SuperNode teams up with CERN to improve energy transmission

24 Apr 2023

Image: SuperNode

CERN’s expertise in superconductivity will be used to test and analyse sample materials and subsystems for their suitability in SuperNode’s tech.

Irish renewables technology company SuperNode has struck a deal with CERN to collaborate on improving SuperNode’s superconducting cable systems to significantly improve energy transmission across long distances.

CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, operates the world’s largest particle physics laboratory and is at the forefront of superconductivity research.

As part of the agreement, CERN’s expertise in cryogenics and vacuum will be used to test and analyse sample materials and subsystems for their suitability in SuperNode’s technology.

The materials will be subject to temperatures, pressures and environments replicating those that subsea and terrestrial superconducting cables will face over their operational lifecycle.

Increasing demand for renewables

Based in Dublin, SuperNode designs superconducting transmission systems to integrate renewable energy and connect electricity markets. Earlier this month, the company secured €16m in funding from its shareholders Aker Horizons and Dr Eddie O’Connor.

CERN will also design and develop a test rig for the validation of scale prototypes. A SuperNode engineer will be trained at the CERN base in Geneva, Switzerland to help knowledge transfer between the two parties.

The test rig will ultimately be installed in SuperNode’s Dublin headquarters, the European Cryogenic Centre for Superconductors.

John Fitzgerald, CEO of SuperNode, said that the agreement with CERN will help the company better develop its superconducting transmission cables.

“To meet increasing electricity demands, future transmission grids will have to reliably transfer bulk electricity over distances of hundreds of kilometres – connecting consumption hubs with areas of production, which are often located far away,” Fitzgerald said.

“Without new grid technology, we cannot integrate the level of renewables governments across the world have targeted and we will not achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

Pushing the limits of superconductivity

The partnership with CERN is a milestone for SuperNode, which was founded by Dr Eddie O’Connor in 2018. The Geneva-based CERN organisation is famous for hosting the Large Hadron Collider which was used in the discovery of the Higgs boson particle more than a decade ago.

Although Ireland is not a member of CERN, many academics and politicians have called for Ireland to join the organisation.

“CERN pushes the limit of superconductivity to reach record energy levels and operates one of the largest vacuum systems in the world,” explained Paolo Chiggiato, leader of the vacuum, surface and coating group at CERN.

“To avoid collisions with residual gas molecules inside the accelerators, we must reach extreme levels of vacuum. Vacuum is also used at CERN as a thermal insulator for our superconducting magnets.

“We believe that this know-how can be successfully applied to evaluate the technological solutions proposed to insulate the superconducting cables developed by SuperNode”.

Last year SuperNode commissioned a study by researchers from University College Dublin that found that an integrated pan-European energy grid could reduce energy costs by as much as 32pc.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic