US 20050159318 A1
A method is described for the production of superconductive wires based on hollow filaments made of MgB2, which comprises: a) the formation of a composite billet by means of the coaxial insertion in a tubular metallic container of a cylindrical bar made of metallic magnesium and amorphous boron powder in the interspace between the container and bar, said powder being pressed between the metallic container and the magnesium bar, in such a quantity that the weight ratio magnesium/boron is higher than 1.2; b) at least one plastic deformation treatment of the composite billet thus obtained until a wire with a prefixed diameter is obtained, with the subsequent winding of the wire onto a support; c) a thermal treatment of the filament product thus obtained, at a temperature ranging from 700° C. to 950° C. for a time ranging from 15 minutes to three hours.
24. A superconductor wire based on a hollow monofilament or multifilament made of MgB2, which can be obtained by means of the method which comprises:
a) the formation of a composite billet by means of the coaxial insertion in a tubular metallic container of a cylindrical bar made of metallic magnesium and amorphous boron powder, in the interspace between the container and bar, said powder being pressed between the metallic container and the magnesium bar, in such a quantity that the weight ratio magnesium/boron is higher than 1.2;
b) at least one plastic deformation treatment of the composite billet thus obtained until a wire with a prefixed diameter is obtained, with the subsequent winding of the wire onto a support;
c) a thermal treatment of the filament product thus obtained, at a temperature ranging from 700° C. to 950° C. for a time ranging from 15 minutes to three hours.
25. A method of forming superconductor wires for use in making coils, said coils being based on hollow MgB2 filaments obtained with the thermal treatment comprising: c1) static thermal treatment in a chamber oven, after sealing the ends of the wire in an atmosphere with a low oxygen content, thus generating inside, at a high temperature, a pressure of magnesium vapours higher than atmospheric pressure; or
c2) dynamic thermal treatment, by passing the wire continuously through an open tubular oven, containing an atmosphere poor in oxygen.
26. A method of making superconductor wires based on hollow MgB2 filaments according to
The present invention relates to a method for the production of superconductive wires based on hollow filaments made of MgB2.
As it is known, magnesium boride has superconductive properties up to 39 K and can therefore be applied in closed circuit cryogenic systems (cryo-refrigerators), which are less expensive than those based on the use of liquid helium.
Furthermore many superconductive power applications are extremely jeopardized by the use of cooling systems based on liquid He and there is consequently great interest in identifying superconductive materials which can be used at temperatures higher than 4.2 K and preferably higher than 10 K, a range within which other more economical cooling systems operate.
For magnesium boride to have improved superconductivity properties and improved mechanical properties, however, it is fundamental to obtain a magnesium boride end-product densified up to values close to the theoretical density value (2.63 g/cm3) and this is only possible according to the known methods in the state of the art by the use of high pressures at high temperatures, which however limits the dimensions of the end-products produced and requires the use of equipment which is unsuitable for mass production.
The application of high pressures at a high temperature, moreover, is even more difficult when hollow superconductive wires based on MgB2 are desired.
According to the state of the art, the production of superconductive wires based on MgB2 is mainly effected by means of the “Powder in Tube” technology, in its two main variants.
The first variant comprises the drawing of a metallic sheath containing MgB2 powders, whereas in the second variant the metallic sheath contains mixtures of boron and magnesium powders. Suitable thermal treatment, optionally also at high pressures, is applied to these composite sheaths, after the drawing and/or lamination, in order to obtain one or more filament conductors made of sintered MgB2, inside the sheath.
In both variants of the above process according to the state of the art, it is essential for the thermal treatment to be effected with the application of high pressures. If the resulting fibres, in fact, are produced without the application of high pressures during the thermal treatment, there are the following disadvantages: they transport electric currents with low density values in the presence of high magnetic fields and at temperatures higher than 4.2 K (boiling point of liquid He): this is mainly due to the low density of the sintered material and/or to the insufficient cohesion of the crystalline grains.
