High-temperature superconducting (HTS) materials have the potential to revolutionize the way we generate, transmit, and consume power. Transformational initiatives that rely on HTS technologies include power conditioning and power transmission systems, large-scale offshore wind turbines, high-efficiency data centers, Navy ship systems, and turboelectric aircraft. The key advantages of superconducting systems are reductions in system size and weight, and improvements in system efficiency and cost. A key enabling component in any superconducting system is the cryocooler that cools the superconducting elements to temperatures below their critical temperature. To maximize the benefits offered by superconducting systems, the cryocooler must also be highly efficient, highly reliable, small size, low mass, and low cost. Creare has developed turbo-Brayton cryocooler technology that is well suited to HTS applications, and we are working to apply this technology to enable the wide scale deployment of superconducting systems.
Our coolers rely on miniature turbomachines operating at high speeds in non-contact bearings with very long component lives and no maintenance requirements. The components are small, light weight, and may be multistaged to provide cooling at multiple temperatures. Because the system relies on high-speed turbomachines, the system efficiency and system mass scale favorably at high capacities, making it well suited to large superconducting systems. In projects funded by the Navy, NASA, and the Air Force, we are working to demonstrate a 1 kW cryocooler for HTS systems. Our goal is to transition this technology into a commercial cryocooler ready to support a wide range of superconducting systems.
In addition to the cryocooler, we are also working to develop many of the other components needed for an HTS system, including cables, quick disconnect connectors, current leads, heat exchangers, and cryogenic circulators. For the Navy, we designed, built, and successfully tested a quick-disconnect connector with HTS joints, thermal insulation, and a passthrough for the cryogenic cooling gas, and we also demonstrated a superconducting fault current limiter. For the Air Force, in collaboration with researchers at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center, we are developing a superconducting power transmission system incorporating multistage current leads. For NASA, we demonstrated the ability of gaseous flow cooling to successfully cool an HTS magnet. In other related projects, we continue to advance our technology and designs for the compressors, turbines, recuperators, and drive electronics that make up our turbo-Brayton cryocoolers.