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Electric Power Systems Research 147 (2017) 224232

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Test and simulation of an electric generator driven by a micro-turbine

Thales A.C. Maia a, , Osvane A. Faria c , Jos E.M. Barros c , Matheus P. Porto d ,
Braz J. Cardoso Filho b
Instituto Federal de Minas Gerais IFMG, Departamento de Engenharia Mecnica, Brazil
Programa de Ps Graduaco em Engenharia Eltrica PPGEE, Escola de Engenharia, da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
Programa de Ps Graduaco em Engenharia Mecnica PPGMEC, Escola de Engenharia, da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, MG,
Laboratrio de Termometria, LABTERM, Programa de Ps Graduaco em Engenharia Mecnica PPGMEC, UFMG, Brazil

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: In this paper we present the results of an electromechanical design of a high speed generator directly
Received 15 October 2016 driven by a Micro-CAES turbine, which is adapted from a turbocharger. Laboratory tests were performed
Received in revised form 1 February 2017 using compressed air as working uid, and with a three-phase resistive load connected to the generator.
Accepted 27 February 2017
The prototype system has shown to run safely at speeds up to 100,000 rpm under no-load and up to
70,000 rpm when supplying a 3.5 kW three-phase load.
2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
High speed
Permanent magnet

1. Introduction Although electric energy conversion at high frequencies needs

less ferromagnetic and copper materials (which means lower vol-
Using the same electrical machine for driving and absorbing ume), problems as vibration become challenging in this case. In
energy has become an important alternative in the eld of energy addition, there are not many publications concerning energy con-
storage, mainly in technologies such as the CAES (compressed air version with high speed machines, see [5,6].
energy storage) [1,2], CES (cryogenic energy storage) and LAES (liquid Some aspects of using high speed in electrical machine design
air energy storage) [3]. are discussed by Tenconi et al. [5] and Gerada et al. [6]. How-
In the case of CAES, CES and LAES, the motor-compressor ever, these works present theoretical analysis and experimental
assembly is used to compress the uid into a tank, converting elec- evaluation without load. Fig. 2 and Table 1 present the results of
trical energy into thermomechanical energy. The turbine-generator output power versus angular speed using data collected from differ-
assembly converts stored energy back into electrical energy, as ent authors. We also provide an estimated trend made from these
shown in Fig. 1. During the generation process (mechanical to elec- data [7]. Although publications related with high speed electrical
tric energy conversion), a vacuum is made into the compressors machines are available, there are not a study concerning the direct
side, while energy ows from the turbine to the electric generator. coupling between turbine, generator and compressor.
During the storage process the vacuum is applied at the turbines Kim et al. [8] present a high speed blower running up to
side. 40,000 rpm and 8 kW, and Noguchi et al. show the efforts needed to
This method for energy storage is typically used in large scales drive a turbocharger with a high speed machine [9,10] with a rated
power plants, such as in the ADELE project in Germany, from RWE 120,000 rpm operating system. Kolondzovski et al. also present
Power Company, but is also suitable for low power and pressure some solutions to the difculties of coupling a compressor propeller
systems, up to 6.0 bar, such as UPS (uninterruptible power supply) to a high-speed electrical machine [11].
[4]. In this latter case, high speed from the rotating parts, facili- Balancing the turbo-generator assembly is a difcult task. The
tates a real fast charging and discharging process, besides of a high challenge is due to the fact that these components should be
frequency in the electrical machine. handled as a single unit during their development. Technological
aspects, such as fabrication and assembly, are barely discussed in
literature, which leads to common design errors. This research clar-
ies some of these key points to guide future works in this theme.
Corresponding author. This paper presents concepts and issues regarding sizing of
E-mail address: (T.A.C. Maia). a high speed electrical machine direct driven by a Micro-CAES
0378-7796/ 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
T.A.C. Maia et al. / Electric Power Systems Research 147 (2017) 224232 225

Fig. 1. Operation stages of a Micro-CAES system: (a) Storage: the electric machine drive the compressor. (b) Generation: compressed air expands in turbine which drives the

Fig. 2. State of art: high speed electrical machines.

