Advanced computer modeling methods can enable energy researchers to rapidly design and optimize the nation’s electric grid and the electrification of the energy infrastructure. Of particular significance is the need to rapidly predict and design improved performance of soft magnetic components that include transformers, inductors and even rotating electrical machinery such as motors and generators – all key components of the electrical grid. Because the utility of computer simulations and modeling techniques ultimately depend upon the accuracy of the data, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) are gathering this information through extensive material characterization work of magnetic cores under a range of excitation conditions relevant for applications. Because the performance of magnetic cores is sensitively dependent upon the details of materials, manufacturing, fabrication, and processing techniques as well as the specific excitation conditions, this data fills a gap in the available information that is required for optimization of soft magnetic components. The data, which has been released in the form of data sheets available on the NETL web site, is of significant value to the power electronics and transformer industry, academia and other government institutions as they strive to build better components for the modern electric grid.
To date, data sheets of five representative core materials are currently developed, which are 3 percent and 6.5 percent silicon-steel, amorphous, nanocomposite, and ferrite magnetic cores.
The data sheets include various magnetic characteristics relevant for performance of soft magnetic components in various power electronics applications. Data sheets for more magnetic materials will be released, and the current data sheets will be improved with additional information to support designs moving in the future. The data sheets will be used as input data for various magnetic component designs, optimizations and simulation techniques being designed and applied by the team and collaborators.
NETL’s research supports the DOE Office of Electricity’s Transformer Resilience and Advanced Components Program, which seeks to accelerate modernization of the grid by addressing challenges with large power transformers (LPTs) and other critical grid components. Specifically, NETL is looking at advanced materials used to manufacture magnetic cores, which are important components of LPTs, distribution transformers, and emerging solid-state transformer technologies that help direct, convert and control the flow of electrical power.
Energy researchers are making great progress improving the nation’s power grid by applying advanced digital information and communications technologies, but advances in grid hardware will also play a significant role in modernizing the electricity transmission and distribution system. These hardware advancements will be made possible by important work like NETL’s effort to characterize magnetic core materials, leading to increased grid reliability, resilience, efficiency, flexibility and security.