A tabletop motor using an entirely new driving principle

September 9, 2014 by David Tenenbaum
A prototype electric motor that uses a new principle for transforming electricity into rotary force is being developed at C-Motive Technologies, a company co-founded by UW-Madison assistant professor Dan Ludois. Credit: Dan Ludois

A tabletop motor using an entirely new driving principle is under development at the headquarters of C-Motive Technologies, a startup business that is commercializing technology from the College of Engineering at UW-Madison.

"We have proven the concept of a new motor that uses electric fields rather than magnetic fields to transform electricity into a rotary force," says company co-founder Dan Ludois, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UW. The distinction may sound minor, but it could solve a number of practical problems while saving money, he explains.

Actually, the concept is not entirely new: Benjamin Franklin and others described and built motors based on electrostatic forces back in the 18th and 19th centuries, but none achieved practical operation. Since the widespread adoption of electric motors a century ago, magnetism has been the only practical source of rotation. Magnetism is easier to exploit than electrostatic fields due to the properties of naturally occurring materials and simple engineering techniques. However, new advances in materials, mechanical engineering and advanced manufacturing may enable electrostatic motors.

In 2011, while Ludois was finishing a Ph.D. thesis at UW-Madison, he realized that instead of relying on magnetic fields, he could achieve a similar result by manipulating electric fields to create a motor based on electrostatic attraction. The new technique, he realized, could deliver major advantages in weight, material cost, operating efficiency and maintenance requirements.

In the motor on display, nested stationary and rotating plates are held hairs-width apart by a unique air-cushioning strategy. An electric voltage delivered to the fixed plates creates an electrostatic field that attracts the rotating plates in a way that forces them to spin.

"A charge builds up on the surfaces of the plates, and if you can manipulate the charge, you can convert electricity into rotary motion or transfer electric power from one set of plates to the other," says Ludois.

This type of coupling can be used "to power things that move without touching," Ludois adds.

The breakthrough relies on electronics that precisely control a high-voltage, high-frequency and fluid mechanics to keep the surfaces close without touching. "Nothing is touching, because you are using electric fields to couple the stationary and rotating parts," Ludois says. "There is no contact, and no maintenance.

"Rather than magnetism, we are using the force that hold your clothes together when you take them out of the drier—. This technique can power anything that needs to move, and that you don't want to touch while it's moving."

Because motors and generators are essentially mirror images of each other, the invention may first meet the market in the form of a generator for wind turbines, an application for which C-Motive Technologies received a Small Business Innovation Research grant for development and research from the National Science Foundation in 2014.

By saving weight and materials, and boosting efficiency, the new design should give the company a bottom-line advantage. The new design avoids the use of precious "rare earth" metals and substitutes aluminum for the more expensive copper found in magnet windings of conventional motors and generators.

When C-Motive was founded, Ludois and co-founders Justin Reed and Micah Erickson were all Ph.D. students. "It's really hard to beat the world, especially when you start out as three graduate students," Ludois says.

C-Motive has had its share of help from UW-Madison. Two years ago, the idea won two awards in the G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition, run through the Wisconsin School of Business. C-Motive has also received $100,000 in seed funding from the Weinert Applied Ventures in Entrepreneurship course, another School of Business resource.

In 2011, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation supported Ludois and his colleagues for patent protection on the discovery, giving them the leverage to pursue additional funding. After six months in the Metro Innovation Center on East Washington Avenue, C-Motive is now housed in an office/lab space near Stoughton Road in Madison to house its five full-time employees, including two of the three founders.

Ludois devotes his evenings to C-Motive, but spends his days in the academic world at UW-Madison.

"I remember as a student, everybody talked about the Wisconsin Idea, that the bounds of the university extend beyond the bounds of the campus," Ludois says. "Looking ahead, I hope to be part of that ideal by translating my research as a faculty member into society at large. For me, on a personal level, that would certainly bring my efforts full circle."

Explore further: Iowa State engineer wants to 'sculpt' more powerful electric motors and generators

Related Stories

New 'soft' motor made from artificial muscles

February 15, 2012

The electrostatic motor, used more than 200 years ago by Benjamin Franklin to rotisserie a turkey, is making a comeback in a promising new design for motors that is light, soft, and operates without external electronic controllers.

Grad students explore wireless power transfer

May 26, 2014

A new course in spring 2014 used the concept of wireless power transfer to give electrical and computer engineering graduate students a primer in hands-on research and prototyping.

Pumping efficiency into electrical motors

July 14, 2014

(Phys.org) —University of Adelaide researchers are using new magnetic materials to develop revolutionary electrical motors and generators which promise significant energy savings.

A new, tunable device for spintronics

August 28, 2014

Recently, the research group of Professor Jairo Sinova from the Institute of Physics at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in collaboration with researchers from the UK, Prague, and Japan, has for the first time realised ...

Recommended for you

Inferring urban travel patterns from cellphone data

August 29, 2016

In making decisions about infrastructure development and resource allocation, city planners rely on models of how people move through their cities, on foot, in cars, and on public transportation. Those models are largely ...

How machine learning can help with voice disorders

August 29, 2016

There's no human instinct more basic than speech, and yet, for many people, talking can be taxing. 1 in 14 working-age Americans suffer from voice disorders that are often associated with abnormal vocal behaviors - some of ...

Auto, aerospace industries warm to 3D printing

August 25, 2016

New 3D printing technology unveiled this week sharply increases the size of objects that can be produced, offering new possibilities to remake manufacturing in the auto, aerospace and other major industries.

38 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MR166
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 09, 2014
Some torque and HP ratings would be useful. Is this a scientific curiosity or a real motor.

Also, small gaps and high voltages are a recipe for failure.
Scottingham
5 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2014
MR166...the most I could find without requesting a whitepaper is that the 'motors do best in high torque low speed' applications. IE Wind Turbine
MR166
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2014
Scott from the description, High Frequency AC , I thought just the opposite, ie low torque high speed.
al_hopfer
2.2 / 5 (6) Sep 09, 2014
""Because motors and generators are essentially mirror images of each other, the invention may first meet the market in the form of a generator for wind turbines, ""

Without magnets this static motor will need electrical input to build the field and possibly set up an alternator type of generation.

I am pretty sure that is this were practical the alternator approach over permanent magnets would have been used in the first place.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (11) Sep 09, 2014
""Because motors and generators are essentially mirror images of each other, the invention may first meet the market in the form of a generator for wind turbines, ""
Without magnets this static motor will need electrical input to build the field and possibly set up an alternator type of generation.


I am pretty sure that is this were practical the alternator approach over permanent magnets would have been used in the first place.

This is the short answer as to why.
"Magnetism is easier to exploit than electrostatic fields due to the properties of naturally occurring materials and simple engineering techniques."

.And this is the short answer as to - why not.
'However, new advances in materials, mechanical engineering and advanced manufacturing may enable electrostatic motors."

Aligo
Sep 09, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
al_hopfer
2.6 / 5 (10) Sep 09, 2014
These so-called "new advances" have been new for about 20 years. I know, I design with them every day.

Static motors don't exist because they are weak and basically useless. There is a lot of money floating around for "new ideas". This is an idea from the 1790's getting funding because funding is available for anything green.

If one studies history enough one will learn why today's Data highway "The Cloud" and the centralized energy generation and distribution network is and has been the force behind 150 years of amazing growth and development.

Attempting to dismantle a system prior to having the necessary storage capability for Wind and Solar is what inexperience would try. And Fail. Case in point Germany. The more "renewable" energy they create the more coal fired plants need to be build and ARE being built in Germany today. Close down (progressively) their nuclear plants at the same time Germany is now producing CO2 at higher levels than in 1990.

Children at play.
Aligo
Sep 09, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Basilioexablm CASTLE
3 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2014
Nature already has made a motor based on electrostatic forces, is the Molecular Rotary Motor of ATP Synthase that spins at some 10,000 RPM driven by a Proton Gradient Force, I wrote a paper in 1987 anticipating that there should be molecules having an internal rotor to meet the needs of my model of animal navigation based on the gyroscopic properties of such rotors. In 1993 Sir John Walker FRS described in Science the actual structure. I have posted some of my ideas abot this in animalnav dot org . This rotor acts a spinning top and it precesses around the local vertical but because of the rotation of the Earth if is deflected Eastward 15 degrees per hour (North of the Equator) and the reverse in the Southern Hemisphere.
Whydening Gyre
4.4 / 5 (7) Sep 09, 2014
Nature already has made a motor based on electrostatic forces, is the Molecular Rotary Motor of ATP Synthase that spins at some 10,000 RPM driven by a Proton Gradient Force, I wrote a paper in 1987 anticipating that there should be molecules having an internal rotor to meet the needs of my model of animal navigation based on the gyroscopic properties of such rotors. In 1993 Sir John Walker FRS described in Science the actual structure. I have posted some of my ideas abot this in animalnav dot org . This rotor acts a spinning top and it precesses around the local vertical but because of the rotation of the Earth if is deflected Eastward 15 degrees per hour (North of the Equator) and the reverse in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ladies and Gentleman! In the far corner we have a new contender!
hemitite
not rated yet Sep 09, 2014
I wonder if high humidity would hinder these sorts of motors? There is a lot less static around on a humid day and a lot more on a dry one as any cat owner can tell you.
igneous_11
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 09, 2014
"These so-called "new advances" have been new for about 20 years. I know, I design with them every day."

No, you didn't, nor do you know the details of their new unique advances.

"In the motor on display, nested stationary and rotating plates are held hairs-width apart by a unique air-cushioning strategy."

"Static motors don't exist because they are weak and basically useless."

"Actually, the concept is not entirely new: Benjamin Franklin and others described and built motors based on electrostatic forces back in the 18th and 19th centuries, but none achieved practical operation....However, new advances in materials, mechanical engineering and advanced manufacturing may enable electrostatic motors."

"If one studies history enough one will learn why today's Data highway "The Cloud"...is and has been the force behind 150 years of amazing growth and development."

Really, Cloud computing for the last 150 years? Amazing!
igneous_11
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 09, 2014
"Attempting to dismantle a system prior to having the necessary storage capability for Wind and Solar is what inexperience would try. And Fail. Case in point Germany. The more "renewable" energy they create the more coal fired plants need to be build and ARE being built in Germany today. Close down (progressively) their nuclear plants at the same time Germany is now producing CO2 at higher levels than in 1990."

Germany is shutting down nuclear plants in response to the Japanese disaster. I know, it doesn't make sense, but that is the reason.

"The international reaction to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has been diverse and widespread....Germany closed all of its old nuclear power reactors and then decided to phase the rest out entirely by 2022."---Wikipedia
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (5) Sep 09, 2014
"If one studies history enough one will learn why today's Data highway "The Cloud"...is and has been the force behind 150 years of amazing growth and development."

Really, Cloud computing for the last 150 years? Amazing!

A metaphor is - the Library of Congress... Written History....
Aligo
Sep 09, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
11791
Sep 09, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
DocEigen
2 / 5 (4) Sep 09, 2014
Seems to be a Tesla Turbine. A number of implementations are demonstrated on You Tube using fluids such as water and air, as well as Tesla's original concept of using electrostatics.
I wonder if that will make this prior art? I guess they may still seek to patent the tessellated radial surface treatment? Which by the way, what is that? Is that a cog breaker topography using the skin effect? If so, does this rotate preferentially in one direction? And why the regular pattern, instead of a Fourier stippling for multifrequency operation? Boy, I could innovate this all day!

It also resembles a Casimir Rotator, which uses ZERO POINT energy. The difference between this and the standard longitudinal Casimer plate array is the 90 degree Poynting vector, but otherwise... why not?

This design would work with ultrasonic energy too. So, a low cavitation stealth sub rotor.
DonGateley
not rated yet Sep 10, 2014
For what do I want a desktop motor?
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (4) Sep 10, 2014
For what do I want a desktop motor?