system. The complexity is related to fabrication process and the The turbo-charger here adopted is used with Diesel truck
correct topology adoption. A new sizing methodology is used and engines and is designed to work up to 80 HP. The turbo-charger
experimentally validated, where electrical machine use the kernel must be selected to match the operational power requests from
of turbo-machines over standard low speed electrical machines. the Micro-CAES. The electrical machine was designed according to
Some essential elements allowed the electrical machine to operate turbo and bearing sizes, and thus merged with the system as shown
above its second natural frequency, which was only possible in Fig. 3.
merging works between electrical and mechanical eld. The presented drawing illustrates how the electrical machine
After several tests, a single shaft system associated with a high can be incorporated within a turbo-charger. The original radial
speed balancing procedure provided a successful energy conver-
sion result. The evaluation was performed only with generation Table 1
stage, but it offers enough information to validate fabrication pro- Publications of high speed electrical machines with experimental evidence.
cedures and the concordance between simulated and experimental
Reference Power (kW) Speed (103 rpm)
Takahashi et al., 1994 [13] 1.5 60
Sahin, 2001 [35] 10 20
2. Micro-CAES Hoshino et al., 2005 [36] 80 65
Noguchi et al., 2005 / 2007 [9,10] 2.2 120
Nagorny et al., 2007 [37] 3 60
Micro-CAES systems are attractive alternatives to operate in Mirzaei et al., 2008 [38] 14 18
grid-tie modes and with power ratings up to 100 kW. Aiming Sivasubramaniam et al., 2009 [39] 1300 10
for a simple, reliable and inexpensive system, the presented Pster et al., 2010 [40] 2 200
turbo-compressor-generator system is based on turbochargers [2] Imoberdorf et al., 2010 [17] 1 500
Krhenbhl, 2010 [41] 0.5 250
design. Novk et al., 2011 [42] 3.14 42
Turbochargers have been chosen as design starting point since Crescimbini et al., 2012 [43] 4 18
they are world widely used in automotive industry, which make Hong et al., 2012 [44] 15 120
their spare parts accessible and cheap. Also, the performance map Hong et al., 2014 [45] 0.5 100
Capstone, 2016 [46] 30 100
is available, which helps to choose compressor and turbine rotor.
226 T.A.C. Maia et al. / Electric Power Systems Research 147 (2017) 224232

2.1. Design

The system is based on a single high-speed shaft connecting

propellers and the generator. The components arrangement can be
characterized by their relative position, as shown in Fig. 4.
From the possibilities illustrated in Fig. 4, two typologies were
fabricated and tested as shown in Fig. 5. The rst alternative focuses
on simplicity, where the generator is placed in the opposite turbo
shafts end, as shown in Figs. 4(c) and 5(a). This arrangement also
forces the compressors air intake through the generator, leading
to an interesting cooling solution. Another positive point is the fact
that this alternative preserves the original turbo-charger construc-
tion and connects to the generator using a properly designed high
speed jaw coupling.
Since there were two separate shafts and a exible coupling,
the rst prototype was not able to run beyond 50,000 rpm, due to
high vibration levels. Alignment and safe operation were difcult to
Fig. 3. Sectional drawing of the Micro-CAES system. achieve, reducing the interest for this alternative. Further analysis
should focus on the solution of misalignment.
The second topology places the generator between the compres-
turbine, indicated by the red color, and radial compressor, pre- sor and the turbine as shown in Figs. 4(a) and 5(b). The resulting
sented with the blue color, was swept aside extending the shaft. mechanical system is expected to be more stable during operation
The stator is placed between turbine and compressor rotors and since there is no coupling. The shaft is built from one machining
the permanent magnet mounted in the shaft. Rotors, bearings and process and there are only two bearings to align. In this alternative,
materials are preserved from original system which can now be the total mass of the system should be symmetrically distributed.
electrically driven. The prototype based on this topology ran safely up to 100,000 rpm

Fig. 4. Micro-turbines layout: (a) internal generator; (b) internal turbine and generator; (c) internal generator with rotors overhung; (d) outside bearings.

Fig. 5. External (a) and internal (b) generator prototypes mounted on ux bench for testing.
T.A.C. Maia et al. / Electric Power Systems Research 147 (2017) 224232 227

Fig. 6. Turbo-compressor oating ring journal bearing.

under no load and up to 70,000 rpm with a resistive load supplied

through a three-phase diode rectier.

