Superconducting motor to increase power density

May 24, 2007 By Lisa Zyga feature
Superconducting motor to increase power density
The scientists’ experimental setup: (1) stationary cryostat; (2) induction motor; (3) belts; (4) sliding, contacts—(a) brushes, (b) rings. Image credit: Ailam, et al. ©IEEE 2007.

The field of electric motors has recently entered a new era. The electric motors that you see today in everything from washing machines, toys, and fans use the same basic principles as motors from 50 years ago. But with the realization of using superconducting wire to replace conventional copper coils, motors are becoming more compact, more energy efficient, and less expensive, which will have advantages particularly for large industrial applications.

Recently, scientists El Hadj Ailam and colleagues working at the Université Henri Poincaré in Nancy, France and the Center for Advanced Power Systems in Tallahassee, Florida, have designed and tested a superconducting rotating machine based on an unconventional topology. Their results, which are published in IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity, show promising opportunities for the motor.

“This work has two goals,” Ailam, who is currently with the Centre Universitaire Khemis Miliana in Algeria, told PhysOrg.com. “The first is to show the feasibility of an electrical motor based on the magnetic flux density, and the second is to demonstrate that superconductors can significantly ameliorate the electrical machine performances.”

Building on high-temperature motors designed over the past few years, Ailam et al.’s motor is a low-temperature, eight-pole machine with a stationary superconducting inductor. Unlike copper coils, the niobium-titanium (NbTi) inductor coils in this design have no electrical resistance, which is one of the greatest advantages of superconductors.

When the two NbTi coils are fed with currents moving in opposite directions, the currents create a magnetic field. Located between the two coils, four superconducting bulk plates (made of YBaCuO, or yttrium barium copper oxide) shape and distribute the magnetic flux lines, which then induces an alternating electromagnetic field based on the magnetic concentration. A rotating armature wound with copper wires then converts the electrical energy to mechanical energy, which is eventually transferred to an application.

In this design, the entire inductor is cooled to 4.2 K using liquid helium to enable zero electrical resistance in the coils. (The scientists explain that high-temperature wires could also work in this configuration.) As with all superconducting motors, the superconducting wire can carry larger amounts of current than copper wire, and therefore create more powerful magnetic fields in a smaller amount of space than conventional motors.

“For the majority of electrical superconducting machines, the structure is a classical one, and the magnetic flux is a radial one,” Ailam explained. “[However,] for our machine, the inductor magnetic flux is an axial one.”

To test the performance of the motor, the scientists calculated the magnetic scalar potential, which tells the strength of a magnetic field in a certain area, and then determined the magnetic flux density, which is the quantity of magnetism in that area. As the scientists explained, the maximal value of the flux density exists in between two of the bulk plates, while the minimum value exists behind the plates; a large difference in magnetic flux density maximizes the motor’s performance by generating a more powerful magnetic field.

The group experimentally demonstrated a performance of 118.8 volts for the motor. Further, they calculated a theoretical generated voltage of 172.5 volts, and explained that the difference is due to an uncertain value for the difference in the maximal and minimal values of the magnetic fields around the bulk plates, which was not directly measured. Improving this difference in magnetic flux density will hopefully increase the motor’s voltage.

“As we demonstrate in another paper, under realization, using this structure with several superconducting wires and 20 mW generated power decreases the inductor volume 20-50 percent in comparison to a classical electrical machine,” Ailam said.

In the near future, the group plans to design and construct a 100 kW superconducting machine using the same configuration.

“The major advantages of these motors are a high power-volume density and a high torque-volume density, and less vibration than for the conventional motors,” Ailam said. “I think that the maritime propulsion can and the electrical traction generally can benefit principally to these motors.”

Citation: Ailam, El Hadj, Netter, Denis, Lévêque, Jean, Douine, Bruno, Masson, Philippe J., and Rezzoug, Abderrezak. “Design and Testing of a Superconducting Rotating Machine.” IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity, Vol. 17, No. 1, March 2007.

Copyright 2007 PhysOrg.com.
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of PhysOrg.com.

Explore further: Weyl fermions exhibit paradoxical behavior

Related Stories

Weyl fermions exhibit paradoxical behavior

May 23, 2017

Theoretical physicists have found Weyl fermions to exhibit paradoxical behavior in contradiction to a 30-year-old fundamental theory of electromagnetism. The discovery has possible applications in spintronics. The study ...

Entropy landscape sheds light on quantum mystery

May 12, 2017

By precisely measuring the entropy of a cerium copper gold alloy with baffling electronic properties cooled to nearly absolute zero, physicists in Germany and the United States have gleaned new evidence about the possible ...

Physicists develop ultrathin superconducting film

April 6, 2017

Experimental physicists in the research group led by Professor Uwe Hartmann at Saarland University have developed a thin nanomaterial with superconducting properties. Below about -200 °C these materials conduct electricity ...

Recommended for you

Chinese fans trash blackout as Google AI wins again

May 25, 2017

Chinese netizens fumed Thursday over a government ban on live coverage of Google algorithm AlphaGo's battle with the world's top Go player, as the programme clinched their three-match series in the ancient board game.

Shedding light on how humans walk... with robots

May 24, 2017

Learning how to walk is difficult for toddlers to master; it's even harder for adults who are recovering from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other condition, requiring months of intensive, often frustrating physical ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.