Challenges and Opportunities of Very Light High-Performance Electric Drives for Aviation
The demand for alternative fueling methods to reduce the need for fossil fuels is not limited to the electrification of ground vehicles. More-electric and all-electric aircraft pose challenges, with extensive requirements in terms of power density, efficiency, safety, and environmental sustainability. This paper focuses on electrical machines and their components, especially for high-power applications like the main propulsion. The electrical machine is evaluated from different aspects, followed by a closer look at the components and materials to determine the suitability of the current standard materials and advanced technologies. Furthermore, the mechanical and thermal aspects are reviewed, including new and innovative concepts for the cooling of windings and for the use of additive manufacturing. Aircraft have special demands regarding weight and installation space. Following recent developments and looking ahead to the future, the need and the possibilities for light and efficient electrical machines are addressed. All of the approaches and developments presented lead to a better understanding of the challenges to be expected and highlight the upcoming opportunities in electrical machine design for the use of electric motors and generators in future aircraft. Several prototypes of electrical machines for smaller aircraft already exist, such as the electric drive of the Siemens powered Extra 330LE. The focus of this paper is to provide an overview of current technical possibilities and technical interrelations of high performance electric drives for aviation. A 1 MW drive is exemplified to present the possibilities for future drives for airplanes carrying a larger number of passengers. All presented techniques can also be applied to other drive power classes.