Last year, they won with the microfluidic pump; this year, they succeeded with the rocket valve technology. "We entered the competition actually just out of interest in other technologies," says František Mach, the team leader, commenting on his participation, which resulted in third place.
Transfera Technology Day is a competition of the most interesting Czech scientific research projects, which helps to transfer discoveries and ideas into practice. The best ones are selected by an expert jury of representatives of scientific research institutions and investors. In addition to the idea itself, they evaluate the commercial potential of each project.
In this year's edition, which was the fourth in a row, thirty projects competed, and twelve advanced to the finals. Among them were two from the University of West Bohemia - a fully electromagnetic valve from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and also a helmet with a multi-directional suspension system from the NTC research centre.
The expert jury evaluated the team from Palacký University in Olomouc as the best for their innovative needles for electroacupuncture; the second place went to scientists from Masaryk University with their research on luminescent enzymes, so-called luciferases, the third place was awarded by the expert jury to the fully electromagnetic valve of the team from FEE UWB.
What makes the FEL valve unique compared to the hundreds of millions of other valves that regulate the flow of fluids in various facilities every day? It is super fast and accurate, yet very simple and economical. "I tried to build the fastest valve that could possibly exist. I wanted the moment of switching to last less than one millisecond, and at the same time, my goal was that the valve should not use any electrical current when it is switched," says František Mach, describing the origins of the project, which relates to the writing of his dissertation. He succeeded in fulfilling his initial intention, but for some time, the concept had no practical application.
"Our student Jan Fessl went to the University of Southern California (USC) after his undergraduate studies to study aerospace engineering. I visited him during a conference in the US and had the opportunity to see the rocket engine building lab there, which, at that time, Honza was already running. This was just after one of their engine tests had failed, in which a valve had failed, and the whole engine had exploded as a result. It turned out that the technology they were using was very limited and could not accurately time the oxidant supply to the valve chamber," František Mach describes the event, which occurred back in 2018. He offered then that he had a valve that could switch at millisecond intervals, even at high pressure. "We started working with students on the valve. The design of the current valve prototype was created during the internship of my Ph.D. student Jiří Kuthan at USC. The optimization of the design was then solved by my Ph.D. student Karel Pospíšil during his internship at SUSTech in China under the guidance of my colleague Lukáš Adam, who is an expert in genetic algorithms," explains František Mach. The development of the prototype was then carried out within the framework of the TA CR project with an industrial partner - PEVEKO. Students - Martin Vítek, Jiří Kuthan, Martin Juřík, and also Marek Seltenhofer, a student of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University, who has been cooperating with the team of FEE UWB for a long time - again participated in the testing.
The result is an electromagnetic valve with very fast, precise switching, designed for use in demanding applications such as rocket propulsion or hydrogen management in the energy and transport sectors. But it can also be used as a control valve for refrigeration technology or an emergency valve for piping in the gas industry.
Last year, FEE researchers verified the valve technology during static ignition of a hybrid rocket engine developed at the Czech Technical University in Prague. The final flight prototype of the valve was designed by Martin Vítek and is now ready for testing on the Illustrie rocket of the CTU Space Research team. "The valve concept reflects more than ten years of research and development, which we hope will culminate in 2024 with the upcoming flight test of the valve prototype on a rocket launcher developed by the CTU Space Research team," says František Mach.
For more information about other successful projects in Transfera Technology Day 2023, see the press release or the TTDay 2023 Technology Brochure.
The Transfera Technology Day competition has been organized since 2020 by the Transfera association with the support of CzechInvest, the NEURON Foundation, the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic, and other partners: IOCB Tech, i&i Prague, Miloš Dendis.