In the first variant, in fact, the high temperature sintering of MgB2 powders is strongly limited by the decomposition process of the MgB2 crystals which, at atmospheric pressure or under vacuum, already begins at intermediate temperatures, i.e. at temperatures in the order of 400° C.
In the second variant, the magnesium and boron powders, which have reacted at a high temperature and without pressure, are transformed into MgB2, but the corresponding sintered material is porous, as the initial space occupied by the magnesium powders is only partially occupied by the MgB2 crystals which are formed. Sintering technologies assisted by outside pressure, on the other hand, such as hot isostatic pressing or hot uni-axial pressing, are not particularly compatible with an industrial production of long wires.
An objective of the present invention is therefore to obtain superconductive wires, based on hollow filaments made of MgB2, highly densified, and arranged in adjacent circular crowns inside a metallic sheath containing it, with a method which overcomes the drawbacks present in the known art.
An object of the present invention relates to a method for the production of superconductive wires based on hollow filaments made of MgB2, which comprises:
In particular, when superconductive wires based on hollow monofilaments made of MgB2 are to be obtained, phase a) for the formation of a composite billet comprises, as indicated above, the coaxial insertion in a tubular metallic container of a cylindrical bar made of metallic magnesium and, in the interspace between the container and bar, the insertion of amorphous boron powder, said powder being pressed between the metallic container and the magnesium bar, in such a quantity that the weight ratio magnesium/boron is higher than 1.2.
The method according to the present invention can also contemplate, in phase a), the coaxial insertion of a niobium sheath, adjacent to the tubular metallic container.
In particular, when superconductive wires based on hollow multifilaments made of MgB2 are desired, the method according to the present invention comprises: phase a) for the formation of a composite billet which comprises the coaxial insertion in a tubular metallic container of a niobium sheath and a cylindrical bar made of metallic magnesium and, in the interspace between the internal wall of the Nb sheath and Mg bar, the insertion of amorphous boron powder, said powder being pressed between the metallic container and the magnesium bar, in such a quantity that the weight ratio magnesium/boron is higher than 1.2; phase b) and, before the thermal treatment c), the following further phases are added:
Furthermore, in phase b), the plastic deformation treatment of the composite billet thus obtained, and/or in phase b3) the plastic deformation treatment of the tubular container containing the composite multifilaments thus obtained, can be such that series of singles deformation passages are alternated with a thermal treatment of 5 to 20 minutes at temperatures ranging from 300° C. to 500° C.
In particular, the thermal treatment c) can be effected according to one of the following procedures:
In the method according to the present invention, it is also possible for the tubular metallic container of phase a) to consist of several different metallic sheaths.
A further object of the present invention relates to a superconductor based on a hollow monofilament or multifilament made of MgB2, which can be obtained by means of the method according to any of the previous claims.
The present invention also relates to the use of superconductor wires based on hollow filaments of MgB2 obtained with the method according to the present invention, by the thermal treatment described in c1), or in c2), to form superconductor end-products, such as coils for magnets or components of electro-technical equipment, such as coils for engines, generators, transformers, current limiters, magnet energy accumulators, electromagnetic screens.
For these purposes, the coils have a minimum curvature radius of the filament which is higher than a threshold value which prevents damage to the magnesium boride filaments present inside the metallic sheath.
Furthermore, the superconductor wire which can be obtained with the method according to the present invention, by means of the thermal treatment described in C2), can also be used for end-products such as stranded wires or other types of superconductive filiform end-products suitable for conveying electric currents.
Phase b1) for the removal of the external metallic container, exposing the Nb sheath, can be effected by means of chemical treatment, in particular by means of acid dissolution, or by mechanical treatment, in particular by means of abrasion.
A first embodiment of the method according to the present invention allows the production of a superconductor wire based on a hollow monofilament of MgB2, with a single central empty zone.
At the end of the thermal treatment, the magnesium and boron have reacted to produce highly densified MgB2, positioned on the internal wall of the metallic sheath, having a hollow area in the centre, only partially filled by possible excess residual magnesium.
