Monday, November 15, 2010

Who Needs Rare Earth Magnets? Not NovaTorque


Sunnyvale California's Nova Torque has introduced 3 permanent magnet motors that use magnets costing only 1 / 15th the cost of a neodymium magnet.
So how does NovaTorque do it? Take a look at the photo. The motor (foreground) consists of conical hubs (background) containing magnets separated by a tapered motor shaft (left). The hub is the component that looks like a space capsule and the shaft has the band of copper. The key here is that the interface between the magnetic surface of the hub and the shaft is diagonal, not flat like in most motors. A diagonal interface dramatically increases the surface area between the two, thereby increasing magnetic flux transmission (good) and reducing materials (also good). The magnets are the raised surfaces on the side of the conical hub.

Think of how baguettes get cut in restaurants: you can put more butter on diagonally cut bread than slices lopped off the top. The expanded surface area permits NovaTorque to switch to ferrite magnets.

NovaTorque also manages to reduce the amount of copper needed for the coils in the motor. Less copper, less cost.

Efficiency in the motor is greater than average due to the fact that the magnetic field is axial, i.e., it runs in an oval around the axle, instead of being radial, i.e., circumnavigating it. One advantage: the axial field means NovaTorque can use gain-oriented transformer-grade sette, which lowers eddy current losses and boosts efficiency. Higher efficiency should also result in fewer breakdowns: a large percentage of mechanical failures can be traced to ambient waste heat generated by motor inefficiencies.

The motor also pairs well with variable drives, and variable speed air conditioners are one of the top priorities in data center retrofits.

The company's Premium Plus+ motors are currently spec'd for refrigerators, HVAC systems, vacuum pumps and industrial equipment. But if the technology scales well to larger motors, other markets could open. _greentechmedia

In other news from GreenTechMedia, Massachusetts company Premium Power is introducing a zinc bromide flow battery system scaled for a large home. It is clear from the comments following the article that most readers have no idea what a flow battery is. Still, the announcement is good news for anyone looking for advances in large scale power backup systems.

Also from GreenTechMedia, an announcement that Sapphire Energy is beginning work on the first of a series of 3 100 acre algae biofuel pilot plants in New Mexico. Ignore the facetious comment left by yours truly after the article. The website will probably alter the article by the time you read it to make the comment seem superfluous, or may delete the comment altogether. Website administrators tend to take themselves and their sites altogether too seriously! ;-)

Brian Wang describes research from Montana State University, which demonstrates that algae are capable of thriving on added HCO3 -- producing significantly more oil as a result of the extra carbon. This is actually good news for those worried about ocean acidification from atmospheric CO2, since most dissolved CO2 turns promptly into HCO3 (over 90% I believe). In other words, sea creatures will take this extra bicarbonate and turn it into more plankton, sponges, coral reefs, and shelled sea creatures.

Robert Rapier describes a visit to a Shell Oil Gas-to-liquids plant in Malaysia. The plant utilises gasification plus F-T synthesis of liquids. Very enlightening, and most optimistic toward the future of GTL.

CTL and BTL are still considerably more expensive, but given time we are likely to see a lot of progress on those fronts as well.

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