Enhancing the Ability to Scale More Energy-efficient Power Transmission Cables by Upgrading to Covetic Materials
Covetic nanomaterials are metals that have been infused with nano-particles of carbon by a unique electrical process. The nanocarbon particles are tenaciously bound to the metal, increasing the metal's electrical and thermal conductivity, and its strength. Covetics are commercially important because the process is scalable to tonnage quantities and has widespread implications for energy savings in thousands of potential applications, from high-voltage electrical wires to solar cells and batteries. GDC has been performing process research on covetic materials since 2015. Covetics conversion was proven but the significant improvement is yet to be replicated. Much is still unknown about the nature of this new class of attractive materials and the carbon nanophase they contain. Enhanced understanding requires application of various analytical methods to measure the carbon content and characterize the carbon nanostructures, and their interactions with the metal matrix. The work done at GDC to this point does not provide the process knowledge that is required to scale-up and commercialize the technology as they still have not directly correlated the process variables with the actual carbon-content in the finished covetics. GDC has been aware of Argonne's capabilities for performing carbon analysis that exceed the precision commonly available to Industry. Through the SBV Pilot Program, GDC will utilize Argonne's capabilities to characterize the properties, carbon content, and microstructural features of a set of covetic samples and optimize process parameters needed to scale-up the conversion reactor to larger batches for commercialization.
PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES
The state-of-the-art overhead power transmission cables have electrical conductivity of 52.5% IACS (International Annealed Copper Standard) and ultimate tensile strength (UTS) of 46 KSI. A 6 percent increase in electrical conductivity to 58.5% with no loss of UTS would allow a considerable increase in the efficiency of the power and distribution grid and produce a marketable product; however, the goal of the project is to achieve a 50% increase in electrical conductivity. If the 50% increase in electrical conductivity is achieved, then a 50% decrease in the Ohmic and step down transformer losses in the grid would be possible. The infrastructure (furnaces, electrodes, electromagnetic or gas stirring) is readily available for high-throughput processing, which reduces the risk of developing a cost-effective process for producing covetic materials.
Replacing aluminum conductors with more energy-efficient covetic materials will cut Ohmic losses in power conductors by 50%, ensuring a 50% energy savings in service over current commercial practices. Applying this to the transmission and distribution losses across the USA incurred since 2000, would mean a saving of 5.4 quads of electrical energy. Assuming an average cost of $0.10 per kW-hr, these energy savings translate into a $158 trillion savings.
No hazardous materials are used in this process. Efficiency gains will reduce carbon emissions from power generation and transmission.
Energy efficiency gains from using covetic materials would reduce U.S dependence on imported energy sources.
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