CAMBRIDGE, MA—Draper is developing a new family of electric motors and generators based on fundamentally different principles from e-motors used today. Underpinning the initiative is a recent patent on aspects of the technology.
Almost all electric motors use magnetism to generate torque. For centuries, engineers have known that forces from electric fields can also be harnessed to build motors, but these so-called electrostatic motors were considered too weak to compete with their electromagnetic cousins.
By leveraging state-of-the-art materials, novel designs and decades of fabrication expertise, Draper is developing powerful new electric motors that break the torque barrier suffered by previous electrostatic motors.
Draper’s approach to electric motors has numerous advantages over conventional electric motors, including drastically lower weight, higher efficiency, higher specific power and lower cost of materials. Draper’s new approach would benefit a vast range of technologies now dependent on electric motors, from electric vehicles to mobile defense applications, such as drones, and greatly extend their range and mobility.
“Our e-motors use thin electrodes and electrets which reduce weight by 80% or more as compared to conventional motors. This translates to a range extension of up to 40% for drones and up to 25% for electric vehicles based on our simulations,” said Sabrina Mansur, automotive business development manager at Draper. The company says its electric motors are designed without the use of rare earth materials, an important consideration in light of rising prices for these materials and reports of China’s potential ban on the export of rare earth materials.
Electric vehicles, drones, robots and other products require ever-increasing performance from electric motors, but are limited by the weight and cost of materials needed to make a conventional motor—steel, copper coils and rare earth magnets. Draper’s recently patented approach to electric motors, which is available to license, replaces those materials with thin, light and widely available materials.