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Quantumness in the physics of AC electric power grids

May 3, 2021 - 11:00am
Philippe Jacquod
University of Geneva and HES-SO/Valais

Covering areas as large as entire continents, high-voltage power grids have a priori little to do with quantum mechanics. Yet, upon closer inspection, interesting analogies emerge with quantum / wave-coherent phenomena such as the Josephson effect, vortices in superfluids or multiple coherent scattering. This is so, because the operational state of AC power grids is determined by complex voltages at buses on a two-dimensional network.

In this talk I will give an introduction to the equations describing the dynamics and the operational steady-state of AC power grids. Josephson physics directly emerges from the steady-state equations in the limit of very high voltages. When considering a power grid on a meshed network, this raises the possibility of vortex formation with associated persistent power currents [1]. I will discuss four dynamical mechanisms for vortex formation and their connection to quantum phase slips in superconducting nanorings. Time pending, I may briefly discuss multiple scattering of frequency-disturbances and how they can give rise to wave-coherent phenomena over thousands of miles in continental grids [2]. I will conclude with assessing how much of these analogies are relevant to today’s power grid operation.

[1] T. Coletta, R. Delabays, and Ph. Jacquod, “Topologically protected loop flows in high voltage AC power grids”, New J. Phys. 18, 103042 (2016)

[2] M. Tyloo, L. Pagnier, and Ph. Jacquod, "The key player problem in complex oscillator networks and electric power grids", Sci. Adv. 5, eaaw8359 (2019)

Host: Victor Yakovenko

We are hosting the Spring 2021 JQI Seminars virtually as Zoom meetings. JQI members and affiliates will receive a Zoom link in an email announcing each seminar. For those without access to Zoom, we will also be live streaming each seminar on YouTube. Once a seminar starts, you will find a link to the live stream on our YouTube page at is external).