THE VISION

Figure 2.1 illustrates the vision for superconductivity of Japan's International Superconductivity Technology Center, ISTEC, which is Japan's large high temperature superconductivity (HTS) research center funded by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). In addition to its research responsibilities, ISTEC is charged with projecting the impact of superconducting technology. In its ultimate flowering, the Japanese expect superconductivity to impact human needs broadly: transportation, energy, information, and health technologies are all anticipated to benefit. Also embodied in ISTEC's picture is the sense of building on strong roots. The vision places more weight on large-scale applications of superconductivity than on superconducting electronics. It is also exclusively a commercial vision, with no evident counterpart of the defense emphasis present in the United States. Interestingly, there are no radically new applications shown. Moreover, most of the applications envisaged were initially conceived for low temperature superconducting (LTS) materials either in the United States or in Europe, although Japan's emphasis (for example, on transportation) clearly reflects the special nature of this country and its needs.

The vision is also not expected to play out fully until well into the next century. ISTEC has assembled panels of experts to project both the time scale on which specific products will become technically feasible and the aggregate projected market value of these products (Fig. 2.2). Figure 2.3 includes projections from the U.S. Council on Superconductivity for American Competitiveness (CSAC) and Connectus as well as ISTEC. Both figures include both LTS and HTS products. The greater importance of large-scale applications is once again evident. There are many more large-scale applications indicated than applications in superconducting electronics. In the long run (note the time scale extending to 2040 in Fig. 2.2), HTS products are expected to dominate. In particular, the number of HTS products is projected to exceed those of LTS by the year 2003. The market value of superconducting technologies projected by ISTEC and others is impressive. The total market in the year 2010 is projected to be around $40 billion, of which about $16 billion is in superconducting electronics. In the year 2020, these numbers are projected to rise to about $122 billion and $70 billion, respectively (Fig. 2.3).


Fig. 2.1. Application tree of high-Tc superconductivity (ISTEC).


Fig. 2.2. ISTEC timeline of technical product feasibility.
*This forecast includes the expected expansion of sales by 100% into countries outside the United States, European Union, and Japan, as predicted by the World Bank.


Fig. 2.3. Forecast of superconductivity sales opportunities (ISTEC).

How realistic are these projections? This panel was not well constituted to evaluate projections of market size; we sense, however, that the market will not develop nearly as fast as Figure 2.3 projects, if only because a manufacturing technology sufficient to sustain an $8 billion industry in the year 2000 does not exist and would be hard to build up in only two years. On the other hand, the panel judges that the projections of superconducting electronic product technical feasibility (Fig. 2.2) are plausible, given sufficient investment.


Published: July 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian