The effects of climate change are being felt all over the planet – from the continuous heat waves that scorch Europe and the US, to floods in China and New Zealand – and show more than ever the need to commit to the energy transition.
For example, definitively abandoning combustion cars to bet on those with an electric motor. However, this is not so easy, since its manufacture requires the use of rare earths, an expensive raw material in economic and environmental terms. This problem could have been solved by Robert Sansone, a young engineer who was only 17 years old.
Starting from the design of a synchronous reluctance motor -used in pumps and fans- Sansone has managed to create a prototype with greater rotation force and efficiency than the existing ones in a year. The young student chose to base himself on this type of motor because, unlike electric motors with permanent magnets, they move thanks to a steel rotor with air gaps that generates power when it rotates with the magnetic field .
Sansone’s prototype is a scale model made of 3D-printed plastic, copper wires, and a steel rotor , and features another magnetic field, rather than air chambers. In this way, it has increased the power (39%) and efficiency (31%) of the engine at 300 revolutions per minute (RPM). At 750 RPM, the performance goes up to 37%.
According to Smithsonian magazine , the design has other components that make this increase possible, but the young engineer cannot reveal more details because he plans to patent it.
Although the results of this prototype are promising, the obstacles it faces must also be highlighted. At the moment, you cannot go above the aforementioned RPMs because the plastic parts overheat and melt . On the other hand, it is true that the materials for synchronous reluctance motors are cheap, but the machines themselves are difficult to manufacture, which increases their cost . In that sense, Sansone believes that new technologies, such as additive manufacturing , will make it easier to build in the future.
After winning first prize – and $75,000 – at this year’s Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, the young engineer has now set out to make a new version of his engine out of stronger materials. If it works, he will go ahead with the patent process .