Mixing Electricity and Water

Aug 09, 2007
Mixing Electricity and Water
SLAC physicist Andrew Fisher holds a section of heavy copper winding used as a conductor in electromagnets, hollowed out to carry low conductivity cooling water.

Every hair dryer in America is tagged with a large warning label not to use it near water for one obvious reason: mixing the two could result in electrocution and even death. But did you know that it is not actually the water that presents the threat?

Water in its purest form is not conductive. Instead, it is the impurities in the water—salts, dust, and so on—that enables it to conduct electricity.

In fact, low conductivity water (LCW)—which is purified and deionized—has been used for decades to cool high-voltage equipment such as magnets and klystrons.

LCW commonly flows through accelerator magnets to cool them. These rectangular, copper or aluminum wires measure up to two inches per side and are coiled in various arrangements to produce magnetic fields of different shapes and strengths. A hole in these copper wires carries LCW to remove heat generated by the electric currents.

"SLAC makes a lot of hot water," said SLAC electrical engineer Martin Berndt, who has designed magnets and power supplies that use LCW at SLAC for over 30 years. "It is a great way of removing heat from high-power electrical devices."

The PEP ring, the SSRL ring and various beam transport lines contain many magnets that use LCW. Unlike hair dryers, the concern with mixing water and electricity in the magnets is not electrocution, but corrosion. Lowering the water's conductivity effectively minimizes this corrosiveness.

Without LCW, the magnets would slowly be eaten away from the inside out and engineers would have to find another way to dissipate as much as 30 megawatts—16,000 hair dryers worth—of power every day.

Source: by Ken Kingery, SLAC Today

Explore further: Thermoelectric power plants could offer economically competitive renewable energy

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Why the Sony hack isn't big news in Japan

3 hours ago

Japan's biggest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, featured a story about Sony Corp. on its website Friday. It wasn't about hacking. It was about the company's struggling tablet business.

Hopes, fears, doubts surround Cuba's oil future

4 hours ago

One of the most prolific oil and gas basins on the planet sits just off Cuba's northwest coast, and the thaw in relations with the United States is giving rise to hopes that Cuba can now get in on the action.

Ancient clay seals may shed light on biblical era

4 hours ago

Impressions from ancient clay seals found at a small site in Israel east of Gaza are signs of government in an area thought to be entirely rural during the 10th century B.C., says Mississippi State University archaeologist ...

Off-world manufacturing is a go with space printer

6 hours ago

On Friday, the BBC reported on a NASA email exchange with a space station which involved astronauts on the International Space Station using their 3-D printer to make a wrench from instructions sent up in ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.