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Electrostatic motor ‘out-performs standard designs’

15 September, 2014

In the C-Machine, the interleaved stationary and rotating plates are held a hairs-width apart by an air cushion. An electric voltage delivered to the fixed plates creates an electrostatic field that attracts the rotating plates in a way that makes them 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,” Ludois explains. The coupling can be used “to power things that move without touching,” he adds.

The technology relies on electronics to control the high-voltage, high-frequency electric fields precisely, 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.

A prototype of C-Motive's electrostatic motor

“Rather than magnetism,” he continues, “we are using the force that hold your clothes together when you take them out of the drier – electrostatic force. This technique can power anything that needs to move, and that you don’t want to touch while it’s moving.”

The new technique, he suggests, could deliver major advantages in terms of weight, material costs, operating efficiencies and maintenance requirements. It also avoids the need for rare-earth materials and uses aluminium instead of more expensive copper windings.

The technology could also be applied to the design of generators and the first commercial applications could be in wind turbine generators – an application for which C-Motive Technologies has received a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the US National Science Foundation.

The C-Motive technology is said to be ideal for high-torque, low-speed applications such as generators for residential/commercial backup power and for off-grid uses in industries such as construction.

C-Motive, which currently has five employees, is in the final stages of prototyping its electrostatic technology. The company has received backing and funding awards from various sources, including $100,000 in seed funding. Ludois currently devotes his evenings to C-Motive, but still spends his days at the University of Wisconsin.

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