The EcoSwing project, funded by the European Union, is aiming to demonstrate a dramatically lower cost, lightweight wind turbine drivetrain using superconducting ceramic tape instead of rare earth elements.
The tape is made using a ceramic superconducting layer with gadolinium-barium-copper oxide, with a steel ribbon at its back and protection against metal poisoning through layers of magnesium oxide and silver. It is cooled using the same sort of cryo-cooling currently used in MRI scanners.
A conventional wind turbine uses up to tonne of rare earth elements. Using the superconducting tape reduces this to as little a one kilogram. The resulting turbine is about half the size and weight of a conventional turbine with the same output.
The technology is currently being tested in a 3.6MW wind turbine at a demanding site at Thyborøn, Denmark. The test phase is expected to last for 12 months.