£1.3m grant to develop pioneering superconducting electrical machines for zero-emission aviation

Strathclyde researcher receives prestigious award European Research Council seed grant for a five-year project to electrify aircraft using new superconducting machine technology.

Professor Min Zhang, from the Applied Superconductivity Laboratory, will focus on three breakthrough technologies enabling the use of high-temperature superconductors for electric propulsion motors with high performance and reliability.

Critical temperature

A superconductor is a substance that offers no resistance to electric current when it becomes colder than a critical temperature

Upon completion of the Superconducting Electrical Machines for Zero Emission Aviation, or SUPERMAN project, a 100 kW demonstration motor will be developed and tested for aviation propulsion systems – the machine that produces thrust to push an object toward the front.

Professor Zhang said:

This project will bridge the knowledge gap between superconducting science and electrical engineering, enabling radical changes in existing superconducting machine technology to meet the needs of aviation.

Professor Zhang previously received a five-year research fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering in which she and her team developed key numerical and experimental tools to enable the study of fully superconducting machines.

It is also leading a superconducting propulsion engine project in collaboration with Airbus, with the mission to develop a new 200 kW fully superconducting propulsion engine and its cryogenic drive system by the end of 2024.

big jump

Explaining the new dimension that the ERC project will bring to his existing research, Professor Zhang added: “My existing research focuses on the feasibility study of superconducting propulsion machines, and the new ERC project will take a giant leap forward in addressing reliability and safety directly. aviation requirements, while achieving high power density and high efficiency.

More than 400 researchers from universities and research centers in 26 countries across Europe have been awarded a seed grant worth a total of over £550 million. The funding is part of the Horizon Europe programme.

It will help excellent young scientists, who have between two and seven years of experience after their doctorate, to launch their own projects, build their teams and pursue their most promising ideas.

Grants will be invested in scientific projects spanning all research disciplines and will create more than 2,000 jobs for postdoctoral fellows, doctoral students and other staff at host institutions.

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “These new ERC laureates bring a remarkable wealth of scientific ideas, they will deepen our knowledge and some already have practical applications in sight. I wish them all good luck in their explorations.

The President of the European Research Council, Professor Maria Leptin, said: “We need to encourage young researchers driven by pure curiosity to pursue their most ambitious scientific ideas. Investing in them and in their exploratory research is investing in our future.

The ERC, established by the European Union in 2007, is a European frontier research funding organization and funds creative researchers of all nationalities and ages, to carry out projects based across Europe.

Strathclyde is a member of the UK Aerospace Research Consortium with 10 other universities, which provides government, industry and international partners with a coordinated central research platform, access to national research facilities and the development of future skills.

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