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UH, Partners Awarded $4.2 Million DOE Grant for Magnet Energy Storage Research

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Laura Tolley
Selvamanickam
Selvamanickam

The University of Houston and three other institutions have received a $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a superconducting magnet energy storage system device that could revolutionize the nation's electrical power grid.

The collaboration consists of UH, ABB Inc. of Cary, N.C, SuperPower Inc. of Schenectady, N.Y., and the DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y. Venkat Selvamanickam, M.D. Anderson Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Applied Research Hub of the Texas Center for Superconductivity at University of Houston (TcSUH) will lead the UH effort.

The project is one of 43 being funded with $92 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which received more than 529 initial concept papers.

Developing an affordable, large-scale energy storage system would be a breakthrough for the U.S. electrical grid. Energy storage will be crucial in developing the widespread use of wind and solar power, two key renewable energy sources.

Superconducting Magnet Energy Storage systems use magnetic fields in superconducting coils to store energy with near-zero energy loss and a nearly infinite life cycle. ABB will lead the team in developing a SMES storage system for grid-scale energy storage.

Selvamanickam and his research group will work on developing a superior high-temperature superconducting (HTS) wire that meets the performance and cost requirements of a commercial SMES device.

"A key enabler to the SMES project is the improved HTS wire technology that was recently developed by the TCSUH Applied Research Hub along with SuperPower to achieve a two-fold superior performance in high magnetic fields," Selvamanickam said. That wire, which was developed by UH, SuperPower and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was recently recognized by R&D Magazine as one of the "100 most technologically significant new products of 2010."

"In the ARPA-E funded program, UH will develop an enhanced metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) process to achieve further increases in HTS wire performance, as well as process efficiency improvements to reach cost-performance metrics needed for a commercial SMES device," Selvamanickam said.

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