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Electric Systems—Generators and Motors (CABLE)


e.      Electric Systems—Generators and Motors (CABLE)

This subtopic solicits proposals for more affordable, efficient direct current (DC), single-phase and three-phase alternating current (AC) electric motors/generators that leverage innovations in CABLE materials. Generator/motor systems with integrated power conversion system innovations that improve overall system performance are also of interest.


In 2019, the U.S. used 37.1 quadrillion Btu (quads) of primary energy to generate electricity for the grid and consumed approximately 13.75 quads of site electricity in 2018 [1, 2]. Of this, nearly 98 percent of the electricity came from mechanical generators [3]. On the demand side, electric motors consumed more 50 percent of all electrical energy in the US and more than 85 percent of industrial electrical energy. [4] Both generators and motors rely on electrically conductive materials. Generators convert mechanical power into electrical power while motors convert electrical power into mechanical power. Improving the performance of motors and generators is critical to the U.S. energy system. Advances in CABLE materials provide significant opportunity to increase the power density of motor and generator technologies while reducing energy losses, increasing performance, and providing for better and/or lower complexity thermal management of these systems. Proposals are sought in the following two areas of interest:


·         Electrical generator technologies have been used in hydropower for more than a century in power generation applications. Recent growth in the renewable energy sector has highlighted the need for more flexible, efficient, and reliable technologies—particularly in distributed applications where continued innovation is needed to lower costs. Conventional grid connected generators are heavy, have a large form factor, and distributed systems must survive in harsh or extreme conditions, and often in remote and difficult to access locations (offshore wind and marine energy for example). This results in higher transportation and installation, operations, and maintenance (IO&M) costs and the need for complex thermal management systems – estimates suggest that operations and maintenance (O&M) costs make up 20%-30% of the lifecycle costs for offshore wind [2]. Advanced materials hold promise to meaningfully lower the cost of energy to end users by lowering the cost of O&M and through improvements to efficiency and capital costs.


·         Motor-driven components used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and refrigeration are the highest energy consumers in the buildings sectors. Most of the residential and commercial equipment types covered in the residential and commercial sectors are covered by DOE energy conservation standards and industry standards such as ASHRAE 90.1. These standards continue to push manufacturers to consider both more efficient motors and variable-speed technologies, among other product design improvements, to meet more stringent minimum efficiency requirements. However, research efforts and incentives outside of DOE regulation would enable further reductions in motor-driven system energy consumption in the residential and commercial sectors.


Innovations in CABLE materials have great potential to increase the performance (including power density and reliability) of both motor and generator systems. Proposals for research that improve technologies in both motors and generators are of particular interest. Examples of broad research efforts that could improve both motor and generator system performance while reducing lifecycle costs include:

·         Advanced manufacturing including additively manufactured parts and components;

·         Power conversion systems that use wide bandgap semiconductors in place of conventional semiconductor materials and incorporate CABLE materials;

·         Generators with integrated speed changing mechanisms such as magnetic gears;

·         Applications that simplify or eliminate the need for thermal management (for example active vs passive cooling, air vs water).


All proposals should demonstrate performance improvements that take full advantage of CABLE material improvements primarily:

·         Increased electrical conductivity; and/or

·         Increased thermal conductivity.


Secondary improvements that also should be considered in a proposed solution include, but are not limited to:

·         Ampacity

·         Magnetic permeability

·         Other thermal performance (temperature coefficient of resistance)


All proposals must consider the reliability of proposed systems and environment in which they operate (humidity, corrosion).


Given the wide range of technology suitable for this subtopic, specific application targets are not defined but proposed innovations must exceed the state-of-the-art performance significantly. Efforts to reduce the cost of advanced motor and generator technologies are essential for commercialization. Applications must demonstrate progress in Phase I and achievement in Phase II of the following performance and cost targets:


High Performance Motor Targets



Efficiency and/or lower cost R&D focus

40% lower cost (same performance compared to state-of-the-art or Energy Star equipment)

Size and weight

No increase as compared to the most recent minimum energy efficiency standards

Susceptibility to damage or corrosion or performance degradation during manufacture, assembly, transportation, installation, or use

Little to no increase as compared to state-of-the-art designs for relevant applications

High Performance Generator Targets



Power density

5% increase in power density (as compared to current state-of-the-art)

Smaller form factor and/or lower weight

10% improvement for specific application (as compared to current state-of-the-art)

Thermal performance

Improved thermal tolerance and/or ability to manage externally

System reliability

Comparable or better as compared to state-of-the-art designs for relevant applications


This subtopic is seeking systems that achieve the highest combination of reductions of size, cost, form factor, thermal management, and largest improvements in performance.


Please refer to Topic 12 (BTO) for other opportunities related to Building technologies and Topic 17 (WPTO) for opportunities related to Water Power technologies.


Questions – Contact: Fredericka Brown, Building Technologies Office,, and Erik Mauer, Water Power Technologies Office,


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