Feb 192012
 
Benjamin Franklin 1767

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They are capable of delivering higher torque, require low currents instead of high

“Perhaps the earliest public demonstration of an electric motor,” writes a team of researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, “involved the automatic rotation of a turkey on a spit over a fire” at a party put on by Benjamin Franklin in 1749. Franklin’s electrostatic motor was self-commutating, meaning that it was able to provide a continuous torque while it turned without requiring external electronics to control its progress.

Using artificial muscles, hyper-elastic materials that expand when a charge is applied, the New Zealand team has made a prototype for a self-commutating artificial muscle motor that does not require external electronics or hard metal parts. The researchers describe the device in a paper accepted to the American Institute of Physics’ journal Applied Physics Letters.

The team’s proof-of-concept motor is controlled with carbon-based switches whose resistances change when they are compressed, which activates artificial muscles that rotate a shaft. The artificial muscles, in turn, are able to activate the switches by their movements. All that is required to operate the device is a direct current input voltage.

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