Gears are the secret inside any transmission. They are fairly reliable but if one breaks, it can be expensive to repair. And if it is located high on a wind turbine pylon or deep undersea in a wave power device, getting access to it to make a repair can be difficult.
At Texas A&M, doctoral student Matthew Gardner is working on way to replace mechanical gears with magnetic ones. If he is successful, smaller, lighter, and less expensive transmissions that transmit power more efficiently will be the result. His research is being watched carefully by several companies, including ABB, the global technology company headquartered in Switzerland.
In collaboration with the US Department of Energy and ABB, he has constructed a prototype transmission with magnetic gears that can handle up to 4000 newton meters of torque.
Anything that lowers the initial costs and ongoing maintenance expense of renewable energy systems is a welcome step forward on the road to eliminating carbon and other harmful emissions from fossil fueled generating plants.