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500,000 RPM matchbox-sized gas turbine produces 100 watts

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September 30, 2006

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October 1, 2006 Researchers at the ETH Chair for Power Electronics have developed an electrical generator that spins at a world record 500,000 revolutions per minute (RPM) and scientists are hopeful they can achieve twice this speed to touch the magical million rpm. The matchbox-sized motor generates the equivalent of 100 watts, including the power electronics interface, and has an efficiency of close to 95 percent. Powered by a gas turbine, one tankful of fuel drives the generator for about 10 hours at peak 100 watt performance. These ultra small gas turbines could replace conventional batteries as a mobile power source and have a range of potential applications, from dentistry where ever smaller holes could be drilled with ever higher rotation speed through to energy supply for mobile applications, such as portable heart-lung machines or artificial hearts. The little motors could also be used in turbo compressors, which condense gas mixtures or air.

In a next step, the team at ETH wants to create a propulsion system that can do a million revolutions per minute. This is not easily done. In order to achieve this goal the scientists will need special materials that can take the strain in the rotor. The current model is coated with titanium, which resists the extreme centrifugal forces. Individual components of the highly rotating power system. Highly compact electronics for the regulation (left), stator (centre) and rotor with mounted ball-bearings. The match neatly illustrates the size of the motor in its entirety.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
1 Comment

100 Watts would be excellent to power a notebook computer. I wonder what the noise and heat levels are though?

Edgar Walkowsky
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