January 12th, 2001

Spherical Motor Allows Ball-Based 3-D Movement Johns Hopkins University

Engineers at The Johns Hopkins University have invented a globe-shaped motor that is capable of rotating in any direction. The device, which uses electromagnets controlled by a computer, could give robotic arms greater flexibility and precision and might even allow the lowly computer mouse to guide the hand of the computer user, instead of the reverse. These advances could come about because the new spherical motor permits a wide range of unhindered mechanical motion. “A conventional motor turns on an axis, moving in one direction,” Gregory S. Chirikjian, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, explains. “What we’ve developed is a new type of spherical motor. Basically, there’s a ball inside, and we can rotate it in any direction we want.”