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Magnetics Research Offers Novel Opportunities for Electric Power Improvements
Researchers at NETL have developed a variety of applications including power electronics

Advanced power magnetics research conducted by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and its partners offers novel opportunities to boost efficiency, spur economic investment and reduce infrastructure as industry looks toward smaller, more efficient power technology capable of meeting the diverse demands of the modern world.

Researchers at NETL have developed a variety of applications including power electronics, transformers and electrical machinery. Their work is highlighted in the special topic on “Recent Developments in the Processing of Advanced Magnetic Materials,” published in the May 2018 issue the Journal of Minerals, Metals and Materials. In this, they uncover the development of promising new soft magnetic materials and the application of advanced processing technologies for optimizing electromagnetic components.

These components feature metal amorphous nanocomposite alloy cores made with a cobalt-rich alloy system. Researchers use a specialized manufacturing process to anneal the material under tension, adjusting the strain as needed to optimize electromagnetic capability. The technology has unique advantages compared to more traditional inductive components – including improved temperature control and lower overall power losses.

A new Electromagnetic Component Fabrication and Testing Laboratory is in the works at NETL to fabricate advanced prototype components and support research on electric grid modernization, among other projects. Further development of this technology, in partnership with private-sector companies to promote commercialization, could have a major impact on the aerospace, aviation, automotive and many more industries.

The advanced magnetic core technology has already enabled researchers to achieve significant milestones in a project to advance combined solar photovoltaic and battery grid integration. Prototype converters are being demonstrated at 10-kilowatt levels, and a design for a 50kW prototype transformer and converter has been drafted. System-level simulations have demonstrated successful operation of full-scale 1-megawatt combined solar/energy storage inverter architecture for commercial use.

This research project is funded through the SunShot National Laboratory Multiyear Partnership (SuNLaMP) program, managed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office. Partners include Eaton Corp., North Carolina State University, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and NASA’s Glenn Research Center. NETL and CMU jointly have two  patents pending related to the technologies – one for the cobalt-rich alloy system and another for the strain anneal manufacturing process used to optimize electromagnetic capability.