Activities in Energy Efficiency in Industry

Electrical machines (member of Flanders Make)

Flanders MakeWe design and characterise electrical machines including their control w.r.t. electromagnetic, thermal and mechanical aspects. Our axial flux machine e.g. has a very high efficiency of more than 95%, with a rated power of 4kW and 2500rpm. Several applications are now targeted. Our SynRM designs outperform the existing designs in terms of efficiency and controllability.

Several test benches are available for extensive testing, characterisation and modelling of drive train components such as electrical machines, traditional as well as more advanced gearboxes, ... One of these test benches includes a unique electromagnetic variable transmission (EVT). We develop new applications for these EVTs and develop new design tools and scaling laws.
Our research activities related to energy efficient drives at Ghent University have been grouped in the lab "Energy Efficient Drive Trains", see EEDT is a partner of the Strategic Research Centre Manufacturing Industry, see

Two examples to illustrate our expertise:

Design of electrical machines

The patent application ‘High Efficient Axial Machine’ is a typical example of our activities in the field of energy-efficient electrical machines. We have designed this special type of permanent magnet electrical machine from scratch. Both thermal and electrical as well as magnetic aspects were investigated. The result is a very high efficiency of more than 95%, with a rated power of 4kW and 2500rpm. It is a very compact machine with only 10cm axial length and 20cm of diameter. We are currently looking for industrial partners for the licensing or transferring of the technology.

Electromechanical drive trains

We are also investigating other exotic machines and drive-train combinations as well as more traditional permanent magnet machines, switched-reluctance machines, stepper motors … We provide both services in the design process and in the selection process: what type of electrical machine, power electronics and gearing is best suited for a specific application to reach maximum efficiency? For the chosen configuration, we predict efficiencies of the machine, power electronics and gearing for the specific torque-speed characteristic using e.g. contour maps measured in our research facilities (see figure below). Several IWT Technology Transfer (TeTra) projects and bilateral projects have been coupled to this research.


The IWT SBO project ORCNext aimed at developing knowledge and design tools for the next generation of Organic Rankine Cycles (ORC). The focus was the implementation of ORC-technology in waste heat valorization. The project was a partnership between Ghent University, University of Antwerp, University of Liège and Atlas Copco.

The project showed that the overall technical target of increasing efficiency with 20 to 25% can be met through appropriate cycle selection, efficient expanders, appropriate control and less oversizing of the heat exchangers.

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W2PHeat project and HP4Drying project

W2PHeat (Waste to Process Heat) and HP4Drying (Heat Pumps for Drying) are both IWT ERANET CORNET projects. These projects aim at technology transfer towards industry, providing them with new technology and new technological insights, and informing them about the potential impact on their energy usage.

Within W2PHeat heat pumps are studied. By using heat pumps, waste heat can be upgraded to a higher temperature level. Currently, the limited maximum output temperature of approximately 80 to 90°C and the unfavourable electricity/fuel price ratios are predominant reasons for the lack of heat pump applications in industry. Therefore, high-temperature heat pumps need to be developed, the main goal of the project. This includes the selection of suitable working fluids, the definition of a proper cycle architecture, the retrofitting of an existing compressor to make it compatible with high temperature operation, the optimisation of heat exchangers and the elaboration of economical compressor driving technologies.

Within HP4Drying we intend to use heat pumps explicitly for drying processes. The starting point of this project was to create a closed-loop drying process aiming at increasing energy efficiency. The project will start in the spring of 2014.

More information on the W2PHeat project

EU-FP7-R4SME-CPV Rankine

In 2013, the European FP7 SME CPV Rankine project started with as one of the partners De Coninck in Gavere. As part of the project, UGent designed a supercritical heat exchanger for a solar-driven ORC which was built by De Conick. Test are currently running on this cycle in Athens.

More information on the CPV Rankine project

Advanced heat exchangers

We are modelling, designing and simulating compact heat exchangers. To improve the heat transfer rate, different strategies are being used. We investigate the interaction between the flow behaviour and the resulting heat transfer and pressure drop. This way we can optimize and design units for specific applications. Experimental data are used to develop heat transfer and pressure drop correlations. The data also provides reliable benchmarking data for numerical codes. The numerical results provide a more detailed look into the flow physics resulting in a more complete picture of the relevant phenomena.

Metal foam heat exchangers - Alhedron

A very special and advanced compact heat exchanger is one that uses metal foam such as aluminium foam. The foam consists of interconnected polyhedrons. Hence the name Alhedron for our activities, which include the setting up of a new company as a spin-off. Alhedron optimizes applications by combining our best-in-class proprietary design tools with our expertise in thermal systems and know-how about metal foam. Alhedron creates fully-integrated and customer-specific designs and makes sure your application benefits in the best way from the unique advantages of open-cell metal foam (metal foam makes an application lighter, more robust, more compact and visually appealing).

Two phase evaporation/condensation

During the evaporation of a refrigerant in heat exchangers, the refrigerant behaves as a two-phase flow in which the void fraction is an important parameter. We have developed a patented technology to determine directly, online, in-situ and automatically the void fraction using capacitive sensor output. This allows us to either optimise the design and to reduce oversizing or use this signal as a control signal for controlling the evaporation process. With this sensor we are also looking at the behaviour of two-phase flows in hairpins which are present in compact fin and tube heat exchangers, in order to reduce the oversizing of the heat exchanger and to increase the coefficient of performance of heat pumps and chillers.

Thermal storage

We are a member of the European InPathTES network. Our test infrastructure to study the basic concepts of thermal
storage is a key asset. Furthermore, our spin-off project Alhedron is working on the commercialisation of thermal storage units based on metal foam. It is a typical example wherein we use our expert knowledge in heat transfer of complex geometries.

More information on Alhedron

Internal Combustion Engines

In the H2020 project LEANSHIPS, we study the use of methanol in internal combustion engines. The internal combustion engine with compression ignition (type diesel engines) is still the most important source of traction for heavy duty transport, railway transport, marine applications and generator sets. We perform research on the use of alternative fuels in those medium-speed combustion engines. An important tool in this research is our constant volume combustion chamber, which is optically accessible. It was baptized the "Ghent University Combustion Chamber I", shortened to "GUCCI". With it, we are able to visualise the whole process of both atomisation and combustion and to measure all necessary parameters to characterise the diesel process.

We complement this with advanced modelling. Most models for diesel atomisation and combustion still have some shortcomings, even more so if the same models are used for other fuels than conventional (fossil) diesel. The results of experiments on the GUCCI set-up are used to modify models for the use of alternative fuels. The research is performed in close collaboration with the Anglo Belgian Corporation (ABC), a manufacturer of internal combustion engines located in Ghent. We are also in contact with software developers and other stakeholders.

Energy management in industry

We develop models and tools for more advanced electrical and thermal energy management in industry, e.g. within the SPIRE project EPOS.

Together with several industrial park developers and owners, we have been working on aspects with respect to interconnecting the stakeholders in an industrial park and optimizing their combined energy usage. This is not only a technical challenge as challenges also reside in the legal, economic, social and spatial aspects. This is the core subject of the ACE project.

More information