Researchers at the Switzerland’s Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have found a way of looking inside the iron core of transformers, a significant step towards understanding how transformers work today and in the development of more efficient transformers in the future.

Scientists develop new method to help design better transformers

Researchers at the Switzerland’s Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have found a way of looking inside the iron core of transformers, a significant step towards understanding how transformers work today and in the development of more efficient transformers in the future.

Transformer iron cores are very important in designing energy-efficient transformers. The better the iron cores are magnetized, the less energy the transformers lose and the more efficiently they work.

The ground-breaking investigatory method of neutron grating interferometry developed and applied in two studies by the PSI has opened up the possibility of observing magnetic domains at work as they establish magnetic fields inside the iron core, showing the magnetic structures in the interior of a transformer at work during the transforming process, PSI said in a statement.

“The transformer’s ring-shaped magnetic iron core is a fundamental element necessary for voltage increase or decrease. The tiny magnetic domains within the core play an essential role in this process,” explains the PSI scientist Christian Grünzweig.

The methods available so far have only allowed indirect observation of domain-wall behaviour. The new method now permits direct imaging of the domain walls, whose mobility, according to the PSI researcher Benedikt Betz, is the decisive factor for an efficiently functioning transformer.

“These insights do not lead directly to better transformers. What we are doing is offering science and industry a new examination method,” adds Christian Grünzweig.

In light of the EU’s Ecodesign Directive and the requirement set before the energy sector to improve transformer performance, this new information on the magnetic processes taking place within the iron core may now enable a more target-oriented optimisation of transformers.

Source: Paul Scherrer Institute PSI
Photo: Paul Scherrer Institute/Markus Fischer