2.1.1. Bearings
Bearings specication is also crucial at higher operational
speeds. Some authors propose air foil bearings, magnetic ball bear-
ings and ceramic ball bearings as good maintenance free solutions
for high speed machines [5,6,1115]. However, some drawbacks
should be considered. Air foil bearings are expensive and demand
special fabrication procedures and material properties [16]. Mag-
netic bearings rely on complex power electronics control system Fig. 8. Illustration from the rst three natural modes for the shaft and their frequen-
[17]. In addition, all solutions proposed in literature are expensive cies.
and difcult to acquire for the size of the shaft used in this research
As a simple alternative, journal oil bearing has many advantages
The ring shape PM was mounted on a AISI 4140 steel shaft,
and it has been used for a long time in turbo-machinery. Being more
in which a casted Inconel 718A turbine rotor was welded. The
specic, turbo-charges use oating ring journal bearings illustrated
compressor is based on a ASTM B324 aluminum rotor. Due to the
in Fig. 6, which has a high cooling and load capability, high damping
different material properties, the center of mass was moved away
factor, besides being simple to build and a cheaper solution [1820].
from geometric center in the shaft, which can result in some gyro-
Since it can be easily found as spare parts from commercial turbo-
scopic effects and instabilities [22]. From the adopted geometry,
machines, oating ring journal bearing will be used in this study.
the natural frequencies were estimated. Fig. 8 depicts the results
obtained from computer aided analysis for the natural frequencies
2.1.2. Shaft along with corresponding modes.
In typical turbo-compressors, the shaft is thin, resulting in lower In order to achieve lower synchronous vibration levels, each
mass and higher power density. However, thin shafts are more individual component was balanced at lower speeds before mount-
exible. The proposed microturbine system preserves the shaft ing. After fully assembled, they went through a high speed
dimensions, in which the resulting exibility was evaluated. The balancing process.
nal design is presented in Fig. 7 where it is possible to identify the
bearings, the turbine and compressor propellers and, at mid point
along the shaft, the permanent magnet (PM) which will provide the 2.1.3. Generator
magnetization of the generator. Sizing high speed generators is not a simple task. Both air gap
To maintain the high power density and dimensions, the gen- ux and core ux are of concern, the latter mainly due to the ux
erator employs a two pole high energy NdFeBN48H permanent variation and thus losses. Also, saturation in sharp corners and
magnet [21] with a residual ux of 1.42 T. The ring shape and other ux concentration spots must be avoided to guarantee a good
small dimensions allow a sleeve free operation due to the mag- design. The stator geometry should be optimized to keep the system
nets capacity to sustain the mechanical strength. Nevertheless, a lighter and achieve high power density. Optimization procedures
stainless steel AISI 310 sleeve was adopted as a damping winding have proven to be an excellent tool in a variety of situations [2326],
to attenuate the cogging torque. which makes it crucial for the stator design.

Fig. 7. Detailed shaft from the microturbine (Micro-CAES) system.

228 T.A.C. Maia et al. / Electric Power Systems Research 147 (2017) 224232

Fig. 9. Rowland ring evaluation: (a) illustrative and (b) tested core with 0.35 mm.

1 Fe3%Si (0.5 mm) Most common and commercial available

electrical steel.

2 Hganns SMC (Sintered) Promising material due higher
resistivity and lower eddy current losses [30].
3 Aperam Steel (0.35 mm) Special electrical steel developed for
electric motor in hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles.

