Diboride Conductors Limited is working on two superconductor applications in two fields, Fault Current Limiters and Current Leads.

Fault Current Limiter (FCL) - Our project is with Rolls Royce plc and the University of Cambridge, developing a prototype of an FCL for use on electric-drive marine shipping. Marine FCLs will be useful in smaller sizes and shorter timescales than larger FCLs to be used by electricity distribution and transmission utilties.

All electricity from central generation goes through several transformers: up in voltage from generator to grid, then down in several steps to final use. For safety, transformers are duplicated; for future growth, they are usually overspecified. So a typical transformer is running at 35% of rated load, where it is not as efficient. This applies to nearly all the 400,000 GWh of electricity supplied annually in the UK. About a quarter of all grid loss is in the transformers. Our FCL takes care of the safety issue of fault currents thus enabling fewer transformers to be used at nearer their optimum loads thus reducing losses from 1.5% per transformer to approx. 1%. In addition, handling fault currents with a dedicated device greatly eases the network problems of integrating intermittent and distributed generation. These benefits may be more important in the short term (10-15 years).

Eventually, a saving of 0.5% in every transformer (and each Watt goes through 3 to 5 of these) for centrally-generated electricity is a 2% saving i.e. approx.8,000 GWh/year or 3.5 Mtonnes CO2 a year on today's electricity generation. However, that would be the saving only when much of the installed network is fully upgraded in 30-40 years. The same saving applies to electricity generated in future from large scale wind, waves and tide if it is carried on the grid from Scotland: another 0.5Mt/y. However, FCL devices are an entirely new device for grid management, and will aid efficient and much cheaper connection of distributed generation to the passive medium voltage distribution system - as distinct from the actively controlled high voltage transmission system. Reducing the connection charge by approx 50% will lower the bar for smaller scale generation in a cost effective manner.

MgB2 Current Leads will replace existing leads in hospital MRI body scanners and laboratory NMR machines to save energy and costs. Our technology innovation is to make cheap superconducting leads that have adequate stability without increasing the cost or complexity of manufacture. Helium loss is expensive and non-sustainable. Helium is extracted from a small number of natural gas wells and, like natural gas, is a non-renewable resource.

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