Department of Mechanical Engineering

Designing more efficient and robust rotating machines

REF submission

This research was part of our REF 2014 submission for Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering.

The input from Bath has contributed significantly to the development of rigorous standards for AMB operation in a range of industrial applications.

— Director of Technology, Calnetix


The power generation industry is a competitive sector, with rotating machines playing a key role in power generation. Companies have a vested interest in designing and manufacturing more efficient products to remain at the forefront of the industry, as well as meeting changing industrial standards and targets for reducing CO2 emissions.


Researchers at the University of Bath’s centre for Power Transmission and Motion Control and Gas Turbine Research Unit collaborated with industry on a series of knowledge transfer projects to research innovative designs and efficient manufacturing processes.

Using theoretical, experimental and computational modelling methods, the team focused their research on areas including:

  • Improving the design method and thermal efficiency of rim seals.
  • Optimising the functionality of active magnetic bearings (AMB) to minimise risk of failure and address standard requirements.
  • Designing and delivering an experimental facility for oil-free compressor dynamic investigations.



Benefits and outcomes

Our research and design innovations have had significant economic and environmental impact in industry, with improved design and performance of rotating machinery for component vendors, original equipment manufacturers and end-users.

The improved rim seal product design has now been patented by Siemens and improved design practices have been adopted by practitioners and engineers within the company. Our research has contributed significantly to the company’s current level of technology and competitiveness in the power generation industry, impacting on the local and wider UK economy, as well as creating greener technology and reducing CO2 through improved engine efficiency.

The research on AMBs has been incorporated into new and modified professional standards and resulted in changes to company design practices. The team’s work was internationally recognised with academics being invited to serve on the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

The oil-free experimental facility, designed and delivered by our team for GE Global Research (Munich), has benefited the company by allowing them to develop their compressor designs for subsea machines. It has also been used to train engineers to secure the future development of oil-free compressors.