Professor Ali El-Shafei. Credit: Africa Business Insight.

Egyptian engineering researcher Ali El-Shafei, has patented the ‘Smart Electro-Mechanical Actuator Journal Integrated Bearing’, after eight years of design and development at Cairo University.

According to Professor El-Shafei, this ‘smart’ bearing improves the performance of turbines in power plants that combine gas and steam technologies, and of traditional electricity generators.

In an interview with SciDev.Net, he said: “Importing designs from abroad has been the norm in developing countries. With this innovation, we will export the design and the product.”

The innovation extends the life of journal or plain bearings ‒ a mechanical part whose function is to support heavy machinery and prevent the friction, wear and tear, and erosion that affects the surfaces of rapidly rotating parts. They also help control the movement of blades in the machinery.

El-Shafei underlined that the innovation also cuts maintenance costs for turbines. ‟Improving the efficiency of the power-generating turbines operating in combined cycle plants, as well as conventional generators, will significantly cut energy costs.”

In addition, it helps increase their lifespan by 10%; turbines and generators generally work only between 70-85% of the year as they stop due to malfunction or need for maintenance.

Smart turbine features

The ‘smart turbine’ prototype. Credit: Africa Business Insight.

Another feature of the ‘smart turbine’, Professor El-Shafei said it comes in two halves, making it easy to install in old machines to increase their efficiency.

SciDev.Net highlighted that, over the past two decades, scientifically and technologically-advanced industrial nations have been working on developing a ‘smart’ journal bearing. But success has been elusive.

El-Shafei filed a patent in the United States in 2010, and another is on its way this year.

He revealed that the innovation has caught the attention of manufacturing giants such as Siemens and General Electric.

The innovation also received recognition by winning the grand prize worth $100,000 at this year’s Innovation Prize for Africai in Ghana.

‟I had a clear vision from the very beginning,” says El-Shafei. “I used to [believe] and I still believe in the value of innovation as vital for developing countries.”


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