Currently available air motors have many advantages over electric motors. They are more compact, lighter-weight, instantly reversible without sparking, create no heat buildup, are undamaged by stalling or overloading, and supply extremely broad torque and speed range. Generally available commercial air motors, however, have only 5% to 20% of ideal efficiency. The Harmonic Air Motor developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has all these advantages of air motors, but also offers a proven efficiency more than 60% of ideal, higher low-end torque than available commercial air motors, and can be manufactured at lower cost.

The oil-free design of the Harmonic Air Motor enables use of exhaust air for cooling or AC purposes, and eliminates the need for oil lubrication over its lifetime.

The Harmonic Air Motor uses reed valves, and has a structure nearly identical to conventional, mass-produced, oil-free air compressors. As a result, it can be manufactured inexpensively and with minimal changes to existing production designs. It is ready for mass-market production.

The motor can use compressed air at pressures of 80 to 100 psig that is widely available in plants or at remote job sites, and is capable of up to 200 psig operation for higher power. It consumes 10% to 30% as much compressed air as conventional air motors for equivalent power.

Harmonic valves reduce moving parts and yield high efficiency. The oil-free design enables use of exhaust air for cooling or AC purposes, and eliminates the need for oil lubrication over its lifetime. In addition, it features an automatic speed governor to prevent runaway, and is compatible with saturated or superheated steam operation. High torque is maintained from rest up to full operating speed.

The Harmonic Air Motor can be used for direct-drive vehicular propulsion, thus eliminating the need for a transmission. In conjunction with a compressed air storage reservoir, the Harmonic Air Motor, by virtue of its high efficiency, is a viable approach to the storage and recovery of energy originating from intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind or solar. Other applications include hoisting operations that benefit from the simple speed control of the Harmonic Air Motor, and the ease of reversing permits accurate control of lifting, lowering, and travelling.

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Motion Design Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2017 issue of Motion Design Magazine.

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