Airborne Motorworks: Electromagnetic propulsion technology leads to innovative wind turbine design

Dreams of creating a flying vehicle led Airborne Motorworks (AMW) to explore the potential of electromagnetics for propulsion.

Although the team was on the path to success with their stable electromagnetic propulsion prototypes, ultimately, they were faced with a lengthy and costly process of certification by U.S. aviation authorities. This prompted them to set aside flying vehicles (for now) and pursue a faster path to market their technology.

With their new, promising propulsion technology in hand, the company shifted toward a more practical, albeit no less innovative, pursuit: power generation.

Turning electromagnetic propulsion toward the wind

Specifically, AMW shifted their focus to electricity generation and the rapidly emerging microgrid sector, developing a midrange wind turbine capable of producing between 100kW to 500kW of electricity.

This new direction drove AMW to scale the design of their technology to turn it into a much more efficient generator. The challenge was to make the massive leap to scale the design from the 15 inches required for a flying vehicle to the 12 feet required for their wind turbine.

Simulation-driven design a breeze with EMAG and CFD

The nearly 10x increase in size presented significant design challenges related to structural integrity and mass reduction. To resolve these, the AMW team sought the expertise of Maya HTT.

Together, using Simcenter’s simulation capabilities, they were able to explore material choices and balance mass, power output and rotational speed.

Maya HTT’s multi-physics expertise led the collaborative simulation-driven design in two different areas (EMAG and CFD) to improve the overall design of the wind turbine.

The EMAG team started with the electromagnetics, scaling up the size and taking into account other changes using Simcenter E-Machine Design as well as HEEDS to optimize the sizing of the machine and its internal steel and magnets.

Simulation-driven design led the team to select a Halbach array for its distinctive magnetic layout with the aim of increasing energy conversion efficiency by maintaining more control over the magnetic forces.

Then, Maya HTT’s CFD team took the baton, exploring how the wind turbine’s unique design allowed for a blade design different from the norm. Collaboration back and forth ensured the EMAG and CFD designs worked well together.

Empowering a new generation of wind turbine

AMW’s midrange turbine forges into new territory within the wind turbine landscape. The radically different, streamlined design removes the complexity inherent in traditional turbine designs. Smaller, quieter, and with significantly fewer mechanical parts, the AMW turbine eliminates many of the complaints about traditional wind turbines and achieves exceptionally high efficiency in a compact and lightweight design.

The turbine’s scalability is an exciting development for sustainable, localized energy production, allowing users to tailor power production to their needs and reducing maintenance and operational costs.

Collaborative expertise yields innovative results

AMW achieved its decisively innovative design by taking a simulation-driven design approach, facilitated by Maya HTT’s expertise in EMAG, CFD and Siemens software.

The company is moving toward full-scale manufacturing of their new midrange wind turbine. And as they do, we can expect to see something new in the skyline: compact, next-gen wind turbines delivering sustainable primary or backup power to microgrids from urban rooftops.

Read the article in Engineer Innovation

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