Epoch Wires Receives Funding for MgB2 Machine for Aviation

The Cambridge UK-based technological and engineering company Epoch Wires has been awarded funding from Innovate UK to design a superconducting machine for future aircraft. The company will collaborate with the University of Strathclyde to develop a new MgB2 machine model.

The funds were awarded under the Innovate UK’s competition: UK Aerospace Research and Technology Programme: Collaborative Studies round One. The total cost of the project is £422,000 ($544.400) with £250,000 ($322,500) funded by Innovate UK.

Epoch to Minimize MgB2 Wire Filament Size to Reduce AC Losses

The partners will seek to quantify the benefits of an MgB2 superconducting machine while predicting its utmost limits. Epoch Wires has reportedly identified a method to enable the design of lightweight superconducting machines for future electric aircraft production using MgB2 wire technology.

“The project will provide a full technology appreciation of how MgB2 superconducting machines will fit into the roadmap of electric aircraft development,” commented Epoch Wires CEO Serdar Atamert. “Epoch Wires will design and manufacture a series of multifilamentary wires with different wire architecture aiming to minimize the filament size to reduce the AC losses. The Applied Superconductivity Laboratory at Strathclyde will carry out AC loss measurements at various temperatures and will develop a new MgB2 machine model using finite element software suitable for large-scale rotational magnetic field modelling, while at the same time achieving accuracy for fine filament modelling to evaluate the machine losses and efficiency.

“The baseline machine chosen is a fully superconducting synchronous machine since it provides the maximum power density for all machine types. The stator will consist of racetrack coils made of MgB2 wires. The performance will be compared with propulsion machine roadmaps produced by aviation companies.”

MgB2 Machine Addresses Need to Reduce Aircraft Emissions

Since July 2019, the UK government has added aviation to its net-zero emissions targets. This measure provides an impetus for the development of technologies that would reduce emissions caused by commercial aircraft, an industry that currently contributes to 3% of all global CO2 emissions.

Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion are expected to be the most promising technologies for addressing these challenges. Since conventional electrical machines and transmission systems cannot meet the high-power density requirements, superconducting electrical distributed propulsion systems bridge the technology gap for future electric aircraft.

“Epoch Wires have demonstrated that long-length MgB2 wires can be manufactured with excellent consistency for large-scale applications,” Atamert said. “The flexibility of the technology enables the production of small filament sizes required to minimize the AC losses in rotary machines. The combination of long length and consistent quality MgB2 superconductor operating at 20 K with liquid hydrogen makes this product a potential attractive candidate for aerospace applications.”

Epoch Wires was established in 2013, initially to provide superconducting MgB2 wire to the MRI market. The company uses purified nano-size boron and magnesium powders, from which impurities and undesirable gases are extracted, to produce its wire in a continuous process. The company has since aligned its R&D focus on the design of superconducting devices in large scale applications such as power generation and transmission, healthcare and other industrial applications.

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