Conductors: the core of our business
Adding value to conductors through constant innovation
Because copper is becoming a semi-precious metal, one major avenue of R&D is to investigate alternative solutions through new designs and experimenting with lighter and more efficient alloys.
For example, signalling cables are used widely where measurement, control or low energy is needed, e.g. on assembly lines. Traditionally, they are made of pure copper. Our researchers developed ables using an exclusive alloy which reduces volume by 35%, cuts weight by 50% and increases strength by 20%.
Our R&D facility has a large set of furnaces including a continuous casting line which enables us to investigate the best way to manufacture these new alloys.
Nexans is also working on copper refining methods to recycle used copper from cable scrap or other copper refuse into the high-purity copper necessary to manufacture high-quality cable. While electro-refining has been used for years to produce very high purity copper, it uses vast amounts of premium energy (electricity), while chemical refining is much more energy-efficient.
Nexans is also developing aluminum-based materials for new cabling applications. To meet the needs of wind turbine manufacturers, we created WINDLINK® aluminum energy cables which weigh half as much as copper power cables, making them cheaper and easier to handle and install in high towers.
The Nexans Research Centre in Lens has also started ambitious research programs to develop conductive materials with higher performance. It is one of the many examples of partnership that we have with academic labs and industrial partners.
Our partners are located in Europe, but also in Asia Pacific region, and in the Americas. Local partners give us the access to state-of-the art investigation equipment: Transmission Electronic Microscopes, Atom Probes, etc.
Energy networks are always seeking for more and more transmission capacity by replacing lines with new conductors that can deliver higher ampacity, operate safely at higher temperatures, without straining towers and pylons, or generating dangerous sag.
In addition to finding new aluminum-steel and all aluminum designs for classical overhead transmission lines (operating up to 90ºC), Nexans is constantly developing high-capacity conductors which can operate ≤250ºC by incorporating new metals, alloys and composites:
- Aluminum alloys for high temperatures
- Invar steel and AT3 aluminum for tight spans
- Composite carbon cores for lightness
This latter composite conductor allows for spans up to 2.5 km to reduce the number of pylons and span broad rivers and valleys.
To develop innovative conductor solutions, our teams use advanced computer modeling. This allows us to fine-tune the design of conductors so as to optimize electrical performance and mechanical behavior.