The experimental results point out that higher frequencies

imply higher losses, as expected. In contrast, BH curve shows a
reduction in permeability due to the magnetic skin effect [31],
which is directly related to the eddy currents in the material.
The powder material needs higher magnetic eld to achieve rea-
Fig. 10. BH curve obtained from experimental evaluation from three different elec- sonable ux density due to its low permeability. In the Hganns
trical steel materials at 1200 Hz.
core, hysteresis accounts for all the core losses, which are high in
this material as shown in Table 2.
The analytical model and equations can be used as guides but Even with considerably losses, the most suitable material is
cannot provide accurate ux leakage estimation. A nite element the Aperam steel with 0.35 mm lamination thickness. The material
solver is needed for ne tuning the design [27,28]. properties are used in computer models of the high speed genera-
Another important issue is that commercial electrical machines tor. In the near future authors plan to evaluate thinner lamination
are normally fed from AC power grid at 50/60 Hz frequency. (0.23 mm) of the same steel and amorphous materials, in the search
Therefore, commercial electrical steels are mainly target for these for more efcient realizations of the generator design.
frequencies. Few datasheets present losses and permeability data The generator operation inherently demands attention to the
at higher frequencies, which typically include operation at 400 Hz. generated voltage, which is directly related to air gap ux den-
Unfortunately, this frequency range is still far from expected oper- sity. At rated frequency, magnetic ux linkage can improve the
ation point in the design considered here. Iron losses are quite induced voltage and guarantee higher power density. Therefore the
important, as shown from their quadratic dependency on the fre- magnetic leakage should be reduced. To this end, an optimization
quency, as shown in Eq. (1) [29] procedure [32] was adopted to improve the generator geometry.
Slots prole, as well as the internal/external stator and PM diame-
2 3/2
PFe = Kh B2 f + Kc (Bf ) + Ke (Bf ) , (1) ters, were optimized using NelderMead method.
After optimization, the generator showed an improvement in
where Kh , Kc and Ke are respectively the coefcients of hysteresis power around 18% and the ux density inside the stator got more
loss, classical eddy current loss and excess eddy current loss. B and even. Saturation spots are minimal and as well as losses arising
f are the peak ux density and frequency, respectively. Thus, the from these spots. The main core area works with a ux density of
material should be evaluated in order to identify the losses and its 1.2 T, which is a good region as pointed from BH-curve. The nal
permeability at ratted frequency of 1.2 kHz. geometry is shown in Fig. 11, and the nal machine characteristics
Using a Rowlands Ring as shown in Fig. 9, three different mate- are presented in Table 3.
rials were tested to measure the BH-curve and core losses. The
measurement results are presented in Fig. 10 and Table 2:

Table 3
Table 2 Electrical machine nal data.
Total losses from three different electrical steel materials. Parameters Value
Material Total loss Induced voltage 220VRMS (16 coils)
Ratted speed 70,000 rpm
0.8 T 1T
Ratted current 9.2 A
0.35 mm 59.4 W/kg 90.8 W/kg Ratted power 3.5 kW
0.5 mm 172.6 W/kg 250.2 W/kg Stator length 100 mm
Hganns 447.2 W/kg 650 W/kg PM diameter 21 mm
T.A.C. Maia et al. / Electric Power Systems Research 147 (2017) 224232 229

Fig. 13. Schematic representation of the electric power bench [2].

Fig. 11. Final model and total ux density inside the electric generator.

3. Experimental procedures

To drive the system, a ux test stand was used, in which it was

possible to control turbine input pressure and measure different
thermodynamics characteristics. The system is illustrated and the
measurement points are presented in Fig. 12. Also, the compressor Fig. 14. Induced voltage in the generator representing V/f = cte, CF 1 curve tting
was kept open so the load in the turbine could be addressed mainly rst trial, CF 2 curve tting last trial with six months later and experimental data
to the generator. showing skin effect.

The output power can be estimated by Eq. (2)

 P (1)/  fabrication process was limited to 0.1 mm, so the magnet was
T =m Tout machined in order to t the same tolerances, and this procedure
W cp T TTin 1 , (2)
PTin caused a considerable reduction in permanent magnet residual ux
where W T, m
and T are respectively the turbine power, mass ow The residual ux was measured after the grinding process, and a
and isentropic efciency, cp and  are the air specic heat and spe- Br was 1.08 T. It reduced considerably the machine induced voltage,
cic heat ratio. T and P denotes temperature and pressure where the initially estimated as 290.3VRMS , to a value of 220.7VRMS . Also, cop-
sub-index Tin and Tout are turbines input and output respectively. per ll factor was expected to be around 35% but it was only possible
For electric energy handling, a three phase fast rectier was con- to achieve 19.6%, which also reduced the total available current and
nected to the generator to keep the electric load balanced. On the total power from 9.46 kW to 3.5 kW. These values show that the
DC bus, a resistive power load was used aiming the nearest unit challenges related to the fabrication process reduced in more than
power factor operation as possible. The illustrated connections are a half the expected power.
presented in Fig. 13, where A means current measure and V In addition, after the machining procedure on the magnet,
voltage measurement. an accelerated and continuous loss in residual ux density was
observed. Even with a re-coating procedure, the PM got oxidizing.
4. Experimental results Fig. 14 shows two tests made within a six months interval, in which
it was possible to observe energy losses in the magnet through
In order to achieve high angular speeds, geometric tolerances induced voltage. The curves are presented as a linear interpolation
were limited to 0.001 mm for the shaft and bearings. Magnet from the experimental results, but it also shows that at higher

Fig. 12. Experimental test stand to drive the micro-turbine [2].

