The Magnetic Levitating Gear
Kyle Maxey posted on December 04, 2014 |
Are toothy gears a thing of the past? A new magnetic drive could make driving much more efficient.

magnet, engine, gear, levitation, In some ways, friction is the enemy of all drive systems. While it’s true that friction is what makes motion possible, friction also makes a drive system more inefficient. In fact, one of the most inefficient parts of an engine is where the teeth of a driving gear meet the belt or pulley that’s transferring energy. Researchers had a clear problem; and after years of research they finally came to a viable solution.

Over the last four years, researchers across seven countries in Europe have been hard at work designing a toothless gear that can effectively drive a system. Called the MAGDRIVE project, the experimental engine comes in two flavors – super-cooled and room temperature – and uses a magnetic gear reducer and magnetic axles to create an engine that avoids all friction producing contact.

According to Efrén Díez Jiménez, a researcher working on the MAGDRIVE project, the super cooled engine could find a number of uses in space where mechanical failures are sometimes impossible to fix: “[F]rom robot arms or antenna positioners, where high-precision movements are needed or when contamination from lubricants is undesired, to vehicles that, because of temperature or extreme conditions of absence of pressure, shorten the life of conventional mechanisms, as happens with the wheels of a Rover that has to go on Mars.”

While a super-cooled engine might be ideal for space, keeping a machine at that temperature here on Earth would kill any efficiency borne out of the system. Instead, researchers have also built a MAGDRIVE that can operate at room temperature. This is great news as a frictionless motor could provide a major uptick in mechanical efficiency for a range of products, and perhaps ease humanity’s increasing energy usage.

Although engineers have built functional prototypes of the MAGDRIVE, the only organizations looking to use the system immediately are space agencies like the ESA. That being said, a new company named MAG SOAR was recently formed with the sole purpose of exploring the new technology’s commercial potential.

Image Courtesy of Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

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