In the News: Daily Camera

As published by the Daily Camera:

Boulder’s Advanced Conductor Technologies looks to revolutionize high-temp cables
By Zach Whittaker For the Camera Posted: 08/05/2012 06:00:00 PM MDT

Danko van der Laan of Boulder s Advanced Conductor Technologies LLC holds one of the high-temperature superconducting cables the company makes. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

Many know Boulder as a hub for technology and innovation. A new company, Advanced Conductor Technologies LLC, is hoping to further solidify that reputation.

Founded by Danko van der Laan, a researcher at the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the company’s focus is on commercializing high-temperature superconducting (HTS) cables. Van der Laan believes his new technology may help revolutionize how HTS cables are used.

HST cables originally were developed to run in metropolitan electrical grids, and while high-temperature superconductors already have been employed as electrical conductors in a number of other applications, the market penetration of HTS cables themselves has been relatively slow.

This is what Van der Laan is hoping to change with his new HTS cables.

“These cables are important for a lot of applications,” Van der Laan said. “The cables I’ve been developing are interesting in the fact that they are very small. You have very high power in a very small cable.”

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The HTS cables Advanced Conductor Technologies is producing perform similarly to current, conventional HTS cables, but do so at a much lighter weight, higher flexibility and compact size. This means it may now be feasible to use HTS cables in areas where they couldn’t be used before, such as on board ships, aircraft and in data centers.

The new, slim cables also have applications in a wide array of scientific, electrical and medical equipment, such as in the next generation of fusion reactors and in magnets for energy storage and particle accelerators.

Van der Laan founded Advanced Conductor Technologies in June 2011. Within a year of its founding, the company was awarded three small business grants from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.

“The Department of Energy had their funding announcement for small business grants in July of last year,” said Van der Laan. “It was very good timing to start the company and submit a couple of proposals.”

Recently, Advanced Conductor Technologies completed an exclusive option agreement with CU that will help the company further its development of HTS cables.

“The exclusive option agreement with CU is an important step for my company to develop what are now called conductor on round core cables,” Van der Laan said.

The option agreement will help necessitate Van der Laan’s pursuit in securing a license for his technology, said Ted Weverka, an official with CU’s Technology Transfer Office.

“When an employee at the university invents something, our office pursues patent rights through the U.S. Patent Office,” Weverka said. “An option is the first step in this. It is a promise we will not license it to anyone else.”

Van der Laan’s business has found a great ally in CU.

“The university has completely supported this,” he said. “They are very supportive of research and start ups.”

Weverka has been impressed by the innovation and tenacity Van der Laan has shown.

“(He’s) very aggressively going after funding to take those early steps and prove the technology,” Weverka said. “It’s very promising.”

Even while his company continues to grow, Van der Laan hasn’t quit his day job at CU. “I’m still employed at the university at about 50 percent capacity,” Van der Laan said.

Still, Advanced Conductor Technologies seems poised to grow in the coming
years, even while the company is still in its early stages.

“As of this point we’re at three employees, all of them are part-time,” Van der Laan said. “We’re working off Phase I business grants. If this is successful we’ll go to Phase II, which will enable us to hire people full time and set up a small cabling facility. And that is the goal.”

Weverka also has high hopes for the future of the company.

“I think once it gets traction, people will be beating down (Van der Laan’s) door to get this to market.”