But the leading world energy players are determined to tackle those depths. “They ask us, ‘Do you have the technology to make such a cable?’ It is a challenge. The system has to be designed, a more highly performing product produced (perhaps without steel and using composite materials) otherwise it is not technically possible to lay it on the seabed, where it has to last for at least 40 years. Fortunately,” comments Andrade, “we like a challenge.”
Another future scenario sees carmakers who build electric vehicles needing lighter cars in order to fit heavier batteries. “We are thinking about how to pass more power through the fibres to supply the electrical circuits, thereby replacing copper or aluminium cables with optical fibre, which at the moment is only capable of switching headlights on or off, but cannot support the necessary power supply,” says Andrade.
New materials present another test, starting with the graphene used in certain compounds. How can it be used? “We still do not know precisely, we are studying it. It seems interesting as a barrier against liquids entering the cables, but we have to understand how much it costs, and how much to actually put in the compounds.” There is also ethanol current used to ensure eco-sustainable products. Or carbon nanotubes, a sort of spun yarn that is an efficient conductor and weighs five times less than copper, with the added benefit of having greater electrical and chemical performance. Flexible and light, it appears ideal for applications such as elevators, aviation and our homes. “We are just starting to study these new materials”, recounts the engineer. Including one he jokingly calls ‘the chilli pepper’ – a truly innovative core that will be added to the common polypropylene base.