230 T.A.C. Maia et al. / Electric Power Systems Research 147 (2017) 224232

Table 4
Experimental results presented in Fig. 16.

Parameters Value

Voltage 103.0VRMS /161.5Vpk

Current 10.4ARMS /13.9Apk
3 power 3 kW

Fig. 15. Fundamental induced voltage in the generator.

frequencies, the skin magnetic makes the induced voltage non

linear [31,33].
The rst test was made without load searching for a comparison
between the calculated and experimental induced voltage in the
machine. Using nite element method, the induced voltage was
determined in a time dependent simulation, where the ux inside
slot area was estimated over time. The experimental voltage was
also measured experimentally using a signal conditioning system
with 12bits of resolution and voltage range from 0 to 3.3 V. The
equivalent error was equivalent to 2.5%.
The results are presented in Fig. 15, in which it is possible
to observe the concordance between simulated and experimental
induced voltage. The minor noticeable variation in the graph are
within the expected experimental measurement error.
After electromotive force validation, the expected drain power
should depend only on current conduction capability. The power Fig. 17. Experimental power generation result with forced oil cooling at
generation test was conducted at lower speeds just to keep AC 64,000 rpm3.4 kW.

voltage standards of 110VRMS phase-ground, which occurs around

63,000 rpm and a resistive load of 14.5  to drain the equivalent of in Table 4. To reduce the total harmonic distortion, power electronics
3.4 kW electric power. must be adopted as a controlled rectier.
The nal current and voltage output for one phase are plot in The results showed that the design was in concordance with the
Fig. 16, in which it is possible to observe a high harmonic order evaluation experiment. In order to improve the results, bearing oil
due to notch effect in the diode bridge caused by the higher fre- system was used to keep the winding heads at lower temperatures
quency and the synchronous inductance from the generator. The and thus the resistive load could be lowered for a higher power
3rd is automatic eliminated with a Delta connection, but the drain. The results from maximum available power in the system
5th and 7th are still present reducing the RMS voltage as presented are presented in Fig. 17 and Table 5.
The higher current drain, produced higher harmonics ampli-
tudes and the RMS value was reduced even more. At the measured
current, it was possible to drain 3.4 kW of maximum electric power.
The surface current density from the rst test was kept around
4.93 A/mm2 , and from the second it was close to 5.74 A/mm2 .
The experimental evaluation shows that higher power densi-
ties can be achieved considering the cooling capabilities from the
generator, as well as the harmonics reduction in the system.

4.1. Efciency

Thus far, the results support design procedure and methodol-

ogy but its efciency should be evaluated. Experimental procedure
consists of coupling the generator to the resistive load and accel-
erate the system until rated speed. That way, induced voltage will
increase with speed and thus will also increase the electrical load.

Table 5
Experimental results presented in Fig. 17.

Parameters Value

Voltage 101.0VRMS /164.7Vpk

Current 12.1ARMS /16.3Apk
3 power 3.4 kW
Fig. 16. Experimental power generation result at 64,000 rpm3 kW.
T.A.C. Maia et al. / Electric Power Systems Research 147 (2017) 224232 231

High harmonic order suggests that a controlled rectier is

needed and some PLL inverter should be developed to inject gen-
erated power to the grid.
The results proved that the concept of a low cost and reliable
Micro-CAES system with a high power density which is able to oper-
ate either storing or returning energy to the grid. Just considering
the fabrication and mounting procedures, the design presented in
this work can reach 9.6 kW of output power for the same volume.


This project has been supported nancially by CNPq Con-

selho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientco e Tecnolgico, CAPES
Coordenaco de Aperfeicoamento de Pessoal de Nvel Superior,
IFMG Instituto Federal de Minas Gerais, UFMG - Universidade
Federal de Minas Gerais, Weg, Aperam and Fahren.
Fig. 18. Global and radial turbine efciency with electrical load increase. The load
increment was made accelerating the system with compressed air, which was direct
connected to the resistive load. References

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