Superconductors in automation
Superconductors have huge potential for industrial applications. They allow objects to be held in position and moved without contact – with low power consumption and completely without control technology for the bearing. The way they work without dust and wear is ideal for transporting objects whilst hovering in very clean environments in a protected manner. Even handling through walls is possible.
What are superconductors?
Superconductors are materials with very special properties: if they are cooled below a certain temperature, their electrical resistance suddenly drops to zero. Below this so-called transition temperature, they can also freeze the field of a permanent magnet at a defined gap – meaning that either the magnet or they themselves start to hover.
Steady hovering with a constant gap
The superconductor also resumes its saved position if it has been temporarily taken away or moved. The air gap remains steady in any spatial plane and enables objects to be moved to the other side of walls without contact. The principle can even be used in liquid and gas media, even in a vacuum.
Electric cooling of superconductors
For SupraMotion 3.0, Festo relies on high-temperature superconductors made of ceramic material, whose transition temperature is around 93 kelvins (–180° Celsius). This means that the superconductors can be put into their fascinating state extremely efficiently. The Stirling coolers currently used have a maximum energy consumption of 80 watts per cryostat (cooling container).
What potential do they have for automation?
The use of superconductors in the field of industrial automation is still in the development stage. Yet even today, completely new and efficient processes are conceivable with the technology.
Various applications possible
There is huge potential wherever contactless handling is called for – for example from cleaning aspects when objects are spatially separated or when dealing with sensitive objects. Possible applications also include steadily hovering bearings, which can make do without a high level of energy and control.
Search for pilot customers and actual applications
This is why Festo has been looking intensively into superconductivity technology and its industrial use for years. A wide range of bearing and movement forms have already been specifically tested with the SupraMotion projects and turned into possible applications. Festo is now investigating with partners and customers, whose application ideas can be turned into pilot projects.