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Identifying New Fields of Application for Superconductors

27/06/2017

CERN / Sommersemester 2017

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Problem

The phenomenon of superconductivity was discovered around 100 years ago but has yet to find its way everyday life. In an effort to transfer this leading-edge technology into the homes of citizens, the European Organization of Nuclear Research (CERN) established a collaboration with the Vienna University of Economics and Business to research new fields of application that generate socio-economical value. In line with the course New Business Development at the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, six students have identified and evaluated new fields of application.

Method

The process builds upon the Technological Competence Leveraging method and leverages different social search techniques in order to generate benefits of the technology from a user’s perspective. The identified core benefits were labelled “high current capacity on a small scale”, “generating strong electromagnetic fields” and “long-term energy storage / instant release of high power”. Focusing on these benefits, extensive database research and more than 120 qualitative interviews with experts from a broad range of industries have been carried out. 29 potential application areas have been identified and have been subsequently narrowed down to 3 specific cases: Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), sorting machines for the fruit industry and large loudspeaker systems. Those three topics served for detailed analysis, including identification of market potentials, evaluation of a commercial adaption and a development of a business strategy.

Results
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS):
    UPS Systems are technologies for energy storage can deliberately take on and deliver power when necessary. The European market for data-center UPS is driven by an increasing usage of cloud-based applications, soaring data volume and the increasing need for secure ways of externally storing information. This shift of IT-outsourcing has encouraged growth among large facilities (over 500 kW) rising expectations to a 5% CAGR until 2021. Market demand is experiencing a shift towards highly efficient UPS solutions, as current ones do not exceed 90% efficiency. In addition, increasing industrial investment and easily substitutable technologies carving up the $900 Mio. market increase the potential for a successful superconductor-based implementation in UPS systems.

  • Sorting machines for the fruit industry:
    Sorting Machines in the fruit industry facilitate the determination of fruit-quality. Superconductor technology can find use in sorting machines in an NMR-centered system scanning the fruits. The new scanning technology enables for producers to accurately determine ripeness, compressive strength, absence of seeds, cavities and density differences in a non-destructive way. All of which are major factors in ensuring high fruit-quality to end-consumers. Yet, the most beneficial one is analysing the maturity of fruits, which can provide a substantial profit for producers by preventing large-scale losses resulting from poor ripeness estimations. Adequately illustrating the problem, 30% of all avocados shipped from Mexico to Europe have to be discarded.
    The market has not yet been supplied a feasible technology addressing such matters. Therefore, fruit producers’ willingness-to-pay will offset higher initial prices given the assumption that a superconducting solution manages to conduct fruit-analysis at a satisfying pace. In 2016, sorting machine manufacturers have made $ 360 Mio profits by selling products analyzing apples, pears and citrus fruits. Accumulating these numbers by the whole variety of fruit production indicates an industry large enough to make investments in expensive machinery to reduce unnecessary costs.

  • Large loudspeaker systems:
    Superconducting materials can be used in powerful loudspeakers, especially in PA (Public Address) -systems. Sound quality and compactness are likely to increase and power consumption would be reduced. The European market for PA-systems has been taken as the basis for this study. A major concern among European manufacturers has been the search for the next big step in loudspeaker evolution in order to defend against increasing low-priced competition from Asia.  A major driver of the $ 500 Mio industry is the growing interest in high sound quality and compactness of PA-systems in sports stadiums and for temporary constructions like music festivals.

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Cooperation Partner

  • CERN
    CH-1211 Geneva 23
    Switzerland

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Contact Person

Student team

  • Dominik Aschauer

  • Eva Drahoss

  • Mathias Kindl

  • Jakob Kofler

  • Jakob Spiess

  • Christoph von Aufschnaiter

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Project-Manager

  • Mag. Philipp Topic

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