Top Tech: Mighty, Mighty Cable

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TechnologyHigh Temperature, High Strength, High Voltage Communications Cable

AgencyNaval Research Laboratory

Hey cables!  Mighty, mighty cables.  Can you take the heat?  Because if not, NRL has made a cable that can.  The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has developed a cable for high voltage electrical and/or optical transmission capable of operating at temperatures up to 1000 °C, hundreds of degrees higher than existing cables.

What is it?

This is a turbo-cable.  Industrial strength.  This is no phone charger cord or hair dryer coil.  We’re talking the real deal, folks.  For people who work with a lot of technical equipment – like people who run power stations, for example – having a cable that can do the job and withstand the heat that comes with it is more than beneficial.  The fact that it can do both fiber optic and high voltage is interesting.  The NRL cable also has superior tensile strength at high temperatures compared to existing cables.

So why is this so exciting?  Well, think about it this way: when you need something done – like say, transporting something heavy like your home goods – don’t you want a truck that can handle the weight?  Or taking something out of an oven.  Don’t you want an oven mitt that will grip and keep your hand free of burns?  This is the same principle: it can handle the pressure of the job it’s designed to do with a “cool” demeanor (if you will).

What does that mean?

If you need to build a home base inside of a volcano, then this is the cable you want to use.

These properties are achieved in a relatively small diameter by the use of high temperature components, including NRL’s patented 250-μm diameter fused silica and metal microwire, optical fibers, glass rods, and glass braids. Small and effective, with quite a rate of resistance to extreme elements.  See that’s the kicker.  The military functions in extreme weather environments.  Granted, not surface-of-the-Sun extreme, but having a cable with the power to coil comfortably there is pretty unique.

The components are also relatively inert, making the cable suitable for use in chemically harsh environments as well.  Individual cables can be configured to meet a range of specifications. Other high temperature components, such as fibers and braiding material composed of high temperature glasses, ceramics, or metals, may be incorporated for additional functionality.

What does it do?

Let’s take a look at the statistics.  The high voltage and high temperature operation is E.g., 10kV @ 650 °C or 5kV @ 1000 °C.  The high strength is demonstrated at 2750 MPa at room temperature.  It also maintains a functional tensile strength up to 1000 °C.  The cable diameter is approximately 2.5 mm in diameter with 7 active components and 2 braids.  Optional ZylonTM over-braid reduces damage by abrasion.

This cable has the capacity to deal with a lot of extreme circumstances.  It’s lightweight.  It’s capable of handling extreme voltage.  This is a handy thing to have in extreme environments.  You know, like the ones service members often work in and deal with, for example.

Hint, hint.

How can this help?

This cable works with critical communications, and can power deployment in harsh environments.  So let’s talk about what that could do for the military.  The fire protection for electrical and optical systems is beneficial in critical infrastructure, ships, aircraft, and various harsh environments.  The powered tow lines can handle the operational pay loads on aircraft and other platforms.

For as much as we’re becoming a wireless world, the cables we still need have to be able to really hold their own.  We require more and more from the equipment that we use.  Stronger, faster, better.  Well that’s what this cable is: the 2.0 version of fiber optic cable.

My take?

I feel like this is something that would be good to use in space.  Think about it.  Harsh environments.  Smaller cable.  Saves space.  2 in 1 functionality.  All beneficial.  Case closed, right?

Great!  *strolls off with self-confident swagger*

Okay okay, so space might not be a place we can deploy to (yet), but having a cable that can handle the elements with the power of the gods seems like it is something that can really serve service members.  When you’re working in extreme environments of any sort, it’s not just the people who are working under pressure.  The equipment is weathering the conditions, too.  This cable could make things safer and more effective in the field (or in orbit…I’m just sayin’) for everyone.

When it comes down to it, making the mission easier to achieve with less stress and difficulty is great for everyone.  No one wants to use outdated, less-efficient systems when the latest and greatest promises convenience and protection that’s virtually unprecedented.  My take is jump on board this titan-like cable and make it happen.  It’s easy, it’s effective, and it’s needed.  I’m a sucker for efficiency in technology, but then again I think we all ought to be.

And besides, these cables are practically lava-proof.  And really, how many of us can say our cables can do that?

Want to learn more?  Click here for more information on this technology!

Are you interested more federal inventions? The Naval Research Laboratory has a broad portfolio of technologies that are available for commercialization. Visit their official website to learn more!


Jessica L. Tozer is a blogger for DoDLive and Armed With Science.  She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for technology in the military.

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