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Motor Alternatives

Stanford research yields spring actuator concepts

Researchers at Stanford University say they have invented a way to augment electric motors to make them much more efficient at performing dynamic movements through a new type of actuator, a device that uses energy to make things move, according to a March 20 news item on the university's website.

Their actuator, published March 20 in Science Robotics, uses springs and clutches to accomplish a variety of tasks with a fraction of the energy usage of a typical electric motor.

“Rather than wasting lots of electricity to just sit there humming away and generating heat, our actuator uses these clutches to achieve the very high levels of efficiency that we see from electric motors in continuous processes, without giving up on controllability and other features that make electric motors attractive,” said Steve Collins, associate professor of mechanical engineering and senior author of the paper.

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