Alternatively, for superconductor end-products which require windings having a curvature radius lower than the threshold value of damage to the hollow MgB2 filament, the method contemplating the thermal treatment c1) is used. In this way, superconductive coils are also obtained for magnets or for components of electro-technical equipment, such as for example coils for engines, generators, transformers, current limiters, magnetic energy accumulators, electromagnetic screens.
In order to guarantee the stabilization of the superconductor filament, in the case of the sudden loss of the superconductive characteristics (quenching), various technologies described in the known art, can be applied, such as for example, covering or englobement of the wire or coil already having superconductive properties, by means of highly thermoconductive metals and contemporaneously with a low electric resistivity (such as Cu, Al, Ag, etc.).
Should the diameter of the hollow areas inside the superconductor filament be sufficiently large as to allow the passage of cooling fluid inside the cavities, the stabilizing action of the coolant itself in contact with the superconductor, can be used.
The basic advantage of the method according to the present invention consists in the fact that it allows the production of superconductor wires based on hollow filaments of MgB2, specifically characterized in that the MgB2 filaments have an internal area without superconductor material, which show superconductor characteristics with high density values of critical current in a magnetic field, also at temperatures higher than 10 K, higher with respect to the data published for the MgB2 filaments obtained with the methods of the known art.
A further advantage of the hollow superconductor filament according to the present invention consists in the fact that the presence of hollow areas inside the superconductor filament can be exploited for the passage of cooling fluid and consequently for a more direct cooling.
The characteristics and advantages of the method according to the present invention will appear more evident from the following detailed and illustrative description.
In particular, in an embodiment of the method according to the present invention, the method for the production of superconductor wires based on hollow filaments made of MgB2 comprises the formation of a composite billet obtained first of all by the insertion of a niobium sheath inside a tubular metallic container.
The tubular metallic container preferably consists of steel with a low carbon content, i.e. with a carbon content lower than 0.2% by weight, or of Cu or one of its alloys containing Ni, or different layers of the above metals.
The Nb sheath consists of a tube or sheet rolled up several times. The total thickness, s, of the Nb sheath is typically linked to the internal diameter of the metallic container, dc, according to the following relation:
A metallic magnesium bar is then coaxially inserted inside the Nb sheath, said bar being a solid cylindrical bar made of pure magnesium (>99%), with a diameter dMg, typically within the following range:
Amorphous boron powder is then inserted in the interspace between the inner wall of the Nb sheath and the Mg bar. The non-crystalline boron powder has a purity higher than or equal to 95% (excluding the possible presence of metallic Mg) and a particle-size with an average diameter of less than 20 micrometers, preferably less than 10 micrometers.
The quantity of boron powder which can be inserted in the interspace is at least that corresponding to a vertical gravitational filling, assisted by vibrations and manual pressure applied with a tube to be inserted in the interspace, thus obtaining a weight ratio between Mg and B preferably ranging from 1.20 to 1.60.
The composite billet thus obtained undergoes one or more treatment cycles or plastic deformation processes, typically represented by extrusion, drawing, swaging, wire-rod rolling, with the possible intercalation of a series of single deformation passages with thermal treatment lasting from 5 to 20 minutes at temperatures ranging from 300° C. to 500° C., to produce a continuous filament end-product, whose length is determined by the reduction ratio between the diameter of the initial billet and the diameter of the final wire and compatible with the absence of structural defects on the wire which may occur if the ductility of the materials forming the billet is not sufficient for resisting typical metallurgical plastic processings.
The filament end-product thus obtained can be subsequently chemically treated with acids, such as with a mixture of HCl/HNO3 (50/50) in the case of iron-based containers. By suitably protecting the heads of the end-product from acid attack, these mixtures allow the external metallic container to dissolve without dissolving the Nb sheath.
The filament end-product resulting after the acid attack consists of the Nb sheath, including Mg and B; it is then subdivided into parts having a length suitable for being assembled in a hexagonal arrangement, according to a series of wires which homogeneously fill a new tubular metallic container, having an internal diameter sufficient for containing the desired set of filaments.
The new tubular metallic container, made of a material analogous to that indicated above, and filled, as stated above, with a set of wires, undergoes a new series of plastic deformation processes, as previously described, until a wire having the desired length and diameter, is obtained.
