in strong magnetic fields. Military applications, such as very high speed generators and kinetic energy weapons systems, require electromagnets operating at high magnetic fields. They are expected to be made possible thanks to the electrical properties of 2G HTS wire -- its ability to carry enormous amounts of current with zero resistance and thus enhance the power of the electromagnetic coils used in these applications. The flow of current in the superconductor wire making up an electromagnetic coil creates a magnetic field that enables the device to operate. However, the increased magnetic field also lowers the maximum current that can flow with zero resistance through the wire. In recent work, AMSC has found a way to enhance the high levels of 2G wires' electrical performance to make their use practical even in these high magnetic field settings. The company's scientists achieved the required electrical performance by "pinning" the magnetic lines of force (known technically as flux lines or vortices) within the 2G wire. They accomplished the pinning by carefully introducing a variety of defects into the superconductor, including a dispersion of tiny foreign particles or "nanodots." Each type of defect has a different effect on the wire's electrical performance, with the sum result being improved current carrying abilities under a range of temperature and magnetic field conditions. AMSC uses a proprietary metal-organic deposition (MOD), process that involves applying a liquid precursor of the superconductor material, an yttrium-barium-copper oxide commonly known as "YBCO," as a film onto a metallic base. Together, the base and the metal-organic film deposited on it are processed into electrical wire. The company has adapted this patented manufacturing method to include nanodots that are regularly distributed in the YBCO film. The composition and distribution of particles is controlled through chemical modification of the liquid precursor and by the company's proprietary processing conditions. In particular AMSC has been successful in doping the YBCO films with holmium (Ho) cations creating a dispersion of (Ho,Y)2O3 nanodots throughout the YBCO. The appropriate concentration of Ho-containing nanodots results in a 100 percent increase in the critical current of the YBCO film at 65 degrees Kelvin in a magnetic field of 3 Tesla (oriented perpendicular to the wire's surface) compared to an undoped YBCO film of the same thickness. A record critical current of 102A/cm-width (at 65K, 3T) has been achieved in a 1.4 micron-thick YBCO film doped with a certain concentration of Ho. Achieving a critical current of over 100 A/cm-width at 65K in a 3T field is a significant milestone in developing 2G wire with a performance level meeting the demands for both commercial and military applications. This work is supported by a DARPA contract, which AMSC received in June 2004, and is aimed at military applications. It has a full program goal of 115 A/cm-width at 65K in a 3T field for early 2007, making the present advance well ahead of the DARPA program schedule. The company is presently initiating work to apply these results to longer lengths of 2G wire. Note to Editors: Please see http://www.amsuper.com/products/htsWire/2GWireTechnology.cfm for more details on the architecture of 2G HTS wire, photomicrographs of nanodots, and data on improvements in electrical performance of 2G HTS wire attained with the aid of nanotechnology. About American Superconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: AMSC) AMSC is a world-leading supplier of dynamic reactive power grid stabilization products and the world's principal vendor of high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire and large rotating superconductor machinery. AMSC's power electronic converters and HTS wire are at the core of a broad range of new electricity transmission and distribution, transportation, medical and industrial processing applications, including dynamic reactive power grid stabilization solutions, large ship propulsion motors and generators, smart, controllable, superconductor power cables and advanced defense systems. The company's products are supported by hundreds of patents and licenses covering technologies fundamental to Revolutionizing the Way the World Uses Electricity(TM). More information is available at http://www.amsuper.com. American Superconductor, AMSC, POWERED BY AMSC, Revolutionizing the Way the World Uses Electricity, Cryoblock, DVC, PowerModule, PQ-IVR and SuperMachines are trademarks and D-VAR and SuperVAR are registered trademarks of American Superconductor Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Any statements in this release about future expectations, plans and prospects for the Company, including statements containing the words "believes," "anticipates," "plans," "expects," "will" and similar expressions, constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. There are a number of important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements. Such factors include: uncertainties regarding the Company's ability to obtain anticipated funding from corporate and government contracts, to successfully develop, manufacture and market commercial products, and to secure anticipated orders; the risk that a robust market may not develop for the Company's products; the risk that strategic alliances and other contracts may be terminated; the risk that certain technologies utilized by the Company will infringe intellectual property rights of others; and the competition encountered by the Company, including several large Japanese companies. Reference is made to these and other factors discussed in the "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operation" section of the Company's most recent quarterly or annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In addition, the forward-looking statements included in this press release represent the Company's views as of the date of this release. While the Company anticipates that subsequent events and developments may cause the Company's views to change, the Company specifically disclaims any obligation to update these forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing the Company's views as of any date subsequent to the date this press release is issued.
SOURCE American Superconductor Corporation