GE Power Conversion has tested Cobham Technical Services' Opera electromagnetic simulation tool, and demonstrated a correlation between the accuracy of the tool and the performance of the finished product, the companies have announced. Reliable simulation could help GE to create advanced solutions for numerous emergent superconducting applications in markets such as wind, wave and hydroelectric power generation, and electric motors for ship propulsion.
The testing results were for the Hydrogenie generator for hydroelectric applications, which was developed by a team from GE and partners, with financial support from the EU. The generator employs high temperature superconducting (HTS) wire, to provide both a step increase in output efficiency, and size and weight reductions of some 70% when compared to a conventional electrical machine.
The Opera finite element design tool predicted the efficiency of a machine to an accuracy within 0.1% of the final product.
"Testing proves that our superconducting generator design ideas work well, but also that we can predict performance with very good accuracy. Being able to produce very lean superconducting models that are even more compact and perfectly matched to the application could really make a big difference in the cost effectiveness of projected future applications such as wind power," said Martin Ingles, Hydrogenie project manager at GE Power Conversion.
During the development and testing cycle, the engineers at GE also compared the finite element electromagnetic design approach with its own suite of analytical programs for generators. According to Cobham, the finite element approach provided more accurate predictions for some parameters, as well as offering the ability to accurately evaluate new mechanical shapes and geometries without modifying the underlying formulae.
In addition to accurate predictions, the Opera simulator also provided the platform for GE to optimize the generator development before construction. As part of its work for this EU-funded project, Cobham modified its software to make it simpler to simulate very large electrical machines with lots of poles, by extending its support for two-dimensional (2D) simulation of segments of a symmetric radial structure to 3D structures. As a result, GE was able to analyze hundreds of concepts during the development process using partial 2D and 3D simulations before settling on the detail of the final architecture, and then fine tuning the performance with the aid of very detailed 3D analysis.
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Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company's website.