Successful load testing of 36.5 MW superconductor ship propulsion motor
American Superconductor Corporation and Northrop Grumman completed successful full-power testing of the world’s first 36.5 MW (49,000 hp) high-temperature superconductor (HTS) ship propulsion motor. Link to some HTS videos and history.
Washington, DC – A new era in ship propulsion technology was launched as American Superconductor Corporation and Northrop Grumman announced the successful completion of full-power testing of the world’s first 36.5 MW (49,000 hp) high-temperature superconductor (HTS) ship propulsion motor at the U.S. Navy’s Integrated Power System Land-Based Test Site in Philadelphia. The first successful full-power test of an electric propulsion motor sized for a large Navy combatant, at 36.5 MW, doubled the Navy’s power rating test record.
Designed and built under a contract from the Office of Naval Research, the system points to HTS motors as the primary propulsion technology for future Navy all-electric ships and submarines. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) funded and led testing.
Incorporating coils of HTS wire that carry 150 times the power of similar-sized copper wire, the motor is less than half the size of conventional motors used on the first two DDG-1000 hulls and reduces ship weight by approximately 200 metric tons. New ships will be more fuel-efficient and can free up space for other uses.
“The successful load test of our HTS motor marks the beginning of a new era in ship propulsion technology,” said Dan McGahn, senior vice president and general manager of AMSC Superconductors. “This motor provides the U.S. Navy with a truly transformational capability relative to size, stealth, endurance and survivability, providing our Navy with a clear performance advantage for years to come. We are grateful for the steadfast support from the Office of Naval Research, Naval Sea Systems Command and the Naval Surface Warfare Center.”
AMSC and Northrop Grumman shared the work under a business agreement, with AMSC serving as prime contractor for research and development. The superconductor motors are now ready for deployment:
“HTS technology offers the Navy a power-dense propulsion solution, and it will save money,” said Donna Potter, director of the Development & Integration business at Northrop Grumman’s Sunnyvale, CA-based Marine Systems business unit. “Whether the Navy uses the size and weight savings to make ships lighter and more fuel-efficient, or to pack more capabilities onto fewer ships, the end result is the same: more capability for the warfighter at less cost to the taxpayer.”
Earlier last year, the Navy successfully installed another HTS system– an HTS degaussing coil – onboard the USS HIGGINS (DDG 76). Powered by AMSC HTS wire and magnet cable technology, the coil system will undergo sea trials during the next two years onboard the HIGGINS. Degaussing coils using HTS wire will reduce system weight for DDG 1000-class ships, landing platform dock (LPD) ships, and Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).
The Navy has invested more than $100 million in the development of HTS technology, paving the way not only for use in Navy ships but also in commercial vessels, such as cruise liners and liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers.
A bit of HTS history
Back in 2006, CE editor Frank Bartos wrote about the Hannover Fair Research & Technology sector, which that year included a special group exhibit entitled "SuperConducting City," where motor and drive innovations played an inherent part. Notable offerings included high-temperature superconducting (HTS) magnetic bearings from Siemens and Nexans Superconductors GmbH, destined for high-speed drives and rotating equipment. Those contactless, low-loss, and wear-free bearings were projected to see service in motors and generators in the 2010 timeframe. Read also: HTS wire development update .
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