Bill Gates and inventors connected to Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures made headlines two years ago with a patent application for an electromagnetic engine.
Now a Seattle-based company, Clarian Labs, says it has developed a compact, electromagnetic hybrid battery based on a rotary piston that can generate twice as much power as the one proposed by the former Microsoft executives. It runs on carbon-neutral fuels including hydrogen, and could power equipment including robots, electric vehicles and home generators.
Clarian says it has been developing the technology in stealth mode for the the past two years. Its own patent application was made public last week (PDF). The battery was originally developed as a power source for the Department of Defense Humanoid Robot Program.
Here’s how Clarian explains its approach …
What makes the rotary generator unique is that it doesn’t have an output drive shaft like a traditional piston-driven engine – the generator‟s only output is the electricity generated by the unique induction generator design incorporated into the patent-pending rotor assembly. The result is a compact, lightweight source of electricity that is fully self-contained – no bulky generators, flywheels, alternators, fan belts, pulleys or gears to worry about. Think of the rotary generator as a powerful self-contained electromechanical battery.
Chad Maglaque, CEO of the five-person company, answered our additional questions via email.
The technology in basic terms: “It’s really a compact power supply that looks and acts just like a battery – inside there’s a generator that runs on biofuels and even hydrogen and everything is self-contained inside the ‘battery’ case. And just like a battery, it can be ‘recharged’ in a matter of seconds by swapping out a compact refillable (and recyclable) fuel cartridge.”
Plans for bringing the battery to market: “We’re looking to partner with someone like the DOE, DOD or an automobile or aerospace manufacturer to commercialize the technology rather than lead the commercialization effort. … The opportunity is certainly global – everyone needs power – with a broad range of applications including electric vehicles, robots, unmanned vehicles, stationary or portable generators for homes and remote locations, or as a range extender for electric vehicles. In fact, we think a natural for this technology would be EVs as a lightweight, either in hybrids or as a compact range extender – something akin to a bike rack that you clip on to your car or pop in your trunk for a weekend trip.”
Competitors? “Traditional batteries. Daunting for sure, but this one is a game changer, because with 10-20 times more energy density than even lithium ion, this technology has significant competitive advantage over batteries. The key is making everything self-contained and easy to use.”
Size? “Because the design is scalable … hybrid batteries can be virtually of any size, though we expect more commonly that they’ll be about the size of a car battery given the existing form factor.”
Click here for an animation of the technology, and see see this data sheet for more background: PDF. The company, which also operates as Clarian Power, separately developed a solar power module for the home that won a Consumer Innovation Award in the GE Ecomagination Challenge.