Texas A&M doctoral student Mathew Gardner wants to replace mechanical gears with rotating magnetic rings. His most recent prototype is 27 times more effective then the second best competing version. This technology is well suited for difficult to access geo-spatial locations, where broken mechanical gears are hard and expensive to replace.
That tends to be the case with wind turbines and wave generators but may also be the case in the hypothetical future energy economy of outer space.
When mechanical gears are overloaded they break due to the touch-lock nature of metallic “teeth”. On the other hand magnetic gears just “slip” out of alignment for their momenta is governed by rotating magnetic rings, requiring less physical contact to begin with and making them much easier to repair.
This “Magnomatics” video describes the concept of interlocking gyrating magnetically charged rings quite well.
“Magnetic gears drew my interest because they represent a potentially disruptive innovation in the field of electric machines,” Gardner says. “Much of the research in electric machines represents incremental improvements on the technology that has been developed over the last few hundred years.
Gardner wants to improve ocean wave energy generators by replacing metallic cogs with these magnetic counterparts. The mechanical stress from high pressure tides can lead to broken gears underwater, which are much more difficult and expensive to repair then objects that are magnetically locked in to place.
The same can be said for a wind turbine – whose mechanical insides are lifted off the ground making them more difficult to access then say a vehicle.
“Our analysis found that using a magnetically geared generator would be about 50 percent smaller, 50 percent lighter and 25 percent less expensive than using a generator without any gearing for this wave energy application,” Gardner says.
He is presently collaborating with ABB technology leader as well as the US Department of Energy successfully testing magnetically powered transmissions that support up to 3000 pounds per foot where older magnetic prototypes only supported 113 pounds.