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Just for Fun: The Ball Bearing Electric Motor

The ball bearing electric motor is a unique kind of motor, with limited real world use, but with an interesting and extremely unique mechanism.  Rather than working according to electro-magnetism, it is claimed that the ball bearing motor works by thermal energy alone.  Although this is seen as a controversial claim, as the limited studies carried out on the ball bearing motor claim electro-magnetism has the only part to play, Dr Stefan Marinov is reported to have recorded evidence of thermal energy producing rotation.  This article will explain how this is possible and how a ball bearing electric motor is made.

How Does it Work?

The motor can run on either AC or DC and rotate in either direction according to the initial spin you’ll have to give it to get going.  It’s made of two ball-bearing races, the outer ring of each connected to a high current, lower voltage power supply, which sit on a conductive shaft.  Alternatively you can put the two ball bearing roller races inside a metal tube and mount them on a non-conductive shaft; the tube will then act like a flywheel.

The motor creates heat by the current passing from the out ring of the ball race to the inner ring.  As the current goes through each ring, heat is created by increasing resistance.  The localised heat cause the ball to get hotter in one specific area very quickly, and this causes the steel ball to become ever so slightly malleable and elongate.  If the balls weren’t moving the elongated ball would cause the bearing to seize up, but when it’s already rotating the longer ball causes the bearing to push itself around even more, sustaining the rotation.   All the balls which are in electrical contact with the inner and outer ring are susceptible to this process.

How is it Made?

Since the motor gets extremely hot and will cause a certain amount of sparking a lot of cautions have to be taken when a ball bearing electric motor is made.  There’s every chance that the plastic which insulates wires will melt when the motor starts, which can give off nasty fumes, so users have to be in a well ventilated area and, since everything gets so hot, remove anything which is flammable from the surrounding area.  They are also instructed to take great care to avoid coming into contact with the motor and wear protective clothing.

The motor requires 2 small ball bearing races, a shaft and a flywheel to retain momentum.  Ideally, the shaft needs to fit well inside the ball races, so that when they are secured the shaft can rotate freely without obstruction.  You can use a vice to hold the bearings, but you need to take into account how you will isolate the ball races from each other.    You’ll need a very high voltage AC or DC power supply, of at least several tens of amps to run the motor.  Make sure you’re very careful to not burn yourself!

Something for the Future?

Although the ball bearing electric motor currently has no real world use, its technology is certainly interesting.  You never know, this little contraption could end up inspiring the next generation of engineering innovations.