UNNC research team improves efficiency for airplane generators

17 June 2020


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Dr He Zhang

UNNC Power Electronics and Electrical Drive Research Group has developed a high-power rating DC Starter/Generator system for aeroplane engines with improved efficiency and reduced weight.

The team was led by Dr He Zhang. He joined the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 2014 after obtaining his PhD degree and working five years at the University of Nottingham UK. He has led or participated in many motor drive systems research projects for transport electrician and became the youngest principal research fellow of UNNC. 

Dr Zhang explained that the focus of his work has been to generate maximum electrical power while ensuring a safe and reliable operation. The team took five years to overcome various problems caused by high speed, high power density and the high-efficiency permanent magnet machine drive system. 

Dr Kathy Kang, the Vice-Chief Engineer of the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), has praised the new system as currently the only high-power rating DC Starter/Generator system for commercial aircraft. 

Researching motor drive systems to meet more environmentally-friendly transportation needs, Dr Zhang and his team also have plenty of experience in industrial collaboration and commercialisation. "I am very concerned about the practical application of my research results,” he said. “I hope my research is not just some working prototype in the laboratory, but can also withstand repeated tests, and can be adopted in the industry".

Dr Zhang’s work has also influenced his PhD candidates. Bowen Shi, one of his students, focused on “heavy load Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) drive system” and its industrialisation after graduating. Bowen recalled that during intensive periods they had to work over ten hours, enduring the noise and wind of the propeller, to conduct experiments. “It wasn’t bad, because we all wanted to obtain the optimal outcomes,” he said.

Nottingham Electrification Centre (NEC) - in which Dr Zhang is the principal research fellow – was founded in 2017 and has since gathered over 30 scholars and research fellows from around the world. He hopes that via research platforms like NEC, the University will be able to train more young and enthusiastic electrical engineers. “I hope we can make contributions to humanity and society through our efforts and technological innovations.”