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sts.components.contact.mr.placeholder Sebastian Webel
Mr. Sebastian Webel

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Pictures of the Future
The Magazine for Research and Innovation
 

Innovations: Inventor of the Year 2016 - Dr. Adriana Urda

New Method of Manufacturing Magnets form Rare Earths

Dr. Adriana Urda, 34, an engineer at Siemens Wind Power in Brande, Denmark, has registered 23 inventions and holds five individual patents that are protected in 16 patent families.

Young and creative people are skeptical when they hear the sentence: “We have always done it like that.” And it is good that they are. Adriana Urda, 34, an 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 developed a new method for more eco-friendly and economical production of rare-earth magnets. Urda has won an award as Inventor of the Year 2016 in the New Talent category.

Adriana Urda originally stems from Romania, where she studied Electrical and Drive Engineering before completing her studies in Aalborg, Denmark. Working at Siemens Wind Power in Brande means a lot to her: “Here is the global center of the wind power industry. I am proud to be involved in the development of this environmentally friendly way of generating power.”

She feels attracted to magnets ever since her thesis, in which she defined the properties of a magnet used in a race car. The young inventor has been working at Siemens since 2009 and has experienced the rapid rise of direct-drive wind turbines at first hand. In this type of design, the rotary motion of the 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.

“Young people risk more. They do not think from the outset that an idea will not work.”

The more powerful the permanent magnets are, the more efficient the wind turbine. Part of Ms. Urda’s job is to ensure the quality of the magnets. “They must keep the same properties as long as the turbine itself – at least 20 years – without losing magnetic performance,” she says. Because the magnets are only manufactured by highly specialized suppliers, a large part of her work on the innovative process consisted in analyzing samples from the supplier and suggesting new ways of processing the raw material.

After sintering, permanent magnets are conventionally ground from rectangular geometries into the desired shape needed for installation in the generator. “This causes a lot of waste,” she explains. The residue is recycled but that is not 100% possible, so Adriana Urda considered how the magnets could be shaped correctly right from the start. The basic material is a powder that is normally pressed and sintered into a rectangular shape. Her new method consists in pressing this powder into shapes that match the final product, using still a rectangular pressing tool, without the needs of extra grinding. After many trials, it finally became possible to produce the required shapes with the same properties as conventionally made magnets.

The engineer has already registered 23 inventions and holds five individual patents which are protected in 16 patent families. She sees experience as important for inventions but also says: “Young people risk more. They do not think from the outset that an idea will not work.” She finds her work very fulfilling. “At the university, they kept telling us that we only have one Earth and must conserve it for future generations,” she remembers. “And now I have a daughter who is a few months old and can understand that statement much better.”

Katrin Nikolaus