Magnetic materials can help develop electric motors and generators that promise significant energy savings.

These new motors were an important part of the development of a patented highly efficient water pump system with potential widespread application, said researchers at the University of Adelaide.

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“In the developed world, more than 50 percent of all energy generated is used by electrical motors,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Nesimi Ertugrul, from the University’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. “This leaves a lot of room for efficiency gains.”

“A significant portion of these motors are used to drive water pumps. They are invisible, but used everywhere – in pools, vehicles, boats, irrigation and industry. For example, large buildings have multiple water pumps and every swimming pool has at least one water pump which runs for several hours a day, consuming a large amount of electrical energy.”

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The University of Adelaide researchers used two emerging magnetic materials, soft magnetic composite (SMC) and amorphous magnetic material (AMM), and two novel production techniques to form the “stator” within the electrical motor or generator. The stator is the stationary and magnetic part of a motor surrounding the rotor which turns.

Both new techniques have been successfully developed and tested with small prototypes, showing substantial energy efficiency gains – up to 90 percent energy efficiency in small motors compared to 60-70 percent in conventional motors. The new motors are also smaller in size for a given power output.

“Currently all commercial motors are made by pressing very thin metal sheets of silicon iron together and then stamping out the shape of the stator from the metal,” Ertugrul said. “This process is wasteful of the metal sheeting, and also limits the best use of available space for the copper wire needed in motors.

“We’ve produced new stators using SMC with no need for machining, no scrap metal and improved space utilization for copper wire for greater power output.”

Using SMC material and working with industry partner Intelligent Electric Motor Solutions (IEMS) Pty Ltd, the researchers developed motors that operate at low speed with high power output and with low production costs, suitable for swimming pool and similar pumps.

The research teams have developed patented prototypes, using both technologies, and testing facilities and are now looking for further investment partners to commercialize the technology.

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