Research sparks a quiet revolution 

Dr Greg Heins adjusts the electronics in the Desert Rose High Performance Electric Vehicle.

The whining of industrial equipment, air-conditioners and other devices relying on electric motors could be dramatically quietened, thanks to research by one of CDU’s newest PhDs.

Dr Greg Heins will be awarded a PhD this week from Charles Darwin University for his research into controlling the current flow into electric motors, providing similar levels of power with greater efficiency and less noise.

Dr Heins identified the imperfections of common electric motors by measuring their operational noises, then applied various methods which included modifying the structure of electric signals that fed the motor, effectively cutting noise by one-third.

“Combining various approaches is a clever way to compensate for noisy motors,” he said.

Dr Heins chose the research topic after his involvement in the CDU co-developed Desert Rose solar car and the Desert Rose High Performance Electric Vehicle.

His research offers enormous potential for equipment that uses electric motors from large building cooling systems through to robotics.

Of great interest to Dr Heins is the ability to apply his research to many new technologies.

“This is foundation research that can be applied to a raft of areas including the latest steer-by-wire technologies that give drivers of future cars real-life feedback through the steering wheel even though it’s not physically connected to the wheels,” he said.

The ultra-smooth motors powering future robotics could also benefit along with many industrial and medical applications.

“Surgeons remotely operating on a patient from the other side of the world could feel the dexterity of a needle puncturing their clients’ skin all thanks to the sensitive movement of motors on their controls,” he said.

With many practical applications, Dr Heins’ next step is to develop a device that interfaces with motors that have no position feedback.

“This is the industry standard for many applications and once the methods can work without position feedback, the technology could soon become mainstream," he said.