Ricardo develops new technology for high-speed flywheel testing

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Ricardo has revealed a new testing environment it has developed as part of a research collaboration to come up with a BSI flywheel safety standard.

The project, called FlySafe, is investigating the potential failure mechanisms and behaviors of high-speed flywheel systems, which Ricardo hopes will provide cost-effective mechanical storage and reuse of energy in mass-market applications. The project aims to develop best-practice design guidelines for high-speed flywheel safety containment systems, including the BSI standard.

Ricardo is leading the collaboration, in partnership with the University of Brighton; Imperial College London; Innovate UK; and high-speed flywheel energy-storage technology developers Torotrak Group and GKN Hybrid Power.

The test environment has been installed at the University of Brighton’s Centre for Automotive Engineering, and is believed to be the most advanced of its type in the world. It can test flywheels spinning at up to 60,000rpm in a vacuum, and in addition to non-destructive testing, incorporates advanced imaging and sensor technology to investigate flywheel behavior during a high-speed failure.

A high-speed video camera captures 20,000 images per second, with a high-intensity pulsed laser illuminating the flywheel. The camera records around two seconds of video, so accurate synchronization of the recording with the failure event is critical. A custom data-acquisition system monitors accelerometers, strain, pressure, distance and temperature measurements within the flywheel enclosure. The camera is then triggered when specific conditions are met which might be expected to lead to failure, including sudden expansion of the flywheel due to the onset of delamination or fragmentation, loss of vacuum pressure, or loss of speed.

Ricardo’s VP of innovation, David Rollafson, says, “A major challenge in designing compact and lightweight high-speed flywheel systems is in the provision of safety containment systems. In the absence of detailed data on potential failure mechanisms, these previously have had to be very conservatively engineered. The meticulous and detailed research being carried out on the FlySafe project, plus the existence of the test facility at the University of Brighton, will enable the partners to propose a BSI flywheel safety standard to promote a higher level of design optimization while retaining the full required safety level.”

July 7, 2015

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Dean has been with UKi Media & Events for over a decade, having previously cut his journalistic teeth writing and editing for various automotive and engineering titles. He combines extensive knowledge of all things automotive with a passion for driving, and experience testing countless new vehicles, engines and technologies around the world. As well as his role as editor-in-chief across a range of UKi's media titles, he is also co-chair of the judging panel of the International Engine of the Year Awards.

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