Application for ultraconductive copper wire/traces/electrodes (120%IACS)?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Mr-Conductivity, Sep 7, 2017.

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  1. Mr-Conductivity

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    Sep 7, 2017
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    I am searching for a high-value application for our new wire/trace/electrode material: ultraconductive copper (UCC). This material has 120% of the conductivity of pure copper at room temperature ("120%IACS"). After 13 years of R&D we have this material working in the lab. To get a start-up company funded we need a high value application to address, as the material will likely be significantly more expensive than pure copper in first, pilot quantities. Such applications are usually characterized by a "must have" need for higher material performance (not just "nice to have"). To get you started, here is one such application we have confirmed: the contact pads on Silicon Carbide IGBTs. These devices are used in power switching, for instance in the inverters of electric vehicles. Current into the device heats-up the electrodes and the Silicon Carbide itself heats up in operation. Heat from both sources must pass out through the electrodes themselves to reach the heat sinks. This type of IGBT is limited by thermal runaway because of these effects. UCC, with its higher electrical and thermal conductivity can increase the performance of these IGBTs. Your other ideas for applications that would benefit from UCC?
     
  2. nsaspook

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    Call 'Monster' cables.
     
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  3. Mr-Conductivity

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    Thx for the Monster Cable idea, nsaspook. Sadly, any application where the conductivity problem can be solved by just making the amount of normal copper in the product bigger doesn't work commercially for UCC. If Monster Cables want more performance they can just add more copper, which is much cheaper than using UCC. We have, however, considered one other audio application: the voice coils in headphones: these are constrained by their ability to dissipate heat (turn the power u and they melt). Just adding more copper there does not work as it makes the coil bigger (and you know how small those ear-buds are!). Keep up that creative thinking.
     
  4. nsaspook

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    So it's a niche product with limited application (primarily because of cost) where absolute weight/size parameters are critical. The audiophile market is perfect for a product like this, you just need to invent a storyline that shows it sounds better than X pure-copper wires, actual science and economic facts are irreverent in that market.

    I mean, 120% is always better than 100%, right? The conductance improvements will produce less micro-diode-effect noise, less impurity inclusion field disturbance and less transverse energy wave noise generation.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2017
  5. DickCappels

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    In switching twitching transformers copper losses are an important consideration. Not sure whether the 17% increase in conductivity will make many reach for their wallets but that is one place to look.

    Maybe the temperature coefficient of resistance is an important differentiator for some applications. What is the TC of resistance of your alloy?
     
  6. nsaspook

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  7. DickCappels

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    Now that nsaspook has posted that information about the material, printed circuit boards come to mind. The 17% increase in conductivity would allow smaller traces for a given current, but that is only if your alloy can be etched similar to the way copper is etched.

    What is the softening temperature of your alloy/mixture? If it can operate at the same temperature or higher than the temperature of copper, it might be a good candidate for power transmission lines. That would be a cost savings that can be measured in terms of dollars per minute.
     
  8. nsaspook

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    Personally I don't want the see the wide use of Carbon nanotubes in general products until we are very sure it's not the next asbestos.

    http://blogs.biomedcentral.com/on-health/2014/11/26/are-carbon-nanotubes-the-next-asbestos/
     
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  9. WBahn

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    You might see if it can serve as a contact material to superconductors, particularly high temperature ceramics.
     
  10. KeepItSimpleStupid

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    Hearing aids? Injet printable prototype PCB's? 3D PCB's;
     
  11. MrAl

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    Hi,

    The feasibility of a new product is sometimes just simply based on the ratio of the new cost to the old cost. IF the new cost to old cost ratio is not too high even though the total cost is more, it could balance out and have other advantages.

    For example, one of the limitations of a transformer is the window area. If you could fit a heavier gauge wire in there you can get a higher overall efficiency based on the copper losses. If you had a higher conductance wire though then you can do the same thing in less volume. That means a regular transformer becomes more efficient, or for the same power design a transformer can be made smaller, and smaller means other costs would come down. As these other costs go down and the wire cost goes up, there will be an equilibrium threshold that once reached, results in the same cost but smaller unit size.

    Of course a strong governing factor in all this is the actual ratio. If it is high then it will be harder to see an advantage, but if it is just a little higher (say less than 20 percent) then there is hope. This means we have to start seeing some comparisons in cost of the new wire vs the old wire. That's the only way to come to any reasonable conclusion assuming we just want to improve a design and dont have a very specific application such as some space probe application which could warrant higher cost anyway.
     
  12. Mr-Conductivity

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    Sep 7, 2017
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    Thx for those thoughts, DickCappels. The TC of resistivity is about 25% lower than that of pure copper: that means that its resistance increases with temperature more slowly than pure copper. The softening temperature of UCC is the same as for pure copper.

    Power cables and motor stators/transformers are fine applications for UCC... when it is mass produced. That will likely be after >$100M of equipment investment, when standards (DIN, ISO, BS, IEC, etc.) have been defined and met: perhaps in 10 years.

