Would YBCO superconductors be saving energy?

Or costing too much liquid nitrogen? South Korean electronics firm LS Cable places a bet and just purchased three million metres of the stuff.

Copper wiring loses some 7 to 10 percent of the electricity it carries as heat. Enter YBCO, another of the newly acquired addictions for the electronics industry. It is a ceramic compound yttrium barium copper oxide. Yttrium is in fact one of the precious rare earths.

YBCO is a superconductor, meaning it hardly looses any of the electricity en route. Per volume superconductive wiring can carry about ten times as much power. For most superconductors however, their trick only works at extremely low temperatures (30 Kelvin, –243 ºC). The yttrium composite is different. A little different. It is still a superconductor at minus 180 ºC, or 93 K.

It is the difference between liquid helium and liquid nitrogen, the first being extremely expensive, the latter sufficient to cool YBCO. It still means the superconducting wires would have to run through a pressurized shell. Technology is decadent, innovations are usually worse. Graphene is allowed as possible exception.

(c) Rolf Schuttenhelm | www.bitsofscience.org

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