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January 5, 2017

Ludois part of $1M effort to develop advanced motor technology

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded approximately $1 million over 2.5 years to a university-industry team of researchers that includes Electrical and Computer Engineering Assistant Professor Dan Ludois. The grant is funding design, prototyping and testing for a continuous power permanent magnet wound field synchronous machine, or PMWFSM. This continuous-power PMWFSM will incorporate non-rare-earth permanent magnets into the rotor, and is an alternative to commercially dominant electric vehicle traction motor types. The performance of this new machine is expected to rival or exceed the performance and efficiency of existing motors at a significantly lower material cost.

Electric motors need rare-earth-element-based magnets on their rotors—and such magnets are only available from China, a single source. Rare-earth mining and refinement also can be harmful to the environment. “We are replacing these permanent magnets in motors with electromagnets powered by wireless power transfer,” says Ludois. “Since the electromagnets spin, they need a moving power connection. Thus, we provide one with wireless power transfer techniques.”

The project is a continuation of a partnership among Ludois at UW-Madison, colleague Ian Brown at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and electric vehicle manufacturer Lucid Motors. At UW-Madison, Ludois and his students are focusing on the wireless power transfer aspect of the project, while collaborators at IIT and Lucid Motors are focusing on manufacturability and how to integrate the technology in a vehicle.