An alliance of Furukawa Electric Co and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) of Japan has created a superconducting material for power cables that is capable of more than 100 times the capacity of conventional copper cables.

The wire that forms the new cable, which apparently costs around the same to produce as conventional cables at around ¥5 per ampere-meter (¢4.8), are made from a thin film of an yttrium-type high-temperature super-conducting material that is layered on a base of nickel.

A one meter long prototype cable comprises 20 of these wires but is capable of carrying a maximum current of 1,459 A.

Most high-temperature superconducting cables are formed from bismuth compounds, which are made using large quantities of silver. The yttrium-type cable costs around a quarter of the cost of bismuth-type cables.

In the next phase a 500 m long cable will be fabricated and Furukawa aims to have a commercially viable cable ready by around 2015.