Superconductors are materials with very special characteristics: if they are cooled below a certain temperature – known as the transition 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 specified distance so that either the magnet or they themselves start to levitate.
The superconductor (or the magnet) occupies its saved position again even if it has been temporarily taken away or moved. The air gap remains stable in any spatial position and enables objects to be moved on the other side of a wall without contact. This principle can be used in liquid and gaseous media, and even in a vacuum.
We use high-temperature superconductors made of ceramic material for SupraMotion. Their transition temperature is around 93 K (–180°C), which means that the applications are energy-efficient to operate and independent of cooling media such as liquid nitrogen. The Stirling coolers currently used have a maximum energy consumption of 80 watts per cryostat (cooling container). This keeps operating costs low. The levitating effect itself doesn't cost anything.
Thanks to the stored cooling energy, operation is guaranteed for several minutes even in the event of a power failure. The coolers currently already have a service life of more than ten years.
The use of superconductors in industrial automation is still in the development stage. Yet even today, completely new and efficient processes are already conceivable with this technology.
The factory of the future is becoming more networked, intelligent and flexible. The requirements of a very clean and process-reliable working environment are also constantly increasing. This is why we have been intensively researching superconductor technology and its industrial use for years.
There is huge potential wherever contactless handling is called for, for example for cleaning purposes, when objects are spatially separated or when dealing with sensitive objects. Potential applications also include stable levitating positioning that require minimal power consumption and no control technology.
We have already tested many different types of suspension and motion types with the SupraMotion projects and turned these into potential applications. We are now working with partners and customers to investigate their application ideas and how they can be turned into pilot projects.