Powder injection molding technology is the secret to a new tidal energy generator that replaces conventional magnetic materials with alloys. Credit: UC3M, YouTube.


A team of scientists from Spain’s Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) is working with European researchers to develop a tidal energy generator that’s not only less costly but also more efficient.

According to a UC3M news release, the device would replace conventional magnetic materials with ones created using powder injection molding (PIM) technology, which professor José Manuel Torralba says would reduce the cost of tidal energy generators and increase their effectiveness by up to 30 percent.

“These generators use magnetic components that we are producing using PIM technology, which turns out to be more versatile when it comes to modifying the compositions and makes it possible to get the parts for a lower price,” Torralba explains in the release.

PIM—which combines the metallurgy magic that is plastic injection molding with powder technology—is a “real alternative” to complex part manufacturing says the researchers, who confirmed PIM’s problem-solving status in a paper published in International Journal of Microstructure and Materials Properties.

Torralba and team take the right recipe—combinations of powders with magnetic characteristics, like iron, silicon, cobalt, and nickel—and “bake” them into a polymer plastic mold that allows them to “create complex parts that are difficult and expensive to produce mechanically,” states the press release.

“The great advantage of this technology is that once you design the material, by modifying the mold, it is easy to manufacture millions of pieces that are exactly the same, in a manner that is simple, fast and quite inexpensive,” says Torralba.

The research is part of MAGNETIDE, an EU-funded research project that, according to its website, is the result of an “increased interest in wave power as a solution” to projected energy shortfalls and sources of renewable and sustainable energy.

It’s expected to be completed next year when the team’s first generator prototypes are scheduled for production.

If you’re fluent in Spanish, or if you just enjoy neat videos about new technology, check out the video above from UC3M.

The paper isPowder injection moulding: processing of small parts of complex shape” (DOI: 10.1504/IJMMP.2013.052648).

Do you think tidal energy has potential? Sounds to me it’s just one solution to the growing global energy challenges we face as the world’s population expands in areas where affordable and reliable energy just doesn’t exist. 

Feature Image Credit: UC3M, YouTube.