The wire thus obtained is then wound and the winding of the wire can be a specific winding based on the final application of the product or it can be effected simply for collecting the band.
The filament end-product thus obtained is subsequently subjected to thermal treatment according to one of the following procedures:
Furthermore, the subsequent rewinding of the wire, after baking, must be effected around a support, for example a reel, having a suitable curvature radius, i.e. higher than the mechanical damage limit of the hollow superconductor MgB2 filament.
The preparation of superconductor wires based on hollow filaments of MgB2, according to the method of the present invention, is better illustrated in the following examples which however are non-limiting.
A composite billet was assembled as follows: a cylindrical solid pure magnesium (99%) central core having a diameter of 6.3 mm, was coaxially inserted in a soft steel tube (ST37.4 of Pessina Tubi, Milan) (having diameters of 12(e)/10(i)mm), internally lined with a sheath of Nb sheets (Wah Chang, USA) for an overall thickness of 0.3 mm. Amorphous boron powder having a purity higher than 98% (amorphous: grade 1, Starck H. C., Germany) having an average particle-size lower than 10 micrometers, said powder having been pressed until a weight ratio Mg/B=1.55 is reached, was inserted in the interspace between the niobium sheath and central magnesium core.
The billet was then swaged until an external diameter of 3.66 mm was obtained, the soft steel was then removed from its surface with acid treatment based on an aqueous solution of HNO3+HCl, preventing contamination of the internal products by sealing the ends with a thermosetting resin. The wire-rod thus obtained was divided into seven parts which were inserted, according to a hexagonal arrangement, into a soft steel tube identical to the previous one. This new tube was swaged until a composite filament with an external diameter of 2.5 mm, was obtained.
A sample having a length of 11 cm was taken from the composite wire thus obtained, its ends were sealed with the TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) technique, and it was baked in an oven, in an inert atmosphere of Ar, at 850° C. for 30 minutes.
The baked sample became superconductive, with an average useful section of MgB2 superconductor material of 1 mm2, which surrounds 7 cavities, in a pseudo-hexagonal arrangement, as illustrated in the micrograph of
It was thus verified that the superconductor end-product has zero voltage values until a critical current value is reached, depending on the intensity of the magnetic field applied, as can be seen in the graph of
Table 1 below indicates the values of the critical current density, in relation to the magnetic field applied, measured assuming the criterion that the electric field does not exceed the threshold of 1 microV/cm and evaluated with respect to the area of the superconductor material.
These transport measurements of the critical current density were effected on the same sample, also at different temperatures within the range of 4.2 K to 30 K, obtaining the values indicated in the graph of
The graph of
A composite billet was assembled, consisting of a soft steel tube (ST37.4, Pessina Tubi) having diameters of (20(e)/15(i)mm), in which an Nb tube (Wah Chang) having diameters of (15(e), 13.2(i)mm) was inserted. A solid magnesium cylindrical bar having a diameter of 9.5 mm was placed inside and at the center of the niobium tube, and an amorphous boron powder, grade 1 (Starck) was inserted, having an average particle-size lower than 10 micrometers, pressed as in Example 1, until a weight ratio Mg/B equal to 1.55 was reached.
The billet is swaged until an external diameter of 2.6 mm was reached, and then drawn until an external diameter of 1.5 mm was obtained. A part of the wire-rod obtained is inserted in a new cylindrical container made of the same soft steel described above, having diameters of (4(e)/2(i)mm), and drawn until an external diameter of 2.2 mm is reached.
A part of the monofilament thus obtained, having a length of 9 cm, is removed and, after sealing the ends with Inox steel plugs, it is thermally treated at a temperature of 900° C. for 2 hours in an Ar environment. The section of the superconductor end-product has, on an average, an area of superconductor material of 0.1 mm2, surrounding a single hollow zone, and is reproduced in
The relative results of the critical current density by transport measurements, at various magnetic fields and at a temperature of 4.2 K, according to the procedure and criterion described in Example 1, are indicated in Table 2.