Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Energy News  




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



ENERGY TECH
Aluminum To Replace Copper As A Conductor In On-Board Power Systems

This CAD drawing shows an innovative electrical connector based on aluminum conductors instead of copper. It's part of a project to remove obstacles to using this lighter, less expensive material in electric cars and other vehicles. Credit: Copyright TU Muenchen
by Staff Writers
Munich, Germany (SPX) Feb 09, 2011
Electric power and electronics are playing an ever-increasing role in all kinds of vehicles. Currently copper is the conductive material of choice. But in comparison to aluminum copper is heavy and expensive. In particular for fully electric vehicles the switch to the cheaper and lighter aluminum would be an interesting option. That is why the optimization of intricate power supply networks is now in the focus of engineering research. Scientists from the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM), in collaboration with BMW engineers, have now found out what tricks make it possible to replace copper with aluminum.

At first glance it is not at all clear why copper is still used as conductor in modern electric or semi-electric vehicles - when aluminum is lighter and significantly less costly. However, before aluminum can replace copper in power supply systems, a number of technological challenges need to be surmounted. When temperatures are high - and there are many places in a car where that is the case - aluminum displays a distinct creep behavior. Conventional connectors could thus not be used, as they would become loose with time.

One possible alternative - the use of aluminum-based elements in cables and copper-based elements in connection areas - also entails problems. Because there is a high electrochemical potential between a copper contact and an aluminum cable, this kind of wiring would be very prone to corrosion. Besides, joining copper to aluminum is rather demanding with the current state of technology. In order to counteract the aforementioned difficulties, scientists of the chairs for High Voltage Technology and Power Transmission and for Metal Casting and Forming, in cooperation with the respective departments of the BMW Group, developed an innovative aluminum-based electrical connection concept in the project LEIKO.

A sheet metal cage, which is an electromagnetic compatibility requirement anyway, enhances the mechanical stability of the plug and guarantees the long-term support of the contact pressure spring. Because the necessary contact force is no longer provided by the contact elements themselves, the originally problematic creep behavior of aluminum turns into a contact stabilizing, and thus, positive property. This, in turn, also guarantees a constant contact force over a lifetime of ten years.

To this end the researchers came up with a special wedge-shaped geometry for the aluminum contacts. The aluminum creep now leads to the two contacts snuggling closer and closer together over time, thereby rendering the electrical connection better yet. Moreover, the consistent use of aluminum alloys and the ingenious application of precious metal plating made it possible to relocate the formation of corrosion-prone local elements to less critical locations in the system.

A further problem with substituting aluminum for copper is its lower electrical conductivity. In the case of high-power on-board systems in particular, the cable cross-sections, which are about 60 per cent larger, need to be taken into account in the construction of cable ducts and feed-throughs. One positive thing the scientists discovered was that because aluminum is very pliable, the standard values from copper cable processing, where bending radii are set based on the diameter, could also be used for aluminum.

In order to determine the long-term behavior of the coated aluminum contacts under even the rough conditions typical for motorized vehicles, the project partners, together with leading suppliers, have successfully initiated a further research project. Funded by the Bavarian Research Foundation (BFS), this project will deliver evidence on the aging behavior and thus the suitability of the concept by 2012.

Initial results indicate that the material substitution will lead to significant improvements in weight, cost, and ultimately emissions. "We expect the high-voltage on-board systems of most electric vehicles to be based on aluminum by 2020. Aluminum will find its way into low-voltage on-board systems as well, because the price of copper will rise significantly with increasing demand," says Professor Udo Lindemann from the Institute of Product Development at the TU Muenchen.

The project finds its theoretical counterpart in the Collaborative Research Center (SFB) 768, Managing Cycles in Innovation Processes, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). It aims to bundle competencies from computer science, engineering, economics, and the social sciences in order to look into challenges at the interfaces of innovation processes along with partners from industry. The goal of this research is to use an interdisciplinary perspective to develop industry-relevant solutions in dealing with dynamic changes in company environments, as well as in company internal process landscapes.

Another aspect of the research conducted within SFB 768 is a student project to develop an electrically driven go-cart. In order to experience the manifold challenges of innovation management first-hand, the students started with a standard base structure and went through the entire development process for all subsystems of the vehicle. The results of the LEIKO project are also integrated into the student project - the entire high-voltage on-board system is implemented in aluminum.

The results are to be incorporated in the TUM electro vehicle MUTE, which will be presented at the IAA 2011.



Share This Article With Planet Earth
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit
YahooMyWebYahooMyWeb GoogleGoogle FacebookFacebook



Related Links
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com



Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


ENERGY TECH
New Reactor Paves The Way For Efficiently Producing Fuel From Sunlight
Pasadena CA (SPX) Jan 21, 2011
Using a common metal most famously found in self-cleaning ovens, Sossina Haile hopes to change our energy future. The metal is cerium oxide-or ceria-and it is the centerpiece of a promising new technology developed by Haile and her colleagues that concentrates solar energy and uses it to efficiently convert carbon dioxide and water into fuels. Solar energy has long been touted as the solut ... read more







ENERGY TECH
Australia's emissions set to rise

China and the U.S. sign energy deals

S. Korea may delay carbon trading system: official

Europe launches trillion-euro energy revamp

ENERGY TECH
China eyes Mideast's energy resources

Iran claims 'nuclear fusion mastered'

Egypt concerns spur Israeli gas drive

Aluminum To Replace Copper As A Conductor In On-Board Power Systems

ENERGY TECH
GL Garrad Hassan Launches Onshore Wind Resource Mapping For UK

Construction Begins On Dempsey Ridge Wind Project

India's Suzlon wins $1.28 bn wind power deal

German wind sector hopes for 2011 comeback

ENERGY TECH
Italian banks join solar energy project

Arizona Commission Approves Crossroads Solar Energy Project

Mortenson To Construct World's Largest CPV Solar Plant

Sharp Solar Project To Provide Clean Energy To City Of Brea

ENERGY TECH
Vattenfall may not restart German reactor

IAEA hosts nuclear energy workshop

Russia may quit Bulgaria nuclear plant: report

Russia to help Belarus build nuclear power plant

ENERGY TECH
Indonesian palm oil giant vows to save forests

Biofuel plant planned for Florida

Ethanol Emergency Response Training Introduced To Nine Selected Cities

Construction Of Phase II Grower Harvester Technology Completed

ENERGY TECH
U.S. wary of China space weapons

Slow progress in U.S.-China space efforts

China Builds Theme Park In Spaceport

Tiangong Space Station Plans Progessing

ENERGY TECH
China farmers to get $15 bn subsidies amid drought

Man, Volcanoes And The Sun Have Influenced Europe's Climate Over Recent Centuries

Prince Charles decries 'reckless roulette' over climate

Two Severe Amazon Droughts In Five Years Alarms Scientists


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement