The Layered MagWheel uses magnets to assist motorized vehicles with acceleration and braking. It is a safe, clean, and energy efficient technology.
David A. Gonzales II, United States
How we fuel the future is one of today’s biggest challenges. Increasingly corporations and research organizations are exploring open innovation avenues for new ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Open Innovation Energy Contest
The oil giant ConocoPhillips joined forces with Penn State University to create an open innovation contest to identify novel clean, reliable, and affordable sources of energy that can help improve the way the USA develops and uses energy. And they offered big money incentives with a total prize pot of $300,000.
The first ever ConocoPhillips Energy Prize was launched in 2008 and more than 300 ideas were submitted from teams and individual inventors. They were sifted through by a panel of environmental and energy experts and the proposals were judged on their creativity, commercial viability, scalability, and sustainability.
Open Innovation Winner
Five finalists were selected and the overall winner was David A. Gonzales II who had just graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio. He was awarded $125,000 for an invention he called the Layered MagWheel.
The revolutionary innovation incorporates magnets inside the wheels of cars to assist with acceleration and frictionless braking. They are designed for use in gas-electric vehicles, electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
In a typical car powered by an internal combustion engine less than 20 percent of the energy burned in the fuel reaches the wheels. The Layered MagWheel converts up to 90 percent of this energy and passes it to the wheels. And it allows for more of the brake energy to be captured than is currently possible with hybrid vehicles. In this way the invention not only improves energy efficiency, but it also cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions.
Gonzales also designed his concept so that it would be economical to manufacture on a large scale. They key component of each MagWheel is the induction disc layer which can be manufactured automatically, requiring only a few human operators.
The money that Gonzales received from this open innovation contest was used for further research and development. He set up a company called Impact Advanced Concepts to develop the Layered MagWheel and prepare it for commercialization. This has included prototyping and the extensive testing phase.
Solutions from Diverse Sources
The advantage of open innovation competitions such as the ConocoPhillips Energy Prize is that solutions can come from places that were not necessarily on anyone’s radar. In addition they act as catalysts, propelling ideas to the fore at greater speeds. These are vital factors, especially when you take on board the energy crisis and the potential peril that the planet is facing.
“ Like ConocoPhillips, Penn State believes that the nation needs fundamentally new knowledge and applications of that knowledge to diversify its energy supply, while simultaneously improving the efficiency by which it generates and utilizes that energy," said Dr. William Easterling, dean of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.
ConocoPhillips and Penn State were so impressed by the quality and imagination of the proposals that their open innovation contest is now a regular annual fixture.
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