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Optimising motors to rotate one way could boost performance

05 March, 2012

An American professor is developing a technology to improve the performance of electric motors, based on the fact that although motors are usually designed to turn in either direction, most of them never need to reverse.

Dionysios Aliprantis (above), assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State University, is exploring how motor performance could be improved by optimising their designs to operate in one direction of rotation. To do this, he and his colleagues have written a computer modelling program that changes the design of the motors incrementally and calculates when the surface shape is just right.

For example, the teeth that hold the motor coils are typically built with a symmetrical shape to maintain performance in either direction of rotation. By making these teeth asymmetrical, the engineers hope that the motor can pick up extra power when spinning in the preferred direction.

“We are trying to develop a systematic way of getting to the right shape,” Aliprantis says. “The idea is very simple, but motors are still being designed using techniques that are essentially 100 years old.

“The goal is to get more power out of the same size motor,” he adds, “or to get the same power with a smaller motor.” He is hoping for an improvement in performance of up to 5%.

Aliprantis’ project is being supported by a five-year, $400,000 grant from the US National Science Foundation.

He is also working on another project to improve the models used to predict the dynamic performance of motors with different power electronic and control technologies. The idea is to develop more sophisticated control systems that capture more of a motor`s performance characteristics.

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