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Smart grids offer $12B opportunity

Posted: 17 Dec 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smart grid? nanomaterial? power electronics?

NanoMarkets reports that smart grid infrastructure requirements will create significant opportunities for advanced materials suppliers ranging from new compound semiconductors to the latest nanomaterials. In its Markets for Smart Grid Cables and Insulators: 2010 to 2017 report, the analyst forecasts that the new infrastructure products will create a $12 billion revenue opportunity for suppliers of components, wires, cables, storage devices and insulators.

According to the report, the use of composite materials in the smart grid will allow it to carry much larger currents and voltages than today. These materials are already making a difference in the form of composite cabling that offer two to four times the capacity of conventional transmission cabling. Within a few years nanocomposite dielectrics will be used as fillers in grid insulators with dramatic improvements in voltage endurance, breakdown strength, component size, and aging characteristics. By 2017, such "nano-dielectrics" are expected to account for more than $500 million in revenues.

Silicon carbide is already beginning to replace silicon in grid power electronics devices and Gallium Nitride, Zinc Oxide and industrial diamond may also in the future. Using devices made with these materials, electricity grids will be able to carry more electricity and there will be fewer switching devices needed than in today's grid infrastructure; switching losses are said to be half of those for equivalent silicon devices. By 2017, NanoMarkets projects that over $400 million in non-silicon power electronics devices will be sold into grid applications.

By 2017 about $350 million will be spent on superconducting cables and fault current limiting devices for the Smart Grid. Initially, superconductive cabling will be used in short lengths in strategic areas such as grid interconnects, but expected price declines will eventually drive superconductors into long-haul transmission systems. Deploying superconductors in smart-grid cabling will reduce line losses, assure stable voltage, and expand current carrying capacities. Only nanotubes wires promise higher conductivity than superconductors but nanotube wire deployment lies many years in the future.

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