These devices could be put into use in areas where there are strong tidal currents.
These devices could be put into use in areas where there are strong tidal currents.

The researchers have reportedly modified the generator’s design so that components manufactured using metal injection moulding (MIM) could be installed. This could reduce the cost of these systems as well as increasing their efficiency by up to 30%, according to the scientists’ calculations. 

“These generators use magnetic components that we are producing using PIM [powder injection moulding] technology, which turns out to be more versatile when it comes to modifying the compositions and makes it possible to get the parts for a lower price,” said José Manuel Torralba, from the university’s Powder Technology Research Group (Grupo de Tecnología de Polvos-GTP), who is coordinating UC3M’s participation in this project.

According to a paper that these researchers recently published in the “International Journal of Microstructure and Materials Properties”, in which they describe the different stages in the manufacturing process, powder injection moulding is proving to be a real alternative in the manufacture of these kind of complex parts.

Magnetic powders

The scientists are researching the best combination of metallic powders with a magnetic character (iron, silicon, cobalt, nickel) in order to inject them into a polymer plastic mould that will allow them to create complex parts that are difficult and expensive to produce mechanically. “The great advantage of this technology is that once you design the material, by modifying the mould, it is easy to manufacture millions of pieces that are exactly the same, in a manner that is simple, fast and quite inexpensive,” said Torralba.

The plan is to develop a device to replace conventional magnetic materials and develop a new type of generator that transforms the mechanical energy produced by the movement of the tides into electric energy.

The scientists expect to have the first prototypes of generators made with this technology ready for next year. These devices, which could also be used for wind and other alternative energy source generators, could be put into use in areas where there are strong tidal currents, such as the west coast of Canada, Southeast Asia and Australia, the Bosporus and, in the case of Spain, the Strait of Gibraltar.

The project, called MAGNETIDE, is an R+D project supported by the Seventh Framework Program, the European Union’s main instrument for funding research. The project is being carried out by a consortium that brings together seven scientific companies and institutions from six European countries.