18 February 2020

Engineers to develop new cost-effective, fluid-based methods for cooling industrial electrical machines

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

Close up of an electric engine

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.

Dr Li 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.”

For more information on this project please contact Dr Guang-Jin Li on g.li@sheffield.ac.uk

Partner with us

We work with businesses to develop practical low carbon solutions for the energy industry.