Every year, young scientists of South Ural State University take part in the UMNIK (Smart Guy) programme which provides support to commercially oriented R&D projects. Winners of the programme receive grants in the amount of 500 000 rubles for bringing their projects to life.
Last year, prize winner of the UMNIK programme was Nikita Savosteenko, a postgraduate student of the Department of Automated Electric Drive at the Faculty of Energy and Power Engineering of the SUSU Institute of Engineering and Technology with his project on development of a power-efficient multi-motor electric drive for a feed pumping station. He told us about his invention and participation in the contest.
– Why did you decide to take part in the UMNIK programme?
– Our Department of Automated Electric Drive have been visited by representatives of Heating and Power Plant-3 (which is part of the FORTUM company group) with a problem that has been bothering the company for several years: blades of the pump turbine regularly get out of order at feed pumping stations. Repairing the pumps is very expensive, about one million rubles, and they can’t solve this problem by themselves. They explained that the failure occurs because of the surging (hydraulic impact) of feed pumps, that is a backflow of hot water from the boiler into the pump under a pressure higher than in the feed pump. Because of this backflow, blades of the turbine get broken and the pump must be replaced.
We proposed the following solution of this problem: placing a booster pump at the inlet of the big feed pump. Booster pump is a small pump with power capacity 10 times lower that the main one. The booster pump is going to impose some extra pressure to the main pump inlet, which is going to be higher than the pressure imposed by the boiler. Due to this high pressure, the possible hydraulic impacts get eliminated.
We came up with this idea last year, when we had a meeting with representatives of the Department of Automated Electric Drive headed by Professor Yury Usynin, and the Department of Thermal Power Engineering headed by Konstantin Osintsev. Through the cooperative effort, we thought up a solution of this problem and decided to put it under spotlight by taking part in the UMNIK programme.
– What is the specificity of your invention?
– The specificity of our invention is in the fact that the booster pump that we propose is controllable. We specially calculate the boiler’s back pressure which might occur, and, based on the calculated parameters, select a booster pump which can provide pressure higher that the boiler’s pressure.
Since the boiler imposes different pressure throughout a day, we understand that there is no need to produce the same pressure in the feed pump constantly as well: this won’t be power-efficient and will lead to financial expenditures. Therefore, the created load to this booster pump should be various as well. In order to provide optimal operation of the booster pump, we take the following readings between the feed pump and the boiler: the pressure, current rate and rotational speed of the pump. Then we send all these readings (signals) to the booster pump’s inlet, and due to this we can control the pressure imposed by it by regulating its rotational speed. This provide power-efficient operation of this pump and eliminates the initial problem of failure.
According to our estimation, expenses for constant maintenance of equipment get reduced, emergency mode of operation gets eliminated, and power-efficient control over the booster pump gets provided, which allows saving 300 to 500 thousand rubles a year per one boiler.
– How has your project been going since the moment of getting the grant?
– Now we are waiting for a decision made by the leadership of Heating and Power Plant-3 regarding the period of testing of our invention. Chief engineers of the enterprise are interested in the start of our cooperation, so we hope that this cooperation is going to start in the closest future, and that the next year we install the first trial booster pump.
Moreover, a couple of months ago we received a utility model patent approved by the Ministry. We patented the method of control over the booster pump and the very system of a booster pump. At the moment, we are writing an article which is going to be published in a top-rated journal included in Scopus, with the rating no lower than Q1. Also, there is a postgraduate student at our Department who is going to continue working on this topic and use the obtained material in defense of his Candidate’s dissertation.
– How was the (project) defense going?
– It wasn’t hard. Experts ask you questions regarding directly the work itself, its technical aspects and specificities. They are especially interested in the issue of further testing of the invention and its real-life application. If you are dedicated to what you’re doing, if you are excited with your invention and know everything about it, the defense goes smoothly. No need to be afraid of anything, experts have a positive attitude as they are interested in finding new talents and interesting projects. The main advice is to compile your presentation correctly, rehears your speech finish it within the allotted time.
– What emotions have you experienced when you learned about your project’s victory?
– This wasn’t the first project that I submitted to for the UMNIK programme. My first application had been submitted during my Master’s studies, the second was on the first year of postgraduate studies. It is very nice to realize and feel the victory, especially when it has been earned after some previous misfortunes. When everything goes right at the first attempt, you can’t savor the sweet taste of victory, but at your third try, you feel the victory with all your body and you understand that you deserved it.
– What has the UMNIK grant given you?
– I’d like to note that winning the UMNIK grant boosts your self-confidence and makes you realize that you can really do something useful for the society and for the industry as a whole. You get this confidence in your ideas, in your deeds, and this gives you even more motivation, more energy and spirit to keep developing your ideas and science.
And, of course, the grant provides financial support for implementation of all your ideas. At the first stage of project implementation, you can design a mockup of your model and carry out its testing. And after that you can go visit companies interested in your project with a fully-formed offer, calculation or model, which will give your work a big boost.
– What advice can you give to those willing to take part in the UMNIK programme?
– The most important thing is not to give up or lose your spirit; you need to keep submitting applications. Improve your project, get some feedback, recommendations and evaluation of the work you’ve done from the organisers and the experts. And then you should analyze and make corresponding changes to your application in order to try and submit it once again because, if you don’t give up, the victory will come sooner or later.
There are also cases when simply taking part in the programme brings its results. Jury of the contest includes experts form large companies and enterprises, general directors, chief power engineers and technology engineers; these people are interested in the search for valuable workers. There were cases when after the contest they would ask for contacts of participants and offer them jobs as researchers in their companies. UMNIK allows showing your best and making your way through.