Monday, March 28, 2011

At the service of nature

On hilly terrain, in winding waterways, in muddy swamps – “Chico Mendes” feels at home in even the most inhospitable surroundings. Standing 1.20 metres tall, with four agile motor driven legs and outstanding analytical skills, he is perfectly equipped to cope with life in the Amazon’s 370 square kilometre rain forest.

No, this is not an exotic animal, but the latest environmental robot belonging to the Brazilian energy firm Petrobras. The robot was developed with the help of the latest submarine and drive technology in a joint project between the sociological research institution Piatam (Potential Impacts and Environmental Risks of the Petroleum and Gas Industry in the Amazon), the Brazilian state university and Petrobras.

In developing “Chico Mendes”, particular attention was paid to making the hybrid robot adapt to the rainforest landscape as much as possible, minimizing any damage to the very nature it is supposed to be protecting. Easier said than done: Such specifications posed a particularly difficult challenge in drive technology terms. “Chico Mendes” has to battle through mud, water and swamps with the help of the Swiss electric DC microdrives and minimotors. This involves eight of Maxon motor’s DC motors which, with an exceptionally long service life, deliver a high performance in a tiny space.

Apart from the above characteristics, their low energy consumption is another important reason why they were chosen for the Piatam project. Therefore the decision was made to use DC engines from Maxon Motor. The environmental robots are driven by solar power in an initial phase. With an efficiency of over 90%, Maxon’s motors are ideally suited to this type of application.



Monday, March 21, 2011

Energy ideas from the university

Driving without batteries - impossible?

It does not get its power from the batteries but from electric conducting paths laid in the floor of the vehicle. May I introduce myself? The "E-Quickie", the result of a cooperation of 40 bachelor students of mechanical engineering and mechatronics and the international master program mechatronics and micro-mechatronic systems at the university of Karlsruhe.

Image source: University of Karlsruhe, Germany

At first glance the marvel weighing just 60 kg reminds of a recumbent bike with a driver’s cabin - not exactly futuristic since its design would better fit the 50ies. It gets its energy from electric conducting paths on the ground with receivers underneath the car taking energy from the tracks through electric induction and directing it to the car’s electrical hub drive.

Purpose of the project: to show how to move forward in an energy-efficient way.

So it is possible without batteries but not without some kind of auxiliary means.

Image source: University of Karlsruhe, Germany

Further information:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Circumnavigating the world powered only by the sun

31 meters long, 15 meters wide, weighing 85 tonnes and almost the entire deck with photovoltaic modules – these are the dimensions that want to sail around the world.

Already in the 80ies the Swiss entrepreneur Raphaƫl Domjan dreamt of circumnavigating the world with a minimum of energy. In 2011 this dream will now come true and the catamaran Turanor Planet Solar will set sail.

160 days and 50,000 kilometres need to be mastered. Only four stopovers are planned: in New York, San Francisco, Singapore and Dubai. And they do not have the aim to have damages repaired or man and technology to get a rest: No, the broad public is to be made aware of the reliability and performance of renewable energies and technologies.

But why would you do such a thing?

Domjan and his team want to prove "that we can really change something, that there are solutions and it is not too late, yet.", says Domjan.

More details and impressions:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dymaxion car

The Dymaxion car was a concept car designed by U.S. inventor and architect Buckminster Fuller in 1933. The word Dymaxion is a brand name that Fuller gave to several of his inventions, to emphasize that he considered them part of a more general project to improve humanity's living conditions. The car had a fuel efficiency of 30 miles per US gallon (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp). It could transport 11 passengers. While Fuller claimed it could reach speeds of 120 miles per hour (190 km/h), the fastest documented speed was 90 miles per hour (140 km/h).

Isamu Noguchi was involved with the development of the Dymaxion car, creating plaster wind tunnel models that were a factor in determining its shape, and during 1934 drove it for an extended road trip through Connecticut with Clare Boothe Luce and Dorothy Hale.

The 1929 automobile of German inventor and helicopter pioneer Engelbert Zaschka exhibited features that were important to Buckminster Fuller. Zaschka's three wheeled car could also easily be folded, disassembled and re-assembled as could Fuller’s Dymaxion House and many geodesic domes.

The Dymaxion car was a three wheeler, steered by a single rear wheel, and could do a U-turn in its own length. However, the rear-wheel steering made the car somewhat counterintuitive to operate, especially in crosswind situations. The body was teardrop-shaped, and naturally aerodynamically efficient. The car was twice as long as a conventional automobile, at 20 feet (6.1 m) long. Drive power was provided by a rear-mounted Ford V8 engine, which produced 85 brake horsepower (63 kW; 86 PS) through the front wheels. The front axle was also a Ford component, being the rear axle of a contemporary Ford roadster turned upside-down.

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