Edinburgh-based Artemis Intelligent Power has won the prestigious 2015 Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award.
The company was recognised for its digital displacement power system, which is starting to challenge more established wind-turbine gearbox and direct-drive transmissions.
The digital displacement technology is claimed to offer improved power capacity, with a modular design that overcomes the reliability issues associated with existing turbines.
Artemis, along with its parent company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, has been refining its technology with onshore verification testing of a large digital hydraulically-driven offshore wind turbine at the Hunterston Test Centre by the Firth of Clyde. Equipped with this system, the 7MW wind turbine converts wind energy by a combination of pumps and motors to produce a constant speed irrespective of the blade rotation speed, eliminating the need for a step-up gearbox, complex generator technology and power inverter.
The transmission of the world’s largest (7MW) floating turbine using the Artemis power system is also currently being installed at Fukushima in Japan.
Artemis was up against Endomag and Victrex for the MacRobert Award. Cambridge-based Endomag's breast cancer diagnostic tool that avoids the use of radioactive tracers in determining the spread of cancer through the lymphatic system.
Blackpool-based Victrex has developed an advanced polymers in ultra thin sheets for use in smartphone and tablet speakers.
Dame Sue Ion, chair of the MacRobert Award judging panel, said: “The Artemis story is truly compelling. The company has achieved a technical advance of global importance, making significant power delivery from offshore wind considerably more credible and realisable, and facilitating the global goal of reducing CO2 emissions.
“This is not simply evolutionary improvement but a complete step change, and one that took years of commitment to achieve.
“The Artemis digital displacement system is both an incredible piece of invention, and a brilliant example of detailed engineering design. It represents excellence in multiple facets of engineering, from control system technology to software and elegant mechanical design.”
Dr Gordon Masterton, a judging panel member and former vice president of Jacobs Engineering, added: “The Artemis system is a massive leap forward for hydraulically powered systems. The team has done for hydraulic engines what James Watt did for steam engines. They have totally transformed the efficiency and range of potential applications.
Artemis is also applying its technology to reduce the fuel consumption of commuter trains and buses. A regenerative braking energy storage system based on digital displacement can be retrofitted to existing diesel commuter trains, and recent trials with Ricardo and Bombardier have shown that it can reduce fuel consumption by some 10%. The system also generates less noise and cuts exhaust emissions within stations.
The company has also demonstrated fuel savings of up to 27% on urban buses in a project with Lothian Buses and Alexander Dennis.
Crucially, the new system provides bus operators with a two to three year payback without subsidies, making it globally affordable.
Mainstream electric hybrid technology requires many expensive materials and processes, which can add up to 50% to the initial cost and means higher maintenance costs. This means that, despite saving fuel, hybrid buses have previously not made business sense without government subsidies.