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28 October 2015

More money for smart innovations

A fine combination of solar cells and geothermal heating with highly efficient motors. These are two ideas that have received grants from Mistra Innovation to carry out a prestudy. The hope is that, in the next call for funding applications, they will be able to become full-scale innovation projects.

On three occasions, Mistra Innovation has distributed money for projects with the potential to provide great environmental benefit while also being thought to have prospects of commercial success. Altogether, 16 projects have shared funding of SEK 60 million. During the selection process, a number of interesting ideas have arisen but not been judged highly developed enough to be considered for multi-million-krona funding.

In the latest call, there were two highly attractive projects of this kind, but the Board did not deem them to have the right maturity.

‘They therefore chose not to include them for assessment in the call. Instead, these projects received small grants to develop their ideas further,’ says Lars Frenning, Mistra Innovation’s Programme Director.

One project, ‘High Torque Motor’, is run by the company Simplex Motion AB. The other, ‘Sun Hybrid with Ground Heat Pump’, is from the company Lenhovda Radiator AB. These two received SEK 290,000 and 406,000 respectively, for each to carry out its own prestudy.

If these ideas prove viable, the plan is to allow them to be submitted in the call for proposals that Mistra Innovation will launch in spring 2016.

More efficient motors

The ‘High Torque Motor’ project has the aim of boosting the power transfer and energy efficiency of motors used in product categories where linear movement and high torque are required. These include lifts, belt conveyors and other conveyor systems.

The company behind the idea, Simplex Motion AB, bases it on a sensor technology that has been developed in-house and patented. They are now going to use it on an existing motor type known as ‘Transversal Flux’ to boost its power transfer and hence energy efficiency.

‘Our technology makes it possible to build propulsion systems without gearboxes. This not only boosts efficiency but also reduces wear and maintenance costs,’ says Mikael Rittander of Simplex Motion AB.

The money received by the company will be used to fund a study in collaboration with the Division of Electric Power Engineering (part of the Department of Energy and Environment) at Chalmers University of Technology.

Heat from solar cells

The other project, ‘Sun Hybrid with Ground Heat Pump’, sets out to solve the problem of solar cells losing efficiency when the temperature rises. This means that on warm, sunny days when one might think they should function best, solar cells are least efficient. If the temperature in the cell rises from 25 to 50 degrees, power transfer capacity falls by 15–20%.

The solution to the problem proposed by Lenhovda Radiator AB achieves two aims at once. The idea is to cool the solar cell with water that is then pumped down into the drill holes used for geothermal power installations. Thus, the temperature in and around the drill hole is raised and this heat can then be reused when the outdoor temperature falls and the geothermal pump starts working. Another plus is that the heat generated in the solar cell on warm but cloudy days, when no electricity is generated, can still be used.

‘This means that we increase the efficiency both of the solar cells and of the geothermal installation. And that will enable solar energy to become a cost-effective alternative sooner at these latitudes,’ says Magnus Johansson of Lenhovda Radiator AB.

The technology exists and works. The challenge is to bring about entirely even cooling of the solar cells, which is necessary to be able to guarantee a specific output. To achieve this, Lenhova Radiator AB has begun collaborating with KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Basis for new application

Lars Frenning sums up Mistra’s rationale for investing in these two projects:

‘Both have both great environmental potential and prospects of creating job opportunities in Sweden. Sun Hybrid also has an interesting cluster of established small and medium-sized enterprises around Lenhovda in Småland — the type of company that Mistra Innovation primarily addresses. We hope these prestudies will be so successful than both companies can apply for a larger project in the fourth call of the programme, which will open in 2016.’

Text: Per Westergård, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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