Could magnets in MRI scanners unlock the key to generating more wind energy?

A team of GE engineers has been awarded additional funding to apply decades of healthcare experience to develop a more powerful superconducting generator for offshore wind turbines

Could the magnets used in MRI scanners that help doctors see and diagnose disease inside the human body unlock the key to generating more wind energy?

A team of GE engineers has been awarded additional funding worth $20.3 million (£14.8m) from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to apply decades of healthcare experience to develop a more powerful superconducting generator for offshore wind turbines.

The team believes it can apply both the technical expertise and experience scaling MRI technology on the healthcare side to develop a generator that delivers more power within the same footprint to achieve higher annual energy production (AEP) with reduced weight.

GE expects it to drive down the levelised cost of energy, a key challenge in offshore wind.

David Torrey, a Senior Principal Engineer and Project Leader on the Superconducting generator project said: “The industries and applications are vastly different but the technical challenges and goals are very similar.

“With MRI, we have worked over many decades to increase the magnetic field of the superconducting magnets to deliver better image quality. In wind, we’re seeking to strengthen the magnetic field of the magnet to make generators that deliver more wind power with higher efficiency. And with both applications, the goal is to enable these improvements while minimising their size and weight.”

He added the use of superconducting magnets would also eliminate the need for rare earth materials, which are essential in the permanent magnets currently being used in offshore wind turbines.

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