updated 6/1/2006 8:02:39 AM ET 2006-06-01T12:02:39

Researchers are trying to develop cryogenically cooled electronics that will greatly reduce the size of the electric generators the Navy's warships need to power radar, propulsion, weapons systems and other electronics.

"In going to the all-electric ship, it is absolutely essential to have high power density motors to drive the ship," said Donald Gubser, a scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.  "They need six times more than what is needed in a commercial liner.  These are power-hungry machines."

The lab is working with researchers at the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and at MTECH Laboratories LLC of Ballston Spa, N.Y.

Since the project began in 2004, the researchers have already proven the concept works with the help of more than $5 million in Navy funding.  They are now working to develop a prototype by 2007.

Ultimately, the researchers want to reduce the size of a Navy ship's motors, typically the size of a truck trailer, by about half and cut the weight by a third. Conventional motors weigh up to 220 tons.

Scientists have created 200 millimeter wafers carrying 1,000 microchips on a disk smaller than a dinner plate.  The disks are stacked to create a power inverter module that works with no mechanical parts.  The inverters would be part of a power system that can conduct electricity without any resistance when cooled to minus 322 degrees Fahrenheit.

Michael Hennessy, president of MTECH, said commercial applications are years away, but the technology could one day be used in aircraft, industrial plants and commercial buildings.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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