    The challenge for a start-up is to find a beachhead first market that has low volume and high margins. For a new material this is rarely basedon a unit cost reduction over the current incumbent material.

    The technical use (transformers, motors, PCB tracks, etc.) flows from the end use with the high margin characteristics, so it is that end-use that I am hunting for. Aerospace uses are often good hunting ground. Also new-to-the-world applications (eg. EVs, hybrid propulsion aero-vehicles, wireless charging, low-loss power inverters) offer promise.

    Does any of that provoke further thoughts on applications?
     
  13. Mr-Conductivity

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    Sep 7, 2017
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    Thx for the link to Ultrawire, nsaspook. As I wrote the proposal for that work and got Cambridge University to lead it, it gives me a warm feeling to know somebody noticed :)

    The Ultrawire technology, like 95% of the UCC technology worldwide is based on a form of nanocarbon that continues to not work reliably. My company is a spin out of an organization that has been working on this technology since 2003, so I know all about what does <not> work.

    Our technology uses a different form of nanocarbon than Ultrawire and others. That is the excitement now: we have found a way to make this work. However... god bless the hundreds of researchers and millions of $ that were used in approaches that did not work: we couldn't have got to where we are without them
     
  14. Mr-Conductivity

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    Sep 7, 2017
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    WBahn, what is the unmet need in superconductor contacts? Why wouldn't pure copper work there, for instance? Indeed if there is a compeling "must have" need I want to know it. Can you point me to someone/somewhere to learn more? Many thx.
     
  15. Mr-Conductivity

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    I like the hearing aid idea, KeepItSimpleStupid. High margin. Heat-generation limited (in the voice coil) and driven by a requirement for small size. I have pinged an R&D leader at a large hearing aid company for his thoughts. Thank you for the idea.
     
  16. BR-549

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    Antennas.
     
  17. Mr-Conductivity

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    MrAl, indeed one way for new products to penetrate is to have a unit cost advantage. As I say above, we will have that in the long run, but not when we start. I feel that I must bypass unit-cost-controlled applications at least in our early year. Any other ideas?

    I am also curious as to whether or not the "Al" in "MrAl" is for "aluminum"? The reason that the copper industry has been working on UCC for so long is as a defense against aluminum's penetration of the wiring industry. Although the $/conductivity number was the same for copper and aluminum until the early noughties, the growth of the copper price since then means that there is lots of pressure to solve the problems of aluminum as a wire material (mainly corrosion at joints, bulkiness, low strength and a tendency to catch fire). UCC is copper's answer to fending off aluminum in the medium term. And changes in the wire material industry happen very slowly (standard, life-proving, failure mode understanding, sunk manufacturing capital investment, super-cycles in metals prices), so copper is protected for another decade at least, even without the mass production of UCC.
     
  18. Mr-Conductivity

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    Sep 7, 2017
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    Antennas, eh, BR549? What application are you thinking of? I have spoken to the leaders in cellphone antennas (antennae?) and they are clear that higher conductivity would not give them any earth-shattering advantage. I have not investigated other antenna applications though. Any thoughts you have would be gratefully accepted.
     
  19. GopherT

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    @Mr-Conductivity
    Wait a minute, an industry organization (Copper) is funding a 13-years of research to improve one aspect of their product, conductivity, and they didn't even know who would need such a material. Or is this another SBIR grant run amuck (A professor with an idea waiting for an application)? If I'm wrong and it is not the copper industry or an SBIR grant, please tell me who was willing to fund this project for 13-years without market in view and customers clammoring for your finished invention.

    Also, why do you think the aerospace industry is a good place to start? Do you have 6 to 10-years to wait for qualification testing once a device manufacturer actually builds an aerospace device with your UCC cooper?

    I love your thoughts on head phones and hearing aids and pumping more watts through the voice coils - like there are not already enough people with hearing loss from the existing headphones. I look forward to my kids buying a pair so they can't hear me telling them to clean their room.

    I'll give you credit for openly admitting (by posting here) that your organization funded this fiasco for 13-years without a market/application in mind.

    If you are trying to compete with aluminum by making a more expensive copper, you better hope that Alcoa is wasting money the same way. The fact that they are penetrating automotive like never before says they are finding cheaper ways to make aluminum - not more expensive. Even their structural lithium/aluminum alloys for aerospace are getting cheaper as they expand production and as lithium metal becomes more and more available. So, good luck.
     
  20. WBahn

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    It does seem strange that, over the course of 13 years of R&D, that the identification of specific applications isn't far enough along that you don't need to be casting random fishing lines looking for idea. Was this R&D oriented on fundamental physics/chemistry/material properties research, which often does have a specific end-application focus until it becomes apparent that there might actually be commercial potential?

    You are talking about 120% of the conductivity. I've been running across other copper/nanotube structures that are claiming 200%, but they don't say at what temperature so I don't know if it is apples and oranges. They also haven't indicated whether they are talking about technology that is ready to move out of the lab.
     
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