Report on Third New York State Superconductor Summit

At the hub of New York’s Tech Valley region, business leaders, academia, prominent scientists, engineers and government officials gathered at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) campus in Albany on May 7 for the third New York State Superconductor Technology Summit. CNSE hosted this year’s summit, underwritten by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and organized and co-sponsored by MTECH Laboratories together with GE Global Research, Hypres, Inc., Philips Healthcare and SuperPower Inc.

In all, about 140 attendees were present at the summit. Participants had the opportunity to access and network with leading technologists and businesses involved in superconductivity.

About 140 attendees were present at the summit. Photo courtesy of SuperPower, Erin L. Keehan.

About 140 attendees were present at the summit. Photo courtesy of SuperPower, Erin L. Keehan.

Of particular interest was the opportunity on the afternoon of May 6 to tour four of the leading organizations in New York engaged in superconductivity-related businesses. Philips Healthcare in Latham gave participants an inside look at the factory in which they produce the large superconducting magnets that are at the heart of an MRI. GE Global Research in Niskayuna presented their work on the use of superconductor technology for applications in wind energy, especially for large off-shore turbines.

SuperPower Inc., manufacturer of second generation high temperature superconducting (2G HTS) wire, introduced participants to the unique processing systems that create the wire used in the broad range of applications including energy, renewables, industry, transportation and medical and scientific research. Lastly, a guided tour was offered through the ever-expanding CNSE campus which houses state-of-the-art labs, cleanrooms, classrooms, offices and research facilities in nanotech-related industries.

The May 7 summit consisted of a keynote address and panel discussions covering four topics: power and energy; electronics and computers; medicine, science and research; and building the superconductor industry in New York state. Panelists included industry experts representing many of the New York organizations working in superconductivity. Pradeep Haldar, PhD, MBA from CNSE provided welcoming remarks. Francis J. Murray, Jr., President and CEO of NYSERDA, was keynote speaker at this year’s event.

The first panel, Power and Energy, moderated by John F. Love, Senior Project Manager at NYSERDA, focused on the benefits of superconductivity for power-dense applications and the collaboration needed between utilities and industry for the development of superconducting devices.

Panelists agreed that the next commercialized application of superconductor technology may be the FCL (fault current limiter). Zachary Wolff, Consolidated Edison Co., noted that load growth continues to expand and places extreme stresses on an already outdated utility grid, especially electrical breakers which are costly to replace. Expansion in urban areas is expensive and in some cases, such as in cities, is not possible.

Visitors tour the SuperPower facility in Schenectady, NY. Photo courtesy of SuperPower, Erin L. Keehan.

Visitors tour the SuperPower facility in Schenectady, NY. Photo courtesy of SuperPower, Erin L. Keehan.

The second panel focused on Electronics and Computers, and was moderated by Dr. Britton Plourde, Associate Professor at Syracuse University. Recent developments in quantum computing, or information processing, show a promising future for computer designs that have the potential capability of solving problems that are intractable on conventional computers. This panel wrapped up their session by stressing the importance of collaboration. In the US, though there is government support, it in no way equals the support that overseas organizations receive from their governments.

The focus of panel three was Medicine, Science and Research. Superconductor technology is used in a broad range of applications in these fields, from today’s broadly utilized MRI to NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance), which is used as an analytical tool in drug development and genomics, and to proton therapy, an advanced form of radiation therapy that uses high energy particles to deliver a precise, controlled dose of radiation for cancer treatment.

Dr. Ramesh Gupta, Leader, HTS Magnet R&D Program at Brookhaven National Laboratory, shared some of the projects underway at Brookhaven, especially in the development of higher field magnets and the transition from LTS to HTS magnetic coils to advance existing and enable newer and more powerful applications.

The last panel of the day focused on Building the Superconductivity Industry in New York through academic, government and industry partnerships. The discussion stressed the importance of exposing students at an early age to new technologies such as superconductivity in order to engage and prepare them for careers in these technology-driven fields.

To summarize, there has been increased activity in the energy and power sectors in development of fault current limiters (FCL) and wind turbines, as well as growing interest in superconducting magnetic energy storage (SMES), a grid-enabling device that stores and discharges large quantities of power almost instantaneously—especially important for wind and solar power usage. Quantum computing, though several years away, will rely greatly on data centers and integration. Medicine, science and research will continue to grow in importance through the launch of new devices to increase our longevity, as well as making novel therapies available to more of the population.

Lastly, there is a strong focus on workforce development for these technology fields as they continue to grow and expand in our state. The superconductor sector continues to move ahead by collaboration.

To learn more about the New York State Superconductivity Summit visit YouTube videos of each panel session are also available online under the heading “Superconductivity Summit.”