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Nanocarbon-infused Metallic Conductors

Metallic conductors with enhanced electrical and thermal conductivities offering potential for significant energy savings in numerous applications

The Department of Energy (DOE) reports the average transmission and distribution (T&D) losses in the United States are ~6%. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 13.9 Quad of electrical energy were distributed in 2016 and 0.83 Quad were lost in T&D. Increasing the electrical conductivity of presently used transmission cables by ~40% would result in an annual savings of 0.33 Quad (~$10 Billion annual savings for the U.S. power grid). The DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office reports that a 10% reduction in vehicle weight can result in a ~6-8% improvement in fuel economy. At present, cars use about 50 pounds of copper in electrical wiring and motor windings. Increasing the electrical conductivity of copper will reduce vehicle’s weight and contribute to efficiency improvements. Since hundreds of potential applications are envisioned for advanced conductors, it is possible to achieve several quad of energy savings annually by widespread adaptation of advanced conductor technology.

We are developing metallic conductors (Cu and Al) with enhanced electrical and thermal conductivities by infusing nanocarbon into the metallic matrix. Roughly 30% increase in electrical conductivity has been measured in nanocarbon-infused copper thin films and observed ~8% higher electrical and ~10% higher thermal conductivity in nanocarbon-infused bulk aluminum conductors.

The unique processing and characterization facilities at Argonne provide an ideal opportunity to create fundamental knowledge and understanding of the nanocarbon-infused metallic conductors needed for industry to scale-up the process for commercialization.