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Terrassa hosts the AMBER laboratory for ultra-high-voltage electrical tests

The AMBER laboratory is a research centre equipped with cutting-edge technology for electrical energy analysis and testing. It was inaugurated on 26 January by the Motion Control and Industrial Applications (MCIA) research group and the company SBI CONNECTORS. The MCIA belongs to the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) and SBI CONNECTORS is a subsidiary of the SICAME Group. AMBER has the capacity to perform very high voltage testing. It has two machines that are unique in Europe and can work with a voltage of up to 1.5 million volts (MV) DC. The project was originally framed in the UPC's International Campus of Excellence, CEI Energy.

On Thursday 26 January, the AMBER laboratory was opened in Terrassa with talks by Francesc Subirada, director general of Research of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Enric Fossas, rector of the UPC, and Joan Pérez, managing director of SBI CONNECTORS.

Located on premises of the Polytechnic Institute of the Terrassa Campus (IPCT), between Terrassa and Sabadell, AMBER has become an outstanding research centre in the European energy sector and aims to become a hub of technological development.

AMBER's cutting-edge equipment will be used for tests of very high voltage, high current, temperature, aging and corrosion. It has a higher capacity than other European installations of this type. It will also carry out R&D projects related to energy and climate change for the production of clean energy and energy efficiency, focusing in particular on the electric power transmission sector and sustainable mobility.

AMBER was promoted by the MCIA research group, whose director is researcher José Luis Romeral. The MCIA group studies modelling, simulation, control techniques, physical implementation and applications of power electronic systems for industrial control and electric drives. It is a member of the Innovation and Technology Network of the Government of Catalonia (TECNIO) and forms part of the Innovation and Technology Centre (CIT UPC).

The AMBER laboratory is divided into two areas.

amberThe outdoor very high voltage area covers 2700 m2 and includes a control room and a testing area with a tower housing the 1400-kV DC generator, which is over 13 m high and weighs 14 metric tons. This facility is used to analyse corona discharges (caused by ionisation of the air around a conductor) in equipment and components working at very high voltage. It can also be used to test partial discharges in insulators and connectors, in protections, and in power electronic systems.

imatge de l’interior del laboratori amber.The 350-m2 indoor area of the laboratory includes office space and a testing area. This area can perform electrical insulation tests of up to 130 kW AC and 125 kW DC. It also has three transformers for temperature cycle testing of connectors and electrical tooling, with an output of up to 10 kA. The same area has two traction and compression benches, of 5000 and 20,000 kg, and a salt fog chamber for testing outdoor corrosion. Finally, the AMBER laboratory has the capacity to carry out electrical, thermal and mechanical studies, modelling and redesign of electrical elements by means of finite element method simulation programs.

At the service of science and industry
AMBER can take on the challenge of entering a market with a turnover of €80,000 million each year that is forecast to grow by 25% over the next 15 years.

Given the scarcity of fossil fuels and the large energy demand of emerging countries, electricity transmission and related services are growing exponentially every year. China, India, Brazil and South Africa are stepping up construction of very high voltage lines working at more than 400,000 volts (the voltage of aerial transmission lines in Europe).

Very few laboratories are currently able to work with this technology, and the majority are in the United States, Canada and Central Europe. Very high voltage and temperature cycle testing is very costly for companies.

This multidisciplinary research centre has UPC teaching and research staff and R&D technicians from the company SBI CONNECTORS. It is open to the scientific community and offers industry an advanced laboratory for knowledge transfer. The UPC’s researchers can use these facilities to test their scientific projects and generate new knowledge through doctoral theses.

AMBER therefore offers an opportunity to carry out R&D and technology transfer for a growing industry and to test new European energy technologies. It positions the UPC as a European benchmark in R&D for the electrical industry and SBI CONNECTORS as one of the major suppliers of innovation in the energy sector worldwide.

Work is underway to integrate the laboratory in a single Spanish high-power network. The project was originally framed in the UPC's International Campus of Excellence, CEI Energy.

A safe installation
All safety measures for a facility of this type were taken into account during the design and implementation of the AMBER laboratory. In addition, the facility has no environmental impact on its surroundings. The 1400-kV unit is only in operation during the tests, which last for a few minutes. It produces no magnetic fields due to the current and its maximum output current is 20 mA at full load.

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Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología Science Year 2007 Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
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