Australian Defence to explore use of high temperature superconductors

The Australian Defence Science and Technology Group, Queensland University of Technology, and Siemens have formed a partnership to explore the future application of HTS technologies in defence.

Siemens has signed a research agreement with the Australian Government Department of Defence's Defence Science and Technology Group (DST) and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) to advance the use of high temperature superconducting (HTS) technologies in Australia.

Siemens Australia

According to Siemens, the "long term collaborative relationship" will conduct research into HTS and explore its applications to Australia's maritime defence and industrial power requirements with the intent to transition research findings into technology that can be trialled.

"For the Australian Navy, this partnership opens a pathway to more energy-efficient ships and more effective capacity utilisation," Siemens Australia CEO Jeff Connolly said. "They will also have less environmental impact and will be cheaper to operate."

The German company said it is investing 15 years of HTS knowledge into the partnership in Australia to develop the next generation of HTS experts.

"An initial investment value of approximately AU$2 million in equipment and resources and AU$0.5 million in research and development hours has been committed," Siemens said. "[The investment amount] will increase as new research and development projects are initiated under the collaboration."

Professor Arun Sharma, deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Commercialisation at QUT said the university was "uniquely equipped" to undertake such research and development, thanks to its expertise and facilities, including the Banyo Pilot Plant Precinct, which is a specialist research centre for structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering.

"QUT's purpose-built facility has specialist capabilities for large-scale engineering research, testing, and validation," Sharma said. "Our partnership with Siemens puts QUT at the international forefront of superconducting motor research, an area of research that has the potential to radically transform many industries including maritime propulsion and transport drive systems."

Sharma said the partnership enables QUT to pioneer research into superconducting motors and generators that can potentially replace diesel propulsion by superconducting derived magnetic fields.

"As the world strives to find more efficient and cleaner ways to power ships and other forms of large-scale transport, QUT will be testing this superconducting motor and at the same time looking at the other potential uses and benefits of this new technology."

As part of the Queensland State Government's Advance Queensland initiative, QUT in partnership with pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson, will receive part of a AU$180 million investment that is to be distributed across multiple programs.

"Advance Queensland will help make our state a place where industry, universities, and government work together to take great ideas, turn them into investment-ready proposals, attract that investment, and create jobs," Queensland Premier and Minister for the Arts Annastacia Palaszczuk said in July.

"Queensland can attract the world's biggest companies to our shores, but we should also be trying to create major companies of our own; by making innovation and knowledge-based industries a key focus of this government, we are intent of delivering a new era of opportunity for Queenslanders."

Last month, DST Group went to tender seeking a high performance supercomputer to support its aerodynamic simulation, following the footsteps of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, which signed a AU$77 million supercomputer contract in July with American manufacturer Cray to provide the bureau with a Linux-based supercomputer.

Also in September, the Department of Defence announced it will be splitting an investment of AU$14.2 million amongst seven organisations: Armor Composite Engineering, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Micro-X Ocius Technology, University of Canberra, the BOM, and Deakin University. The department said the funding aims to help with the development of new defence technology capabilities.

Former Minister for Defence Kevin Andrews had said at the time that since the program was established, Defence has invested AU$270 million in 118 projects, and of these, 104 projects had successfully demonstrated the feasibility of their technologies.

In August, the DST Group launched a study to explore virtual reality (VR) and its potential future application within the defence force. The department teamed up with California-based VR manufacturer Oculus to perform the study, which included up to 60 defence civilian and military personnel. The study was administered to improve training, education, and performance within the military environment.