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University of Sheffield engineers to develop new cost-effective, fluid-based method for cooling industrial electrical machines

New thermomagnetic liquids to be developed by engineers from the University of Sheffield could be the solution needed to enable cost-effective cooling of next generation industrial electrical machines.


In order to overcome the challenges currently faced by traditional cooling technologies, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has granted Dr Guang-Jin Li of the University of Sheffield’s Energy Institute and Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering a fund of £461,859.


He will work with partners Professor Zi-Qiang Zhu and Professor Nicola Morley, from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, to develop low-cost, high power density solutions that can be used by the automotive, renewable energy and aerospace sectors to further capabilities for electric vehicles and hybrids, wind power machinery and electrical aircraft, among other technologies.


Running from May 2020 until April 2022, the Advanced Thermomagnetic Cooling for Ultrahigh Power Density Electrical Machines project will combine the expertise of materials science and electrical engineering to develop a novel thermomagnetic liquid cooling for machine windings. Using a medium based on ferro-fluids, which can self-drive cooling fluids towards high-temperature areas of electrical machinery, thermomagnetic liquids can both increase a machine’s lifespan and its efficiency by reducing loss of power.


The use of liquids could achieve a temperature reduction of up to 30C compared with the current method of cooling machines with rotor-mounted forced air fans. As well as reducing temperatures, and therefore improving energy loss and long-term efficiency, the liquid will be self-regulating, pumpless and maintenance-free, significantly reducing costs for businesses.


Dr Guang-Ji Li, Senior Lecturer in Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Sheffield, said: “As we move towards a more sustainable carbon neutral economy, the role of electrical machines will be ever more pronounced, leading to a huge demand in this field of research.


“The margin for improvement in the machine industry is slim without novel materials or radical cooling technologies and this is particularly the case for cooling machine windings, which often have the highest temperature and the biggest impact on efficiency, power density and lifespan.


“This EPSRC funded project is very timely, and the joint effort from the researchers, together with the findings of this project, will help to transform the machine design and manufacturing practice, leading to a step-change in some of the automotive, renewable energy and aerospace industries.”


*The University of Sheffield


With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.


A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.


Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.


Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.


Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.


Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

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