Litton Industries and American Superconductor Corp. announced an agreement to collaborate in the utilization of High Temperature Superconductor (HTS) technology for commercial and naval ships. The initial focus will be on the application of HTS motors for electric ship propulsion. Ultra-compact HTS motors will propel ships more efficiently and quietly and that will create more usable space on board ships. For naval vessels, the result will be more space for weapons, sensors, combat system elements, fuel and crews’ quarters, in addition to greater stealth and higher fuel efficiency.
American Superconductor announced earlier week that it had completed the first phase of a U.S. Navy program for an initial design of a 33,500-horsepower HTS ship propulsion motor, and that it had received a follow-on contract from the Navy to complete the motor design and to start component fabrication and testing. The company stated it expected to obtain additional Navy contracts over the next several years leading to the manufacture and testing of HTS motors for installation on Navy ships.
HTS wire, which today can carry more than 100 times the power of copper wires with the same dimensions, creates the possibility for radically new ship designs and extremely compact, quiet and powerful propulsion systems. The company’s proprietary HTS ship propulsion motors are expected to be 1/5 the size and 1/3 the weight of standard induction motors, which uses copper wire technology. American Superconductor estimates that the current global market for motors utilized in electric ship propulsion is $250 million per year and this market is growing rapidly as electric drives are becoming thepropulsion system of choice. In January 2000, the U.S. Navy announced that it targets electric drives for all future propulsion systems in Navy ships.