American Superconductor Corporation announced that Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. (Hyundai) has achieved world record performance levels for fault current limiters (FCL), which it developed utilizing AMSC’s 344S superconductors. Fault current limiters act as high-voltage surge protectors for power grids to increase reliability and overall efficiency in the operation of power grids.

Hyundai, headquartered in South Korea, began development of its FCL in late 2004 in partnership with Yonsei University, located in Seoul, South Korea. Hyundai successfully developed a 13.2 kV/630 A FCL using superconducting coils fabricated with AMSC’s 344S superconductors.

“This important advance in the development of fault current limiters would not have been possible without AMSC’s 344S superconductors,” says Dr. Bok-Yeol Seok, principle researcher of the FCL project, Hyundai Heavy Industries. “We see tremendous opportunities for FCLs in the near term and are pursuing this market aggressively. We will continue our development efforts and now have our sights set on producing 30 to 60 kV FCLs for distribution systems as well as 154 kV FCLs for transmission voltage levels.”

The capacity of Hyundai’s FCL is 8.3 megavolt amperes (8.3MVA). The device operated at a voltage of 13.2 kV, which corresponds to a three-phase power equipment voltage class of 22.9 kV, a new world record for fault current limiters. The test was first conducted in December 2006 at the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI). The FCL achieved an AC withstand voltage of 143 kV, nearly three times higher than the 50-kV goal of the project. This provides Hyundai with considerable momentum as it moves into the third phase of the South Korean government’s FCL development program. The FCL program in South Korea is funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology through the Development of Advanced Power systems by Applied Superconductivity technologies (DAPAS) program.

“Our 344S superconductors are paving the way for partners and customers as they work to bring fault current limiters to the market,” said Angelo Santamaria, vice president and general manager, AMSC Wires. “Utilities around the world have been waiting for a solution that can suppress current surges and protect their power grids. Thanks to the work being done by companies like Hyundai, that wait is nearly over.”

Hyundai is one of eight companies worldwide developing FCLs based on AMSC’s proprietary 344S superconductors. 344S superconductors are smart materials because they possess unique physical properties that allow them to conduct electricity with no resistance under normal operating conditions, while also being able to recognize and then instantaneously suppress large surges of electrical current by switching to the resistive state. Suppressing spikes of electrical current is important because it prevents damage to expensive electrical equipment in power grids.