INTERNATIONAL energy experts are visiting an Oxfordshire company which could hold the key to more efficient power transmission in future, writes Maggie Hartford

Members of The International Energy Agency have asked to visit Oxford Instruments Superconductivity, as a key part of their annual meeting.

The authority is assessing the effect on the world's electricity systems of so-called "high-temperature super- conductivity".

High-temperature superconductivity involves materials which conduct electricity super-efficiently at below -150 deg C. While this may seem very cold, it is 100 degrees warmer than conventional superconductivity and is much cheaper. The agency has already outlined the technology's economic and practical benefits, including improved power service quality, longer-life transformers and increased energy storage efficiency.

Underground superconducting power lines could increase power density, but use existing tunnels to reduce installation costs and environmental impact.

Dr Alan Street, technical director at Oxford Instruments Superconductivity, said high-temperature superconducting technology held a great deal of promise for the energy sector.

He said: "All around the world progress is being made and prototype devices are under construction.

"As a world leader in the application of superconducting technology we are known for our research and for turning our ideas into working solutions. That is why we are pleased to host the IEA visit."

The visitors will get a sneak preview of the world's only working 900MHz NMR magnet, housed in its new laboratory.

They will also have a chance to see the healthcare applications of superconductivity at one of Superconductivity's sister companies, Oxford Magnet Technology, where Magnetic Resonance Imaging body scanners will be on display.