American Superconductor reports world-record performance for second generation HTS wire

WESTBOROUGH, Mass., March 9, 2004 — American Superconductor Corp. claimed it has achieved world-record performance in its second generation (2G) high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire.

In briefings presented to officials at the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DOD), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the company reported that the electrical current carrying capacity of its 2G HTS wires is now twice that of the best industrial 2G HTS wires anywhere in the world, and 50 percent higher than the company’s own previously reported results.

Today’s announcement was made in conjunction with the public release by AMSC of a white paper on 2G HTS wire technology that summarizes tests completed last month and presented to the federal agencies over the past week. This paper can be obtained at www.amsuper.com along with other supporting materials.

AMSC achieved electric current carrying capacity in multiple 10-meter lengths of wire equal to or better than 250 Amperes per centimeter of width of the wire, an industrial world record that approaches performance levels required for commercial applications. The company’s highly uniform and repeatable results were achieved through a reel-to-reel liquid deposition production process that has been designed to be scalable to high volume, low cost manufacturing.

“The results that AMSC has been achieving in the production of 2G HTS wires are outstanding,” said Paul Barnes, Superconductivity Team Leader at the Air Force Research Laboratory. “The uniform and repeatable electrical performance they have been achieving clearly indicates a viable, well- controlled manufacturing process. With scaled-up equipment, AMSC can establish a long-length manufacturing capability for 2G HTS wire.”

Commercialization Metrics

The industry standard for reporting the magnitude of electrical performance of 2G HTS wire is Amps (A) of current per centimeter of wire width (cm-width). The wider a wire, the more electric current can flow along its length. Therefore the “A/cm-width” measure establishes an apples-to-apples comparison for wires of different types and widths by providing an objective measure of wire performance on a unit basis.

The threshold performance level for commercial applications of 2G HTS wire is about 300 A/cm-width at liquid nitrogen temperatures, or roughly 200 times greater than the electrical performance level of copper. The electrical performance results reported today by AMSC are quickly approaching this threshold level for commercialization (see www.amsuper.com for a chart showing improved electrical performance over time).

“The investments that we have made in 2G HTS wire technology are really paying off in terms of performance and scalability of our proprietary manufacturing process,” said Greg Yurek, chief executive officer of American Superconductor. “The electrical and mechanical performance of our commercial and military 2G wire is unparalleled.”

Manufacturing Scale-Up

Yurek commented that at this stage of the development of 2G HTS wire it is vital to demonstrate manufacturing processes that can achieve the extremely high electrical performance possible with 2G wires over 10- to 100-meter lengths before scaling up to very long lengths.

“We have now demonstrated that commercial performance levels over reasonable lengths of 2G HTS wire are within reach,” he said. “We are applying our wire manufacturing experience, along with our leading-edge materials science expertise, to continuously push the performance of practical, long-length wires using our patented manufacturing methodology. While we increase the performance and length of our wire, we are also continuing to expand the capacity of our development facility and formulate the specifications for our pilot manufacturing operation.”

The first pieces of equipment for AMSC’s expanded production capability have already been ordered and Yurek reported they are expected to be operational by the fall of 2004. He also noted that AMSC is migrating production in its development facility from 1-cm wide 2G HTS wires to 4-cm wide strips in up to 100-meter lengths in the near term. In the intermediate term, AMSC plans to establish production of 1,000-meter lengths and of 10-cm wide sheets of 2G material.

As described in AMSC’s new white paper, production of wider sheets of 2G HTS material that are subsequently slit to industry standard 0.4-cm wide wire dimensions is another major way to dramatically reduce the costs of manufacturing. “Our proprietary 2G wire manufacturing process is going to look a lot like a high-tech textile manufacturing operation, which is a key reason our production costs are expected to be so low relative to those of others,” said David Paratore, president and chief operating officer of AMSC.

2G Wire Market Development

In addition to developing second generation wire technology, AMSC has been selling its 2G wire to select customers in the U.S., Japan and Germany, who are evaluating the wire in prototypes for potential commercial applications.

“We plan to continue to produce limited quantities of 2G wire for customer evaluation programs while we develop the detailed manufacturing specifications for a full-fledged pilot manufacturing facility that will be capable of producing hundreds of thousands of meters of 2G wire per year,” Paratore said. “The pilot plant is being designed to be directly expandable into much higher volume manufacturing, which we expect to achieve in about three years.”

Commercial First Generation HTS Wire

AMSC’s first generation (1G) HTS wire is being produced commercially today on a daily basis in lengths up to 1,000 meters. AMSC’s first generation wire carries more than 140 times the electrical current of copper wire of the same dimensions. The company expects its second generation wire to have a price- performance ratio equal to or lower than that of copper and 2- to 5-times lower than its current HTS wire product.

“Our second generation wire has been developed to be a form-fit-function replacement for our commercial first generation wire,” Paratore said. “This means our wire customers will have an easy transition from our 1G to our 2G HTS wire in the motors, power cables, generators and other electrical equipment they are making today with our 1G wire.”

The recent AMSC progress in the development of 2G HTS wires has been supported by an Air Force Dual Use Science and Technology contract, grants from NIST’s Advanced Technology Program and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories at Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Argonne and Sandia.

About American Superconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: AMSC)

AMSC is a supplier of dynamic reactive power grid stabilization products and the world’s principal vendor of high temperature superconductor (HTS) wire and large rotating superconductor machinery.

AMSC’s power electronic converters and HTS wire are at the core of a broad range of new electricity transmission and distribution, transportation, medical and industrial processing applications, including dynamic reactive power grid stabilization solutions, large ship propulsion motors and generators, smart, controllable, superconductor power cables and advanced defense systems. The Company’s products are supported by hundreds of patents and licenses covering technologies fundamental to Revolutionizing the Way the World Uses Electricityâ„-. More information is available at www.amsuper.com.

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