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Irish startup and CERN join forces for experimental energy project

An Irish startup is partnering with CERN to develop a new form of insulation for superconducting cables, designed to accelerate the green energy transition.

called SuperNode, the company invented power transmission cables that can transmit enormous power over long distances. Because the system needs less space and voltage than conventional copper-based cables, the impact on the environment is reduced.

These benefits come from superconductivity. This phenomenon occurs when certain materials are cooled below their critical temperature – usually -180°C for high-temperature superconductors. This allows superconductors a substantial power density and zero electrical losses.

To harness this potential, SuperNode needs unique scientific resources – which is where CERN comes in.

“In its research, CERN is pushing the frontier of superconductivity to reach record energy levels and operating one of the largest vacuum systems in the world,” CERN’s Paolo Chiggiato said in a statement.

“Especially to avoid collisions with residual gas molecules in the accelerators, we need to reach extreme vacuum levels. Vacuum is also used at CERN as a thermal insulator for our superconducting magnets. We believe that this know-how can be successfully applied to evaluate the technological solutions proposed to insulate the superconducting cables developed by SuperNode.”

To test the technology, CERN will subject candidate materials to temperatures, pressures and environments that mimic the conditions encountered by the cables. CERN will also design and develop a new test rig to validate prototypes at scale. Ultimately, the installation will be installed at SuperNode’s headquarters in Dublin, the European Cryogenic Center for Superconductors.

Figure 1: Submarine superconducting cable