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"Motor Skills" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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An Iowa State engineer is working to develop computer modeling technology that will show engineers how to chip away at the surfaces of electric motors to create new designs and shapes that can increase power generation.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

(Sound effect: electric motor sound) Motor Makeover.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: light classical music) Dionysios Aliprantis is a modern sculptor. But he's carving out his niche sculpting motors. An assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State, Aliprantis hopes to re-shape the designs of motors and generators to make them work more efficiently.

He's developing computer modeling technology to show engineers how to chip away at the surfaces of electric motors. He hopes a few nips and tucks here and there could increase performance by say, one to five percent. Spread over the entire motoring world, that could mean billions in savings.

Most electric motors operate in one direction, yet are designed to run well in both. Aliprantis and his assistant, doctoral student Yanni Li, want to alter the design to optimize performance in the preferred direction. They've written a computer program that changes motor design bit by bit, "sculpting" the surface shape to the most efficient specs.

From electric motors in hybrid cars, to wind turbines and all kinds of machinery, this advance could make a huge difference in our quest for sustainable energy. Modeling motors--might call it a chip off the old block.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's national science foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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