The development of electric aircraft is evolving rapidly worldwide, with over 600 aircraft being developed as of July 2022. And pre-sales have been announced publicly exceeding 5,500 aircraft and $30B, for aircraft not even built or certified yet. With this fast evolution, there is increasing understanding that currently available commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) drivetrain technologies are far too heavy and inefficient especially for > 10 passenger aircraft, and there is need to develop new drivetrain technologies with ~ 10x lower weight and heat loss. It is increasingly understood that superconductivity/cryogenic technologies have the potential to meet those needed goals.
In this presentation, the development of a 40-MW-class electric-wire-interconnect system (EWIS) will be presented for electric propulsion, e.g., powered by liquid H2 fuel-cell propulsion plus Li-batteries or other hybrid-electric options. The study will compare using known electric wire options including Al-based wire at ambient temperatures, Al 99.999% ‘hyperconductor’ @ 20K, and Cu-oxide or MgB2 coated conductors @ 20-77K. The design trades and options to optimize the weight and efficiency will be considered. And the mass and heat loss scaling laws of the drivetrain components are required for varying power/voltage /ampacity levels (0-20 kA) and power-wire distribution architectures, which is a focus of this work. Drivetrain components studied thus far include cable designs, bus bars, current leads, metal/superconducting Tee-joints, cryoflex tubing and cooling system, high voltage insulation, breakers, switches and FCL’s.
Acknowledgments. This research was funded by the NASA University Leadership Initiative (ULI) #80NSSC19M0125, the Air Force Research Laboratory/Aerospace Systems Directorate, and AFOSR LRIR #18RQCOR100.
Keywords: electric aircraft, electric wire interconnect system, power distribution system, cryogenics, superconductivity