Monday, February 06, 2006

Submarine research for washing machines?

miniature robot submarine
I get invited to a lot of university seminars on esoteric scientific topics. One which caught my eye last week was on designing a propulsion system for a robot submarine.

The Australian National University is building miniature robot submarines, each about half a metre long. Most of the research concerns how to have the submarines navigate their way underwater.

Nanda Surendran was looking at how to control a new thruster design for the "SERAFINA" Underwater Autonomous Submersible. The propeller and electric motor for the thruster is made from one piece of molded plastic.

Fisher & Paykel washing machine Smart Drive motorsThe submarine motor design reminded me of those used in Fisher & Paykel washing machines. These "Smart Drive" motors are made of molded plastic integrated with the washing machine drum. They are very popular with experimenters who salvage them from old washing machines and use them for wind generators. The washing machine motor is under computer control, so it occurred to me that submarine research might be used to make a better washing machine, as well as a submarine.

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