A method of fabricating improved transformer cores from composites of thermoplastic matrices and iron-particles has been invented. Relative to commercially available laminated-iron-alloy transformer cores, the cores fabricated by this method weigh less and are less expensive. Relative to prior polymer-matrix/ iron-particle composite-material transformer cores, the cores fabricated by this method can be made mechanically stronger and more magnetically permeable. In addition, whereas some prior cores have exhibited significant eddy-current losses, the cores fabricated by this method exhibit very small eddycurrent losses. The cores made by this method can be expected to be attractive for use in diverse applications, including high-signal-to-noise transformers, stepping motors, and high-frequency ignition coils.

The present method is a product of an experimental study of the relationships among fabrication conditions, final densities of iron particles, and mechanical and electromagnetic properties of fabricated cores. Among the fabrication conditions investigated were molding pressures (83, 104, and 131 MPa), and molding temperatures (250, 300, and 350 °C). Each block of core material was made by uniaxial-compression molding, at the applicable pressure/temperature combination, of a mixture of 2 weight percent of LaRC™ (or equivalent high temperature soluble thermoplastic adhesive) with 98 weight percent of approximately spherical iron particles having diameters in the micron range. Each molded block was cut into square-cross section rods that were used as core specimens in mechanical and electromagnetic tests. Some of the core specimens were annealed at 900 °C and cooled slowly before testing. For comparison, a low-carbon-steel core was also tested.

The results of the tests showed that density, hardness, and rupture strength generally increased with molding pressure and temperature, though the correlation was rather weak. The weakness of the correlation was attributed to the pores in the specimens. The maximum relative permeabilities of cores made without annealing ranged from 30 to 110, while those of cores made with annealing ranged from 900 to 1,400. However, the greater permeabilities of the annealed specimens were not associated with noticeably greater densities.

The major practical result of the investigation was the discovery of an optimum distribution of iron-particle sizes: It was found that eddy-current losses in the molded cores were minimized by using 100 mesh (corresponding to particles with diameters ≤100 µm ) iron particles. The effect of optimization of particle sizes on eddy-current losses is depicted in the figure.

This work was done by Russell A. Wincheski, Robert G. Bryant, and Min Namkung of Langley Research Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Electronics/Computers category. LAR-15719

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2004 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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