Lucky Thirteen

Energy Department announces $25 million for innovative motors

Good news for the electric motor sector, as the U.S. Department of Energy announced Monday nearly $25 million for 13 projects aimed at advancing technologies for energy-efficient electric motors through applied R&D. The projects will be distributed between a variety of college institutions and businesses and will specifically target industrial motors.

Key points outlined in the plan by The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) are the limitations of traditional materials and designs, and how to improve upon these weak spots without inflated cost. Words that probably pop into you engineers’ heads immediately: efficiency, performance, and weight reduction. “These technology R&D projects aim to significantly improve industrial motors for manufacturing, helping companies who use these motors in manufacturing save energy and money over the long run,” said Mark Johnson, director of the EERE Advanced Manufacturing Office.

In 2013, electricity accounted for approximately 40% of primary energy consumption in the United States and manufacturing was responsible for more than a quarter of end‐use. Electric motor‐driven systems used 68% of this total electricity for essential energy intensive industrial processes such as refrigeration, pumps, fans, compressors, materials handling, materials processing, and facility HVAC systems.—DOE photo

In 2013, electricity accounted for approximately 40% of primary energy consumption in the United States and manufacturing was responsible for more than a quarter of end‐use. Electric motor‐driven systems used 68% of this total electricity for essential energy intensive industrial processes such as refrigeration, pumps, fans, compressors, materials handling, materials processing, and facility HVAC systems.—DOE photo

Improvements to these systems can be achieved by using wide bandgap semiconductor devices, advanced magnetic materials, aggressive cooling techniques, and improved conductors or superconducting materials.

Each of the 13 projects have been selected to address one of four topic areas identified by the Advanced Manufacturing Office:

  • Manufacturing of high performance thermal and electrical conductors
  • Manufacturing of low-loss silicon steel
  • High temperature superconducting wire manufacturing
  • Manufacturing of other enabling technologies to increase performance

These are detailed in the DOE’s Next Generation Electric Machines projects section.

In addition, these enabling technologies will improve motors used in the growing clean energy sector, helping wind, solar, electric vehicle, and battery manufacturers. The projects also encourage research, development, and deployment of advanced magnets, high frequency insulation materials, and lead-free, low-loss bearing technologies that are critical for high-speed electric motors.

This effort will support innovative approaches to improve technology in industrial electric motors, which use approximately 70 percent of the electricity consumed by U.S. manufacturers and nearly a quarter of all electricity consumed nationally.

The 13 projects selected for awards are led by: AK Steel Corporation Research & Innovation, American Superconductor Corporation, Carnegie Mellon University, Florida State University, General Electric Company, GE Global Research, Purdue University, Rice University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Superconductor Technologies Incorporated, SurfTec, LLC, University of Central Florida, and the University of Houston.

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