Russian Prepares for Superconductor Electric Motor Trials

 - February 24, 2020, 10:40 AM

The Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects (RFARP) expects to be ready to start flight testing an aircraft powered by an electric motor using superconductor materials by 2021. According to deputy director general Vitaly Davydov, the state-backed defense research agency is working jointly with superconductor developer SuperOx to develop an all-electric eVTOL aircraft.

The partners said the aircraft’s 500-kW motor will use high-temperature superconductors (HTSC), which significantly reduce electrical resistance to deliver power more efficiently. It will use as-yet-unspecified materials that are cooled by liquid nitrogen.

According to RFARP, the agency and SuperOx expect to develop an HTSC-electric more that would be suitable for all-electric or hybrid-electric powerplant for a variety of existing fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, as well as for new-generation eVTOL designs.

According to Oleg Panteleev, head of analysis with Russian aviation consultancy Aviaport, HTSC technology has significant potential as an enabler for electrically-powered aircraft. However, he told AIN that its developers need to be ready to evaluate the new powerplant on both ground and flying testbeds. He also maintained that more powerful electric motors and higher capacity batteries will be required for their widespread use to be feasible in terms of range and operational flexibility.  

In any case, the outcome of the joint RFARP/SuperOx testing of the superconductor motor technology could prompt Russia’s domestic aerospace industry to invest in electric aircraft development. The state-backed United Aircraft Corp. would likely play a prominent role in any such moves.

Meanwhile, the European Union-funded advanced superconducting motor experimental demonstrator program advancing plans for a motor with a power-to-weight ratio of 20 kW/kg and a 99 percent efficiency rating for conducting electricity.

This story comes from resource developed by AIN to provide objective, independent coverage of new aviation technology, including electric aircraft developments.