A Melbourne aerospace startup spawned by Monash University research has today unveiled what it claims to be the world's most powerful air-cooled electric motor for electric aircraft, just five months after raising $1.85 million from early venture capital investors.
Kite Magnetics - whose investor co-pilots include the Investible Climate Tech Fund, Galileo Ventures, Possible Ventures and Breakthrough Victoria - was spun out from the research of Dr Richard Parsons and Professor Kiyonori Suzuki at Monash University's Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
The company launched its 120 kW electric motor at the Avalon Air Show taking place in Victoria this week, where sustainability will take centre stage in an industry that is grappling with the unique challenges achieving carbon neutrality poses for the physics of air travel.
One of these is range, as in the automotive sector but with much more serious consequences for a plane filled with hundreds of passengers travelling at an altitude of 900m - a feat whereby the prospect of any range 'anxiety' would be considered unacceptable by aviation authorities and the public.
Today's electric aircraft do not currently have the range needed for widespread adoption, even if their use starts as an emission-free alternative for short flights.
The annual worldwide impact of aviation on climate change is currently greater than three times the total yearly emissions produced by Australia.
Kite Magnetics' technology may contribute to addressing this problem, and involves a combination of novel nanocrystalline magnetic materials with advanced manufacturing methods that lead to a lighter product with greater energy efficiency, meaning a new generation of all-electric planes could stay in the air for longer.
"We are excited to launch not only the world's most powerful air-cooled electric motor for electric aircraft but also the first commercially available electric motor that uses this new type of magnetic material," says Kite Magnetics founder and CEO Dr Richard Parsons.
"With our Aeroperm magnetic materials technology, we can reduce the energy wasted in parts of an electric motor by more than ten times. This means we can use air cooling even at very high power levels. This makes our motors simpler, more reliable and extremely lightweight."
Kite Magnetics is now accepting orders for its new motors and expects to begin shipping to existing customers over the coming year.
“I am extremely proud of what our small team of young engineers has been able to pull together in a short space of time,” says Dr Parsons.
“It’s a real testament to the quality of engineering talent here in Melbourne and shows that we have what it takes to build a world-class electric propulsion OEM (original equipment manufacturer) right here in Australia."
Following the raise in October last year, Breakthrough Victoria CEO Grant Dooley said the electric motor technology was an example of Victoria’s world class innovation capabilities with potential to grow local manufacturing for clean technologies.
"Kite Magnetics is a shining example of how Victoria’s world class research can be spun out into an exciting early stage start-up, with the potential to grow Victoria’s advanced manufacturing sector and create jobs within the state,” he said.
He added that the investment in Kite reinforced Breakthrough Victoria’s strategy of investing for impact, given the technology’s potential to reduce emissions and capture the opportunities from decarbonisation and electrification.
“Victoria’s track record for innovation positions the state to become a major contributor to the world’s move towards a low carbon future and secure the state’s future competitiveness and prosperity in the near and the long term,” Dooley said.
Kite Magnetics was launched out of the Monash Technology Precinct, an innovation, translation and commercialisation ecosystem that contributes more than $9.4 billion to the Victorian economy each year.
“Monash is a leader in translating ground-breaking research into real-world commercial success stories, from the next generation pharmaceuticals to additive manufacturing, cleantech and energy. This latest Monash spinout is the 19th since 2018,” Monash University’s chief commercialisation officer Dr Alastair Hick said at the time.
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