Superconducting ship motor passes first test

The world’s first high temperature superconductor electric ship propulsion motor has successfully completed no-load testing in the UK.

The world’s first high temperature superconductor (HTS) electric ship propulsion motor has successfully completed no-load testing in the UK.

The patented 5 MW, 230 rpm HTS propulsion motor was designed by American Superconductor Corporation’s (AMSC) SuperMachines business unit under contract to the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR).

AMSC built the superconductor rotor assembly, including the rotor refrigeration system, for the motor. The company’s subcontractor on the project, Alstom’s Power Conversion Business, designed and built the copper-based, liquid cooled stator and assembled the motor in its Rugby, UK factory, where the motor underwent the no-load testing.

Dave Paratore, vice president and general manager of AMSC’s SuperMachines business unit commented that he expects to receive the first orders for superconductor motors for propulsion systems in non-military ships in the next 12 to 15 months for delivery in 2005.

During the tests at the Alstom plant, the 5 MW motor was observed by a number of potential customers, including the navies of several countries in addition to the US, all of which are considering the application of superconductor ship propulsion motors and generators in future electric warships.

The motor is now being integrated with an Alstom VDM 5000 commercial power electronic drive and a dynamometer for load testing. The test, which will confirm full torque and full speed under load, is expected to be completed in June.

American Superconductor announced on March 3, 2003 that it had received a new, $70 million contract from ONR for the design and manufacture of a 36.5 MW, 120 rpm ship propulsion motor. This motor is to be delivered to the US Navy in March 2006.

‘The 5 MW, 230 rpm and the 36.5 MW, 120 rpm ship propulsion motors we are designing, building and delivering to the US Navy span the range of critical technologies and power and speed ratings needed for both commercial and military ship propulsion systems,’ added Paratore.