The Successful Testing of an Advanced Electrical Motor Developed with New Optimization Tools

Achievement date: 
2018
Outcome/accomplishment: 

Scientists successfully tested an advanced motor, using air‐core permanent magnets, that could power all-electric passenger aircraft in research supported by the Center for Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems (POETS), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) based at the University of Illinois.

Impact/benefits: 

The POETS research resulted in a motor with electric-machine-specific power that increased by two-to-four times the current output from state-of-the-art motors. The technology could prove key to enabling aircraft electrification. The research also yielded efficient, multi-physics optimization tools for accurately predicting electric and thermal performance of such a machine.

Explanation/Background: 

More efficient batteries and motors must be developed to enable passenger travel in airplanes fully propelled by electricity. The machine-specific power (power-to-weight ratio) is usually constrained by the thermal and mechanical properties of material. To maximize machine-specific power, electrical, thermal and mechanical capabilities have to be considered together. The POETS scientists illustrated how to balance those capabilities with an efficient, multi-physics model of a high-frequency, air-core Halbach-array PM motor.

Using their model, the researchers successfully tested a full-size rotor at up to 18,000 RPM (tip speed up to 275 m/s), and validated performance of self‐pumping fan with over 20 m/s axial air flow at 15,000 RPM.