This picture shows two cables with vastly different efficiencies. Both rated for 12,500 amps, the top one is a conventional copper based cable and the bottom a superconductive cable used in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
"The cables house 36 strands of superconducting wire, each strand being exactly 0.825 mm in diameter. Each strand houses 6300 superconducting filaments of Niobium-titanium (NbTi). Each filament is about 0.006 mm thick, i.e. 10 times thinner than a normal human hair."
They used over 7600 km of this superconductive cable in the LHC, weighing about 1200 tons. The total length of the filaments used if layed end to end would stretch "5 times to the sun and back with enough left over for a few trips to the moon."
This results in a massive amount of material conservation in the LHC. On top of material efficiency, these highly advanced super-conductive cables offer tremendous energy efficiency which will play a critical role in the greening of our energy grid. American Superconductor Corporation and the Long Island Power Authority were the first to implement a high-temperature superconductor power-transmission cable system in the commerical grid in April of 2008. There are currently a number of other companies and research groups continuing to work on integrating this technology into into a "Smart Grid," most notably:
- Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) of Palo Alto, California estimates that the use of super-conductive DC transmission lines could reduce transmission losses around 150%.
- Scientists at Los Alamos National Labratory (LANL) have developed a super-conducting cable that can carry 100x more electricity with zero loss.
- Researchers at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona have developed superconducting electric cable that they estimate could reduce energy loss by 50-70% in parts of the Spanish Energy Grid.
Image via Wikipedia