NANOELECTRO Launches Superwires Production

13 July 2012

NANOELECTRO, a portfolio company of RUSNANO and VNIIM (The latter is a subsidiary of Russian manufacturer TVEL.) has begun producing nanostructured wires. These are principally new composite electrical goods that combine high conductivity with ultradurability. Total investment in the project is just over a billion rubles: cofinancing from RUSNANO of 450 million rubles and from TVEL, 570 million rubles.

During this first phase of the project, to 2014, NANOELECTRO will produce up to 50 tons of superwires per year. Later the company will transition to large-scale manufacturing to enable it to take as much as 15 percent of the global ultradurable cable market.

Superwires are wires whose durability is comparable to steel while electric conductivity approaches that of pure copper (IACS, International Annealed Copper Standard), from 40 percent to 80 percent. NANOELECTRO aims at the market segments with high demand for wires combining these qualities. The introduction of ultra-thin (6–10 nm) niobic fibers into the copper matrix allows NANOELECTRO to produce highly durable wires which show excellent electric conductivity due to high content of copper in the material. The wires are suitable for use in powerful pulse magnets for science and industry, in contact cables for high-speed railway transport, and to create electronic and electrical equipment working under extremely difficult conditions, for example, in the air and space and nuclear energy industries.

Analysts predict that the Russian superwires market could exceed $33 million, the equivalent of 58.3 tons of cable, by 2015. That is 5 percent of the global market. Growth in the market is being driven by demand for dependable domestic technical systems, emergence of new areas of medicine, energy, electronics, and mechanical engineering, and research on magnetic fields of high induction.

NANOELECTRO can produce large cross-section cables several kilometers in length with durability that is twice that of traditional electrical alloy cable and without any loss in the cables’ electric conductivity. These cables ideally match essential needs of railways for durability, long service life, and safety. NANOELECTRO can also produce similar nanostructured small-diameter cables (from .03 millimeters to .5 millimeters) that run several tens of kilometers. No other company offers an analogous product.

“We have seen tremendous interest lately in a new class of materials where the size of particles does not exceed 100 nanometers,” says RUSNANO managing director Olga Spichko. “The materials possess characteristics in combination that we cannot find in regular large-grain materials, opening prospects for design and manufacture of equipment and products that will be highly attractive to the market. In particular, there is great demand for materials that are simultaneously very durable and conductive. Those are the materials that NANOELECTRO is developing. The properties of its products are related to their nanostructured state and not obtainable through any other mechanism.”

“Our technology enables us to manufacture very long cables based on copper and niobium, with either large or small cross sections. There is nothing similar in the market, not in Russia and not abroad,” notes senior vice president of TVEL Vladimir Rozhdestvensky. “We hold patents to our company’s developments in ultradurable high-conductivity materials. This project to produce a new class of electrical cables is made possible through collaboration between TVEL and RUSNANO for high-tech manufacturing. We expect to reach design capacity in 2014. That will put our earnings at roughly 885 million rubles.”

Technical information

Superwires are wires with durability exceeding 500 megapascals and electric conductivity ranging from 40 percent to 80 percent of pure copper.

Specialists at NANOELECTRO have developed technology for serial assembly of bimetallic composite blanks, which are subsequently deformed in a copper matrix to permit the introduction of ordinary niobic wire with thickness of six nanometers to ten nanometers. In the composite cable that results, a two-millimeter by three-millimeter cross section contains as many as 400 million such fibers; they give the cable its mechanical durability.

Superwires cross-section and SEM microphotograph

Thickness of niobic fiber <15 nm, distance between niobic fibers <60 nm

SuperwiresThe miniscule distance between fibers, comparable to the average length of electron run in the copper matrix, facilitates electrical conductivity of 40 percent to 80 percent of copper’s electrical conductivity. As part of this project, NANOELECTRO will organize industrial production of several types of goods with high market demand:

  • Winding wire with rectangular cross sectioning for high-field pulse magnets and magnetic-pulse stamping;
  • Composite contact cable for high-speed railway transport;
  • Wire and cable with enhanced reliability for aviation and space equipment;
  • Superior strength microwire for electronics, mini-electric motors, particularly flexible cables.

Additional information

Reference

RUSNANO was founded in March 2011 as an open joint stock company through reorganization of state corporation Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies. RUSNANO's mission is to develop the Russian nanotechnology industry through co-investment in nanotechnology projects with substantial economic potential or social benefit. The Government of the Russian Federation owns 100 percent of the shares in RUSNANO. Anatoly Chubais is CEO and chairman of the Executive Board of RUSNANO.

Work to establish nanotechnology infrastructure and training for nanotechnology specialists, formerly conducted by the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies, has been entrusted to the Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs, a non-commercial fund also established through reorganization of the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies.

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Fuel company TVEL is a member company of state corporation Rosatom. In the production of nuclear fuel, TVEL is recognized as one of the world’s leaders. TVEL’s focus is on the development, production, and sale (including export) of nuclear fuel and its non-nuclear by products. One in six nuclear reactors worldwide works on fuel that TVEL has produced. TVEL sells its fuel to Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, and it is used in domestic reactors. Subsidiaries of TVEL supply fuel to nuclear stations in China, India, and Iran. In all, TVEL satisfies demand from 76 reactors in Russia and in 15 countries in Europe and Asia, plus 30 scientific research reactors globally.