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Inventors of the Year 2016

New Talents

Young and creative people are skeptical when they hear the sentence: “We have always done it like that.” And that’s a good thing. Adriana Urda, engineer at Siemens Wind Power in Brande, Denmark, observed how much waste is generated in the production of permanent magnets for wind turbines. Driven by a desire to avoid this, she got to work on developing a new method. Her aim: to make the production of rare-earth magnets more eco-friendly and economical. For this, the 34-year-old has won an award as Inventor of the Year 2016 in the New Talents category. She stems from Romania, where she studied electrical and drive engineering. She completed her studies at the University of Aalborg in Denmark.

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Permanent magnets for direct-drive wind turbines

Urda has experienced the rapid rise of direct-drive wind turbines firsthand. In this type of design, the rotary motion of the rotor blades is the same as that of the generators. To achieve high performance at a lower speed than in geared turbines, a larger generator is needed. Powerful permanent magnets make it possible to build a comparatively compact and light generator.

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Production with less waste

After sintering, the rectangular permanent magnets, which are produced using iron and rare earths, are normally ground into the shape needed for installation in the generator. “That results in a lot of waste,” explains Urda. The residue is recycled but that is not 100% possible, so she considered how the magnets could be shaped correctly right from the start. The primary material is a powder that is normally pressed into a rectangular mold and sintered. Urda’s new method consists in pressing this powder into shapes that match the final product without further processing.

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Permanent magnets have to work for over 20 years

Since the magnets are only produced by highly specialized suppliers, a substantial part of the innovation process involved analyzing samples from suppliers and suggesting new ways to process the raw material. Part of Urda’s job is to ensure the quality of the magnets. “They have to retain the same characteristics over the entire service life of the wind turbine, at least 20 years, without losing any magnetic strength,” she says.

Young people have not yet had many bad experiences, so they’re willing to take more chances because they don’t think from the beginning that an idea won’t work.

Adriana Urda, Engineer Wind Power, Brande, Denmark
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