Multi-Physical Co-Design of Next Generation Axial Motors for Aerospace Applications

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College Station, Texas
Project Term:
02/08/2021 - 08/07/2024

Critical Need:

It is estimated that flights on narrow-body aircraft are responsible for nearly half of aviation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A decarbonized, narrow-body aircraft with electrified propulsion would provide the greatest impact on GHG emissions from a single aircraft type. ARPA-E seeks to mitigate the growing environmental burden associated with commercial air travel at minimum economic cost by developing elements of an ultra-high efficient aircraft propulsion system that uses carbon neutral liquid fuels (CNLFs). It is anticipated that the developed lightweight and high-efficiency all-electric powertrains will find direct application in the emerging urban air mobility, unmanned aircraft aerial vehicle, and select regional aircraft markets. These markets are likely to be the first adopters before the technology scales to a single-aisle aircraft.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Texas A&M will focus on the design, fabrication, and testing of a lightweight and ultra-efficient electric powertrain for aircraft propulsion to reduce the energy costs and emissions of aviation. The team’s technology will reach peak power density and efficiency via (1) an axial flux motor with lightweight carbon fiber reinforced structural material, (2) a gallium nitride multilevel inverter, (3) a thermally conductive nanocomposite electrical insulation, and (4) a two-phase microchannel thermal management system with zeolite thermal energy storage to absorb the excess heat generated during takeoff. Each subsystem is designed for tight integration with the other subsystems to minimize weight. A co-design approach optimizing the multi-physical performance of the system will be employed from the beginning of the project. The system will be extensively modeled and validated by testing key prototype components. Then a full 250 kW prototype will be optimized, fabricated, and tested.

Potential Impact:

The ASCEND program has the potential to accelerate innovations and cause disruptive changes in the emerging electric aviation field.


The program will further enhance U.S. technology dominance in the field of high-performance electric motors for hybrid electric aviation. Electrified aircraft architectures can increase reliability by increasing redundancy.


An all-electric propulsion system operating on CNLF would have net-zero emissions and be much quieter for passengers and people in the vicinity of airports.


By targeting propulsion system efficiency and specific power improvements, CNLF-powered, zero-net emission aircraft will be capable of a longer range and reduced fuel cost, making them economically more attractive.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Peter de Bock
Project Contact:
Hamid Toliyat
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


University of Texas, Dallas

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