Taking Conductivity to the Next Level: CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize Opens Stage 2

April 25, 2022 | By Brittany Enos | Contact media relations

A close up of a cable of wires
The CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize asks innovators to design and make conductivity-enhanced materials that have the potential to upgrade and expand aging electric, transportation, and industrial infrastructures in the United States. Graphic by NREL

Electricity flows through conductors, making them essential to nearly all energy applications. They transmit power to our homes, cars, and through our devices. Commonly made of metals like copper and aluminum, conductive materials have changed little in more than a century.

To help fast-track affordable, next-generation enhanced-conductivity materials, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office launched the Conductivity-enhanced materials for Affordable, Breakthrough Leapfrog Electric and thermal applications (CABLE) Conductor Manufacturing Prize. In October 2021, 10 teams were selected as Stage 1 winners. Now, Stage 2 is officially open.

Administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, this $4.5 million, three-stage prize challenges teams to design and make conductivity-enhanced materials. To help upgrade and expand aging electric, transportation, and industrial infrastructures in the United States, competitors also propose ways to apply these materials. Their novel designs could help lower costs and improve grid performance—including during extreme weather events.

“As the United States transitions to a clean energy economy, aiming to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, electrifying the nation’s infrastructure and grid will be key,” said Matt Ringer, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Advanced Manufacturing Program manager. “Affordable, conductivity-enhanced materials are necessary to make this transition and to support transformational renewable technologies critical for climate solutions.”

In Stage 1, teams submitted breakthrough concepts for more conductive (and affordable) materials that could be used for key electrical applications. Now, the competition will ramp up in Stage 2, when teams take their materials from concept to reality, producing a sample of their material for evaluation by prize-approved testing labs. While Stage 2 centers on electrical conductivity testing, competitors will also provide cost and materials data and prepare preliminary commercialization plans to scale up and manufacture their materials.

Stage 2 is not limited to only Stage 1 winners. New competitors, along with all teams that participated in Stage 1, can join Stage 2 of the prize. During the second stage, teams will compete for a $200,000 cash award and a $100,000 noncash voucher to support work with one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories or other American-Made Challenges network providers to obtain testing services, scientific and technical assistance, and conductor assessments.

Only competitors who win Stage 2 will move on to the third and final stage of the competition, during which they will manufacture a larger sample of their conductivity-enhanced materials and develop further plans to commercialize their designs. Up to four winning teams will split a total prize pool of at least $2 million in Stage 3.

Are you ready to put your conductive creativity to work? Join Stage 2 of the CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize challenge today.

Learn more about the prize.