Lightweight Electrical Conductors Could Save Billions

Power Aluminum Wire Conductors on a Wooden Table.

Sep 07, 2017

Energy efficiency is a primary focus throughout the industrial sector, and for a number of reasons. But one factor that pushes many into making power-conserving investments is the impact on the bottom line. Saving money and cutting costs via lower energy bills offers a unique shade to the quest for “greener” manufacturing operations.

The local and national energy grid functions with similar desires in mind. It’s estimated by materials research and technology company NanoAI that poor conductivity in electrical transmission and distribution components costs the U.S. economy nearly $20 billion every year. This lost power is equivalent to the needs of 24 million homes.

This revelation led the company to consider how the development of more efficient conductors could provide these systems with significant cost savings and greater levels of efficiency. The company was recently awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, valued at more than $1 million, to do just that.

During the first phase of this process, NanoAl developed a new class of aluminum wire conductors that answered the call for high electrical conductivity, high fracture strength, and high thermal stability. The next step will entail scaling the technology and producing actual conductors that can be deployed for testing and evaluation in real-world scenarios.

The company feels that there could be other applications for the technology beyond just more efficient power transfer. For example, lighter weight, highly-conductive metal would help improve vehicle and mass transportation systems by replacing heavier and more expensive metals like copper. Although the end benefits will be similar, the overall impact of these conductors could reduce the strain on a national grid that many believe grew too fast and is susceptible to blackouts and cyber-hacking.