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US government offers up to $25m for r&d on electric motors

14 March, 2016

The US Department of Energy is offering up to $25m in funding over the next five years to help develop advanced technologies for energy-efficient electric motors.

The Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), in the DoE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has identified four key areas of technology that it believes could improve the efficiency of motors and reduce their weights, while addressing the limitations of traditionally conductive metals and electrical steels. They are:

•  high-performance thermal and electrical conductors;

•  low-loss silicon steels;

•  high-temperature superconducting wires; and

•  other technologies that enable increases in performance.

Together, these technologies could help motor users in US manufacturing to save nearly 44TWh per year – roughly 1.6% of the total US electricity consumption – and pave the way for further savings in variable-speed motors. The technologies could also improve motors used in the clean energy sector, helping wind, solar, electric vehicle, and battery manufacturers.   

Under the Next Generation of Electric Machines: Enabling Technologies programme, the DoE plans to choose eight to 12 projects aimed at developing key technologies needed to enhance efficiency and to cut weight cost-effectively, while addressing the limitations of traditional conductive metals and silicon-infused electrical steels used in motors.

The projects will focus on recent advances in nanomaterials research, a new 6.5% siliconising process for steel manufacturing, and improved performance of high-temperature superconductors. They will 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.

The motor technology programme is part of the Obama administration’s effort to double investments in clean energy r&d. This forms part of the DoE’s broader Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, which aims to increase US competitiveness in the production of clean energy products, and to boost the nation’s manufacturing competitiveness by increasing its energy productivity. Motors account for about 70% of the electricity consumed by US manufacturers, and nearly a quarter of all electricity consumed nationally.

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