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Boosting electric propulsion, in the air and on the ground

Researchers at The Ohio State University just got a boost in their efforts to advance electric power efficiency in the air and on the ground.

In total, Ohio State College of Engineering projects related to national defense, space exploration and aeronautics won more than $5 million through the Ohio Federal Research Network (OFRN) – contributing to the network’s ultimate goal of attracting $350 million in outside investment to the state and creating 2,500 Ohio jobs over the next five years.

Among those awarded, a research team led by Ohio State Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Fang Luo aims to see beyond the current capabilities of power-density and efficiency in all-electric motor and power converters. Their work is provided $1.5 million over the next three years.

Aviation demands continue to increase, as do concerns for the environment and energy usage. In response to these growing needs, the Ohio State Center for Propulsion and Power is collaborating with the University of Akron to meet NASA’s proposed technical specifications for advancing hybrid/turbo-electric propulsion systems.

Research is divided into three goals, Luo said. His focus is researching the high power density, high efficiency motor drive design, while fellow ECE Professor Longya Xu is leading the team design efforts regarding motor development. Professor Seungdeog Choi from the University of Akron is leading the system modeling and monitoring efforts. 

Luo said propulsion power is provided by electric motors and the electric power is generated by large, efficient turboshaft engine-driving generators. The goal of his team’s research is to significantly influence the performance, cost and reliability of future electric machine-drive systems, as well as future all-electric transportation platforms. They are aggressively attacking the technology barriers in power density and efficiency using innovative circuit topologies and power device combinations.

“The prospected research results will benefit not only aerospace applications, but automotive and industrial systems as well,” he said.

The specific challenges of their work include matching high efficiency with light weight machine design, while delivering increased speed and thermal management control.

Part of a state initiative to boost Ohio’s economy, the OFRN was established in 2015 to create six university-based research centers of excellence which collaborate with one another, the four federal military research laboratories in Ohio and private industry.