Friday, April 17, 2009

Hybrid Power by Gates

Bill H. Gates III, builder of Microsoft, is hoping to play his hand at automotive engines. A patent filed in October 2007 for an “Electromagnetic Engine” proposes using electrical and chemical reactions for power. The patent, number 20090091138, states that sophisticated software can continuously alter the way it operates. The patent states the engine "... may be configured to convert mechanical energy of the first piston to electrical energy during a power stroke, and to drive the first piston" in the non-power strokes. Read: Selective gas and/or electric hybrid powered engine.

There is mention of liquid reactant (plasma) injectors that would kick start a chemical combustion reaction using "reactant" fuel to get the combustion process going with the ability to convert the mechanical force into electrical or electromagnetic energy to drive the pistons. This clever merging of the electric and combustion process, with the ability to switch between systems, is elaborated on in the patent: "... the engine may select between the first and second modes," either gas or electric-powered, "in response to actual or predicted operating conditions." That's where the sophisticated software comes in.

The electromagnetic piston is interesting to say the least. But many free piston type engines have been proposed in the past and never seen the light of day. The patent states that each cylinder is non-circular and non-linear (read odd shape), and drive a helical gear box and work in tandem with a set of powerful electromagnets and juiced up by a rechargeable battery.

The patent was filed for a company named “Searete LLC.” According to Searete is one of many shell front companies for Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures, a patent powerhouse for a myriad of innovations. According to an IAM (Intellectual Asset Management) article (large PDF file), Intellectual Ventures has a roster of senior inventors that either contribute to the patent pool or draw in innovation from their extensive networking. They move Intellectual Property (IP). According to Myhrvold the U.S. strength has changed, "IP is the thing we're good at," he stated. Since most manufacturing has moved overseas Myhrvold believes IP will only grow. "In 10 years patents will be even more important than they are now."

It might as well be the gold rush of the 21st century. With lots of cash to drop on speculative ventures, the rich are just trying to get richer in an ever changing world economy where information is king.

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