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Hard Science and Electric Dreams


Travel on an airplane or ship in the near future and you could be sitting on years of work by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and renowned engine-makers Rolls-Royce.

Just as car manufacturers gradually roll out hybrid and full electric vehicles to do their part for the environment and combat rising fuel prices, so too have airplane and ship manufacturers looked into the possibility of electrifying their vessels’ currently fossil fuel-reliant engines.

NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) and Rolls-Royce have set up a S$35 million joint Electrical Power and Control Systems (EPACS) program of Rolls-Royce@NTU Corporate Lab that will help speed up the transition and at the same time ensure that passengers’ safety and well-being are not compromised in the process.

The two partners have launched more than 20 projects in five years, focusing on electrical power systems integration technologies for aerospace and marine applications.

They hope to invent more efficient and reliable energy delivery systems, new ways of manufacturing more robust power systems, and techniques to get more data from equipment and processes to help in product design, manufacturing, maintenance and repairs.

Professor Tseng King Jet from EEE said: “It is more difficult to create hybrid-electric and full-electric engines in aircrafts and ships, compared to land vehicles, because their power requirements are much larger. The much-higher temperatures of aircraft and ship engines are another challenge. Aircraft safety is also very critical.”

The program’s researchers will study, for example, how to improve aircrafts’ power systems so they can better cope in very hot and cold environments. As electrical propulsion is becoming increasingly common in the marine industry, the scientists will also look into next-generation propulsion drives that are not only more reliable and efficient, but also cost less.

With advances in technology, it has also become cheaper and easier to generate, store and analyse large amounts of data. Effective use of such “big data” could provide valuable insight into the quality and performance of products, and is another research focus within the EPACS program.

The scientists will also study ways to monitor the condition of key electrical components and predict whether and when they are likely to fail.

More than 300 research staff and technical experts have been recruited for the laboratory, including Rolls-Royce staff and NTU faculty, research associates, doctoral candidates and Master’s degree students.

The EPACS program is housed in EEE’s Electrical Power System Integration Laboratory @ NTU, or EPSIL@N. Officially opened in 2014, it spans 1,000 sq m and is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and rigs. Several research cells have been set up, including ones on electrical machines and drives, real-time simulations and power electronics.

Nanyang Technological University’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Rolls-Royce have set up a S$35 million joint program to research into electrical power systems-related technologies for aerospace and marine uses. They have launched more than 20 projects in five years which will help keep passengers safe as manufacturers switch airplanes and ships’ propulsion from fossil fuels to electricity.

 

By Professor Tseng King Jet, School of EEE


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Published on: 20-Dec-2016