Thin Film Superconductors

High temperature superconductors (HTS) based on Rare Earth Barium Copper Oxide (REBCO) are an emerging technology for a range of high-volume applications. This “coated conductor” technology is unique in the superconductor field because it is based upon a stack of multiple layers grown on a supporting tape substrate. Thus, it fundamentally enabled by a variety of vacuum-based thin film deposition techniques. This TAC aims to drive the introduction and integration of mature, high speed, high production volume technologies into the HTS coated conductor industry. 

Superconductors have a key role to play in securing our energy future in an environment-friendly manner. Several new concepts for scalable power generation by nuclear fusion will rely on HTS. High power-to-weight ratio machinery is being enabled by HTS as well: from wind turbines to aircraft propulsion. Electrical power transmission offers opportunities on a global scale for superconductors, and the applications are ideally suited for HTS in particular. In addition to these there exist needs in health care (MRI) and large-scale research (particle accelerators and materials science), which HTS could serve in the future.

To give an idea of the production scales involved:

  • A currently funded fusion energy reactor concept will require 10,000 km of HTS conducting tape. A follow-up energy-producing reactor will require 20,000 km of such tape.
  • Several funded companies are pursuing HTS technologies for power grid transformation in the US, Europe, and Asia.
  • The market for the next twenty years in small jetliners, which could be equipped eventually by electric motors, is over 28,000 planes with a value of $3,000B.
  • The MRI markets consumes up to 4000 tons of (low temperature) superconductors per year, for magnet construction.

Markets not fully open to HTS solutions rely on low temperature superconductors which were discovered an entire generation earlier. Only in the last 5 or so years have large applications started opening for HTS.

However, critical manufacturing needs exist to take advantage of these emerging applications and markets. This session/TAC seeks to bring a diverse group of subject matter experts together to review challenges, opportunities, and developments in the following areas:

  • Transformation of the REBCO production process from a materials science focus to a scalable manufacturing focus.
  • Reduction of manufacturing costs. Estimates in multiple markets call for a factor of ten improvement.
  • Increase in manufacturing speed, also by a factor of ten, to meet required volumes.
  • Improvement of yield and tight process control.
  • Innovations in streamlining and automating the production process.

Thin Film Superconductors TAC Chair: Larry Scipioni, PVD Products,