Sharpen your pencil?
ChuckG
5 / 5 (2) Sep 10, 2014
Seems that someone is beyond a prototype:

http://www.shinse.../techno/
gkam
3 / 5 (10) Sep 10, 2014
"Attempting to dismantle a system prior to having the necessary storage capability for Wind and Solar is what inexperience would try. And Fail."
----------------------------------------------

Where have you been?

We integrated alternative energy into large grids thirty-five years ago in California.
gkam
2.3 / 5 (9) Sep 10, 2014
ChuckG,thanks for the reference. These are worth checking out.

TheGhostofOtto1923
3.9 / 5 (7) Sep 10, 2014
We integrated alternative energy into large grids thirty-five years ago in California
-And its not working out so great is it?

"the University of Edinburgh found "for onshore wind, the monthly 'load factor' of turbines – a measure of how much electricity they generate as a percentage of how much they could produce if on at full power all the time - dropped from a high of 24 per cent in the first year after construction, to just 11 per cent after 15 years."

"As many as 4,500 wind turbines have been built — and abandoned — in California alone"

-because it costs more to fix them than to replace them.

"Due to high electricity demand, California imports more electricity than any other state, primarily hydroelectric power from states in the Pacific Northwest (via Path 15 and Path 66) and coal- and natural gas-fired production from the desert Southwest via Path 46"
gkam
2.8 / 5 (9) Sep 10, 2014
Oh, my, . . . another person outside the field who reads and thinks he understands.

In the late 1970's we could not generate sufficient power for increasing loads. The air conditioning loads in the Summer strained the system, which is part of a power-sharing network between utilities in eight Western states, some provinces in Canada, and some spots in Mexico.

Because of strict air quality laws, we could not site a polluting powerplant, so we had the wind turbines put up at Altamont. They were early versions, and crude, and all replaced now, but they produced power as the San Joaquin Valley ventilated from the heat, producing power exactly when we needed it.

No pollution. No fuel. No transmission losses. No sweat.

Yes, we get energy from out-of-state, and send it out, as well. We buy power in Summer from hydro-rich Pacific Northwest and sell it to them for their electric heat in Winter. I guess those numbers you find do not tell you how everything works.
gkam
2.5 / 5 (8) Sep 10, 2014
TheGhostofOtto1923, did your numbers tell you which state is the most efficient? And what we do, you eventually follow, so start watching closely.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.9 / 5 (7) Sep 10, 2014
Oh, my, . . . another person outside the field who reads and thinks he understands
Oh my.... another person inside the field who thinks he knows enough not to keep abreast. Your hydropower is a boondoggle as well.

"The largest dam removal project in U.S. history... the 110-foot Elwha Dam and 210-foot Glines Dam on the Elwha River on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, both of which were silted up and obsolete... A $150 million project to tear down the 165-foot Matilija Dam in Ventura County, which is also silted up, was approved in 2004 by county officials .. The San Clemente Dam removal project is slated to begin on June 21, 2013 and is scheduled to take three years at a cost of $83 million, making it the largest dam removal project in California history."
all replaced now
-And how many were just abandoned in place?

"We've stopped to view a[n Altemont] wind farm built in 1985 that now looks like a turbine graveyard. The owner doesn't plan to install new models"
Joro01
not rated yet Sep 11, 2014
It is not new idea. Look at the Wimshurst mashinе for sample. It can work in the reverse mode.
You can find a many type of electrostatic motors developed by hobbysts in Youtube.
Approx. 50% of MEMS devices use electrostatic forces for driving.
Other 50% use piezoactuators. But what about piezoeffect? The piesoeffect also caused by elecric field
georgejmyersjr
not rated yet Sep 11, 2014
I saw a "similar" design to drive a motor in space. Two bands with sinusoidal bends rotate when a electrostatic charge was applied, out of "sync" with each other. Given the problems of magnetics in space, it appeared to be an interesting rotary design that perhaps would only work in space, but would save ginormous on weight.
Basilioexablm CASTLE
not rated yet Sep 11, 2014
In my previous comment I made a mistake, my brain was "out to lunch". The Earth always turn East no matter on what Hemisphere we are.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (5) Sep 11, 2014
In my previous comment I made a mistake, my brain was "out to lunch". The Earth always turn East no matter on what Hemisphere we are.

