Designing New Economical and Scalable High Performance Aluminum Alloys for Overhead Electric Transmission Conductors

Period of Performance: 02/24/2016 - 11/21/2016

$155K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

NanoAl LLC
8025 Lamon Avenue, Suite 446 Array
Skokie, IL 60077
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Abstract

During high-voltage electrical power transmission, energy is lost due to the resistance of the conductors, which is converted mainly to heat. Energy loss in transmission and distribution systems currently costs U.S. economy billions of dollars annually. This drives many efforts for development of a higher efficiency of the power transmission and distribution systems, in which development of advanced and high performance electrical conductors play a key role. The current commercial aluminum alloys utilized in high-voltage power transmission either have high electrical conductivity and low breaking strength or vice versa. Additionally, these alloys have low mechanical thermal stability, which limits their usage at higher operating temperatures. Several prior efforts had been conducted to improve these properties, including utilizing severe plastic deformation processing route and carbon nanotube reinforced aluminum composites. These approaches, however, involve complex processing steps and expensive materials, which severely limit their large-scale production. In this program, development of a new type of economical and scalable aluminum alloy that has simultaneously high electrical conductivity, high breaking strength and high mechanical thermal stability is proposed. The goals of Phase I are to successfully develop and patent the new proprietary alloy compositions and heat treatment procedures to produce the advanced aluminum alloy for high- voltage transmission conductor application. Additionally, prototype commercial-size wire will be fabricated and tested. Improving energy efficiency in high-voltage electrical power transmission can lead to savings up of many billions of dollars for the U.S. economy annually as well as supplying electricity to more customers. High breaking strength in the newly developed lightweight aluminum high-voltage conductor alloys potentially reduces the number of towers needed for a given line distance, thus drastically reducing installation cost of new lines. The higher mechanical thermal stability of the newly developed aluminum alloy potentially increases the operating temperature and the resistance against break-down of the transmission lines, thereby increasing their current-carrying capacity and reliability. Lastly, improving the efficiency in the powder transmission and distribution systems also means reducing CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases at the power plants. Energy loss in high-voltage transmission systems currently costs U.S. economy billions of dollars annually, thus development of advanced and high performance electrical conductors is crucial. In this program, development of a new type of economical and scalable aluminum alloy that has high electrical conductivity, breaking-strength and mechanical thermal stability is proposed to address this problem.