More efficient and environmentally friendly motors can be developed by focusing on the construction of the motor piece by piece to determine where new materials or constructions can be used to gain the greatest overall efficiency boost. Improving the efficiency of motor construction and operation starts with the most basic, but possibly the most important, copper magnet wire of the motor: the windings. Winding materials are often insulated wires wrapped tightly together in a dense coil, designed to produce a magnetic field in response to electric current. Superior electric motor windings may be the key to improved performance of electric motors in the future. Of course, the demand for efficiency and improved performance goes beyond electric motors and also applies to other devices requiring a tight coil of insulated wire such as generators, transformers, and electromagnets.

The ability to make motors lighter and smaller is necessary to achieve higher power efficiency ratings. In this article, we focus on the winding or magnet wire portion of the motor and consider the common or advanced materials that are used for these parts, or which may be used in the future to improve the weight, strength, flexibility, thermal/electrical conductivity, and cost of motor and generator winding constructions.

Copper is the most common magnet wire choice due to its high conductivity and relatively low cost. For most motors like the one shown below, we use copper with a very thin enamel coating and tightly wrap the round enameled wire to create the winding that will build the electromagnetic field to drive the motor.