Funny how that would be "clockwise" from the South pole and "counter clockwise" from the north pole...
Just sayin'...
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (5) Sep 11, 2014
I Given the problems of magnetics in space, it appeared to be an interesting rotary design that perhaps would only work in space, but would save ginormous on weight.

And..... would you care to elucidate what some of those problems with magnetics in space might be?
(Other than the weight factor and the hassle of getting it TO space, of course...)
ForFreeMinds
1 / 5 (1) Sep 13, 2014
Attempting to dismantle a system prior to having the necessary storage capability for Wind and Solar is what inexperience would try. And Fail. Case in point Germany. The more "renewable" energy they create the more coal fired plants need to be build and ARE being built in Germany today. Close down (progressively) their nuclear plants at the same time Germany is now producing CO2 at higher levels than in 1990.

Children at play.


These aren't children at play, they are politicians using force against citizens. While you may find politics childish, the politicians don't consider what they are doing childish, and are very interested in you. They are interested in using you, as a cash cow for their benefit, whether you like it or not. And they have the big guns to do what they want. This is the use of force, not to protect our lives, property, liberty and pursuit of happiness. But instead to benefit politicians.
AmnonMichaelCohen
not rated yet Sep 15, 2014
I can not clearly accept or yet see, how this concept can be more efficient then the very efficient magnetic fields concept is use for many years.
Will we now find what originally was found, that this concept can not replace the already popular electric propulsion we know so well?!
I am thinking of miniature as well as real heavy "electric Motors".
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2014
I can not clearly accept or yet see, how this concept can be more efficient then the very efficient magnetic fields concept is use for many years.

Efficiency is not always the bottom line. This type of drive is cheap. It also seems very good for miniaturization. Think of the future of swarmbots where you need many thousands of cheap and reliable actuators. Even a few cents in savings quickly add up (even more so if the MTBF goes up). It also doesn't require any rare earth materials which are in short supply. For some applications it's perfectly all right to throw more energy at it than strictly required if other factors make up for this waste.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2014
The more "renewable" energy they create the more coal fired plants need to be build and ARE being built in Germany today.

I think you didn't check your facts on that one. Of the 6 coal powerplants:
- 1 has been stopped (plans have been declared irregular after building had begun)
- 2 are in the planning phase
- planning for one has stopped
- one is in the planning phase but will likely not be built (not economical)
- 1 is currently being built

All of thes has been signed off on prior to the decision to forego nuclear power altogether.

If you want to go back a bit (2013) then here's a fun map
http://www.bund.n...andorte/
red x: not being built
red questionmark: in planning state. questionable whether it will be built.

As you can see: there's not a huge amount of coal powerplante being built, and no new ones on the horizon.

NOM
1 / 5 (1) Sep 18, 2014
sounds like toy for high school students to laugh at. dont give it money
That's rich coming from you farbstain. You have been trying to con people out of research money for years. Fortunately, your complete lack of personality makes this difficult for you.
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (5) Sep 19, 2014
11791 demonstrating he is ignorant of product development & has minimal imagination with
sounds like toy for high school students to laugh at. dont give it money

Would you have said the same thing re the Laser, started as a lab curiosity took a few years for practical applications to become an imperative to the point we now cannot do without it !

An electrostatic motor which doesnt rely on high currents just field potential variations such as the similar paradigm of a MOSFET which only uses a field voltage may well have some unusual applications and as others have mentioned may be ideal for good miniaturisation...

@MR166
Depends on an issue called dielectric strength, it is conceivable small gaps are fine depending upon the voltage and any intervening material such as an insulator which the appropriate dielectric properties there are many cheap plastics which have been available for decades to 'fill this gap' ;-)
NOM
3 / 5 (2) Sep 22, 2014
11791 demonstrating he is ignorant of product development & has minimal imagination with
He (Neil Farbstein) is an old troll that has been repeatedly banned from physorg for trying to defraud people with his bogus company Vulvox.
He is indead completely ignorant of product development, since all he is is a fraud.

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.