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Steel has many shades of green

Project TetraFlex – the next generation of wind turbines

Wind power is on the rise. The German Ministry for Economic Affairs is planning an annual increase of more than 1,000 wind turbines with a total output of 2,600 megawatts. Similarly positive progress is being made abroad.

ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe is doing its best to participate in these forward-looking developments. The TetraFlex project has our developers from Duisburg working on an innovative new concept for steel-built wind towers with heights of 120 up to 200 meters. Previously, turbine heights of this magnitude were extremely expensive to achieve.

There is good reason, however, to reach for the sky: At higher altitudes, the wind blows more strongly and more consistently. This increases the electricity yield and makes the deployment of TetraFlex towers viable even in low-wind regions. The top part of the new design consists of a round tower, whereas the bottom part is an open structure with four legs.

For these, the developers are opting for spiral welded tubes that are also widely used in the oil and gas industries. New types of node systems are being used to interconnect the tubes. Thanks to lower material volumes, faster assembly, and easy scalability to individual local requirements, the TetraFlex wind towers are set to contribute significantly to increased wind power yields in the future.

Lightweight car body construction

The automotive sector is facing major challenges. Fuel costs are rising, natural resources are dwindling, and climate protection is becoming a main focus.

One of the answers to these issues is provided by InCar®plus, ThyssenKrupp’s biggest research project and one that positions the Group as an innovative development partner of the automotive industry. One of the main areas research is focusing on is modern car body concepts.

Innovative steel grades, material composites, and new processing methods aim to make cars even lighter and more energy efficient. Resource-friendly production is just as important to this as the end customers’ demands for functionality, comfort, and safety.

One of the solutions being developed in Dortmund is a lighter and slimmer A pillar. It offers both a wider field of vision as well as better crash safety for drivers, even though its weight was reduced by more than ten percent.

The engineers are also investigating body-related components such as seats and wheels, including lightweight steel wheels, steel design wheels, and hybrid wheels. With the latter, a combination of steel and carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) ensures that the wheels not only have a very low weight but also a very low environmental impact.

Refining electric motors

Top-notch development work is also taking place at the E-Mobility Center Drives research facility at our Bochum location. The centerpiece of the unique lab is its multi-purpose electric motor test bench.

Here any type of electric drive system in the 20 to 140 kilowatt range can be tested. The focus rests primarily on accumulating know-how used to refine the electrical steel types developed in-house for specific applications. This magnetically soft steel consolidates and reinforces the magnetic flux in electric machines.

Because its deployment involves high frequencies and limited space, it needs to be extremely thin and offer excellent stability. The intense development effort bears fruit: The core losses of the electrical steel now occur at high frequencies such as 1,000 Hertz and 1 Tesla, which is 30 percent below the losses from standard grades of electrical steel.

With its laboratory, ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe is eager to provide better support to its customers in the development of new electric motors. Prototypes are designed, assembled, and tested, and the resulting findings provide the basis for discussing specific requirements and possible improvements to non-oriented electrical steel with customers.

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