Research aimed at improving efficiency of Navy ships
David Wetz, professor of electrical engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington, has received a $424,618 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) grant from the Office of Naval Research to purchase equipment for studying materials at high voltages.
The equipment will be used in support of a grant he received in August from the Naval Surface War Center–Dahlgren Division (NSWC-DD) to study the high-voltage dielectric insulation properties of epoxy and additively manufactured materials. Dielectric materials can transmit electric force without conduction.
Wetz is working with the Navy team to investigate how these solid materials can be dielectrically altered to improve their insulation properties in compact high-voltage systems. There is a desire to replace traditional oil dielectrics with solid materials that are easier to work with and that have potential for reducing overall system size and weight.
Wetz will purchase two pieces of equipment:
• A Hi-Pot tester that will apply high-voltage DC potential, up to 100 kilovolts, to novel epoxy and additively manufactured materials to test their ability to work as insulators in high-voltage systems.
• A high-voltage pulsed power supply that will apply short, high pulsed voltages to the same samples.
The goal is to study the differences between how the materials act as insulators when voltage is held constant (DC) and when the voltage is applied in short durations. The Navy is working to one day put high-voltage DC into use in ships at sea.
“There is a lack of knowledge as to how epoxy and additively manufactured materials can be dielectrically modified to better work as high-voltage insulators,” Wetz said. “If we can identify new ways to improve their dielectric properties in a controlled manner, we may be able to reduce the size and weight of the high-voltage systems they are insulating, making them more easily installable on mobile platforms.”
UTA has previously executed educational partnership agreements with NSWC-DD, including one signed in March 2019, as well as one with NSWC-Philadelphia (NSWC-PD) that was signed in September 2018. These agreements allow NSWC-DD and NSWC-PD to make their scientific, engineering, and technology assets and subject matter experts available to University faculty to enhance both their research activities and the educational experience of UTA students.
In turn, NSWC-DD and NSWC-PD, can involve UTA faculty and students in U.S. Navy research projects underway at the Philadelphia Division.
“Dr. Wetz and his team continue to make outstanding contributions in the study of high-voltage energy storage and pulsed power systems that can help the Navy operate its ships more efficiently and reliably,” said Diana Huffaker, chair of the Electrical Engineering Department. “We are excited that this new DURIP grant will strengthen our abilities in this area.”
Wetz, who joined UTA in 2010, runs the UTA Pulsed Power and Energy Lab, which addresses issues concerning pulsed power systems as well as safety, thermal and lifetime challenges in batteries that operate at higher-than-normal power rates to provide higher output, yet are in increasingly smaller packages. He has previously worked with NSWC-DD to study prime and intermediate energy storage devices used in compact high-voltage power systems.
- Written by Jeremy Agor, College of Engineering