PowdermatriX network expands

Materials World magazine
1 Jun 2006

In just three years, the PowdermatriX Faraday Partnership has built an effective network of over 200 organisations for particulate engineering.

Although focused on the advanced ceramic, powder metal, hard metal and magnetics industries and their customers, the network has been attractive to a wider range of sectors including pharmaceuticals and food.

Working within the Materials KTN, PowdermatriX aims now to increase its impact by expanding the research portfolio and widening the network. A key objective has been to encourage members' participation in the DTI and EPSRC innovation programmes. The resulting £5 million research portfolio involves key British companies, university departments and research centres working on more than 40 projects.

Electric stuff

Our successes include Advanced Electric Machines Through Magnetic Materials, a £2.4 million project stimulated by our Concerted Action on Magnetics.

Electric motors and generators are increasingly important in a broad range of uses in transport, industry and the home. In particular, they are widely used in cars and airplanes. Designing better magnets and materials for use in electric motors and generators offers the potential for significant improvements in efficiency and will aid the development of environmentally friendly transport.

Advanced Electric Machines Through Materials is looking at how magnets perform under extreme operating conditions, and how to develop more effective materials for use within these environments.

The project is led by PowdermatriX and is operated through CERAM. Other organisations involved include Rolls-Royce Plc, Vector Fields Ltd, DANA Automotive Ltd, Goodrich Control Systems, Cogent Power Ltd, Newage AVK SEG, TRW Ltd, Smiths Aerospace Mechanical Systems, QinetiQ Ltd, Motor Design Ltd, Magnet Applications Ltd, SG Magnets Ltd and NPL as well as the universities of Loughborough and Cardiff.

The three-year project began in May 2005 with £1.2 million from the DTI Technology Programme that was matched by industry.

Task in hand

To realise more environmentally friendly and efficient transport, the consortium is focusing on six tasks that involve measurement taking, modelling and materials development.

The first task concentrates on improving ways to measure the magnetic properties of the conditions under which these electric machines will need to operate.

Task two focuses on creating integrated 3D modeling tools that combine magnetic, mechanical and thermal properties, and will use data from the first task to improve product design.

The third task is focused on soft magnetic materials that will improve the design of electric engines and generators.

Task four is looking at ways to create magnets to be able to withstand 450°C and 450 megapascals.

Task five is investigating new materials and techniques for creating magnets in customised shapes and will result in high energy, product-bonded neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) magnets.

The final task involves developing electric wires that can operate in temperatures of up to 600°C (the present limit is 220°C).

Early signs

As the project nears the end of its first year, the group is sharing initial results and as it progresses, the six work packages will work more closely together. Ultimately, new materials, new modelling techniques and new measuring capabilities will result in the building and testing of new types of electric motors and generators that are designed specifically to work under extreme conditions. Significant improvements in design, performance and efficiency can also be made.

As Dr John Liddle, Director of PowdermatriX Faraday, says, ‘The UK has strong capabilities in this field and for a modest investment the returns could be staggering. The level of innovation is significant as it combines several simultaneous advances in materials, processing and machine technology, and so pushes well ahead of current leading-edge work.'


Further information:

Materials KTN
Stuart MacLachlan, email powdermatrix@ceram.com.