A new motor for the watch of tomorrow

Aug 04, 2011 By Sarah Perrin
Credit: 2011 LAI-EPFL

An electromagnetic three-phase motor, invented by EPFL’s Integrated Actuators Laboratory, will enable the watchmaking industry to build watches that are three times more efficient and that can include more applications.

Tomorrow’s wristwatches will be more efficient. Their batteries will last much longer. And in addition to giving the time, they might offer additional functions such as a telephone, a compass or other kinds of energy-consuming applications. EPFL’s Integrated Actuators Laboratory (LAI), in Neuchatel, has made a major step in this direction with the invention of a new kind of motor whose energy output is three times greater than traditional motors. It will thus satisfy the requirements and developments of the watchmaking industry.

To manufacture micro-electronic microsystems, known as MEMS, engineers typically call upon the principles of electrostatics. The LAI scientists, however, are proposing an electromagnetic drive system. Using a fixed magnet and three phases instead of a single phase, this novel device has more than once required its inventors to overcome formidable challenges…

“To obtain a good motor, you need a minimum of two or three phases, that is to say, two or three copper coils,” explains Yves Perriard, head of LAI. “However, these coils take up room, and thus we were obliged to invent a new configuration and geometry for the motor. And most of all, they’re very expensive to make using traditional methods, which haven’t changed since the 1970s.”

Clean room fabrication

The researchers thus opted for a new fabrication process. The method had to be conducted in a clean room and was complicated to set up – a total of 24 operations had to be defined. But it was worth it, because the method makes it possible to manufacture certain components at very low cost. The stators, for example, fixed parts of the motor, are engraved on silicon plates, which means that a large quantity of them can be made simultaneously.

They also encountered another difficulty: with three phases, the command electronics had to be redesigned. “To tell time adequately, the motor must be able to locate the rotor, or the rotating part, at any point in time,” explains Perriard. “However, it would be very expensive to equip the motor with sensors to do this. We are thus trying to come up with solutions from signal processing techniques that use the ’s voltage and current.” It’s a tiny device, but it’s filled to the brim with ideas and inventions…

Explore further: Student designs and develops revolutionary new hand-held laminating tool

Provided by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

High-precision robots available in kit form

Jun 17, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A doctoral student from EPFL's Laboratory of Robotics Systems has developed a concept for modular industrial robots, based on the technology of parallel robots, whose precision is expressed ...

NIH grant ratchets up ASU research in molecular motors

May 30, 2011

Empowered by a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Arizona State University scientist Wayne Frasch is deciphering how one of the world’s smallest molecular motors works in ...

Power to the plane

Mar 09, 2011

Work has begun on a record-breaking, 120-meter wingspan plane and it’s up to a small team of engineers from Newcastle University to make sure it gets off the ground.

Recommended for you

Fully automated: Thousands of blood samples every hour

1 hour ago

Siemens is supplying automation technology for the longest and one of the most cutting-edge sample processing lines in any clinical laboratory. The line, or automation track, 200 meters long, in Marlborough, ...

Explainer: What is 4-D printing?

2 hours ago

Additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – is 30 years old this year. Today, it's found not just in industry but in households, as the price of 3D printers has fallen below US$1,000. Knowing you can p ...

First series production vehicle with software control

2 hours ago

Siemens has unveiled the first electric series production vehicle with the central electronics and software architecture RACE. This technology, developed in the research project of the same name, replaces ...

Amputee puts limb system through its paces

4 hours ago

"Amputee Makes History with APL's Modular Prosthetic Limb" is the headline from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, where a team working on prosthetics observed a milestone when a double amputee showed ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

that_guy
1 / 5 (1) Aug 04, 2011
I think this motor is great, and will revolutionize the gadgets that can use it, but I don't think anyone cares if this motor powers a few hundred watches in the future. lets face it, there is no 'watch' of tomorrow, unless you're saying that as a euphemism for phone.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (3) Aug 04, 2011
Why is anyone still making mechanical watches?

Worthless.
DGBEACH
Aug 04, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2011
Mechanical features?

In a watch?

That is so pre-warp.

Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.