Saturday, January 13, 2007

Biomechatronics and Electromechanical batteries

Mechatronics=Getting motors or other actuators to do stuff (robotics, power assisted vehicles and devices, etc.)

Biomechatronics=getting motors, or even better, actual muscle tissue, in combination with a living person (or animal), to do stuff (whether it be

See HowStuffWorks:Biomechatronics

The medical field has came along way in the past few years: for instance, we now have:
- working electromechanical and pneumatic hearts, which are allowing people to live that would die without a compatible transplant (certainly, they view these as temporary devices.)
- Biomechanical arms, and legs.
- Exoskeletons
- Replacement ears, eyes (even if EM eyes don't work so well, yet, but the concept and working prototypes are there, used in actual disabled people.)
-etc etc

I think if I ever went back to the research area, this would be the field. I know mechatronics fairly well, but biomechatronics adds a whole new dimension to the concept.

Another interesting concept I revisited today: electromechanical batteries.

Flywheels are just rotating masses designed to efficiently store rotating kinetic energy -- i.e. the friction is much reduced, and their mass to interia ratio is exceptional. To the friction end, some flywheels use the magnetic levitation principle to hold them on their axis, instead of mechanical bearings, to reduce the friction. The spinning friction is what causes flywheels to lose their kinetic energy overtime.

Anyway, the idea behind electromechanical batteries is as such:
- Make a large array of microflywheels. Attach each flywheel to a micro electrical generator.
- The "stored" energy in the battery comes from the fact, before you sold the battery, you'd spin all of the microflywheels to their highest speed (which would be very, very, very fast).

With advances in micromachining / nanotechnology to make better, faster, flywheels with less friction, and MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) to make really small working electrical generators, this seemingly simple idea might just work great.

That's the thing -- most of the ideas people are now doing research and development in have been around for 50 or even 100 years -- just back then people didn't have other technology to implement those ideas.


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