Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) scientists have created a new composite to increase the electrical current capacity of copper wires.
This could lead to the advancement of a new material that can be scaled for use in ultra-efficient, power-dense electric vehicle (EV) traction motors.
According to the scientists, the goal of this research is to reduce barriers opposing the widespread adoption of electric vehicle.
This includes cutting the cost of ownership and improving the performance and life of components such as electric motors and power electronics.
The ORNL team led by Tolga Aytug asserts that the material can be deployed in any component that uses copper, including more efficient bus bars and smaller connectors for electric vehicle traction inverters, as well as for applications such as wireless and wired charging systems.
To produce their new material, the scientists first deposited and aligned single-wall carbon nanotubes on flat copper substrates via electrospinning.
They then used magnetron sputtering, a vacuum coating technique, to add thin layers of copper film on top of the CNT-coated copper tapes.
What followed was the coated samples being annealed in a vacuum furnace to produce a highly conductive Cu-CNT network by forming a dense, uniform copper layer and to allow diffusion of copper into the CNT matrix.
Using this method, the ORNL team was able to create a copper-carbon nanotube composite 10 centimeters long and 4 centimeters wide, with exceptional properties.
Tests conducted at ORNL’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences have shown that the composite can reach 14% greater current capacity, with up to 20% improved mechanical properties compared with pure copper.
This could lead to more advanced conductors with less power loss, which in turn increases the efficiency and performance of devices such as advanced electric motor systems.
Image and content: Andy Sproles/ORNL