A promising young engineer
Sansone, who is only 17 years old, estimates he has completed approximately 60 engineering projects in his spare time. The Florida-based inventor has built animatronic hands, a 70-mph go-kart, and high-speed running boots, among several other innovations.
Roughly two years ago, Sansone came across a video explaining the advantages and disadvantages of electric cars. The video described how EV motors typically use rare-earth metals, which are expensive and often sourced in a way that is bad for the environment.
The high-schooler set out to improve on existing models of the synchronous reluctance motor, as it doesn’t require rare-earth metals. Over the course of a year, he created a prototype for a new type of synchronous reluctance motor that has greater torque and efficiency than existing models. The prototype was made of 3D-printed plastic, copper wires, and a steel rotor. The work on this prototype, which was tested using a laser tachometer to determine torque, bagged Sansone the top prize at ISEF, the George D. Yancopoulos Innovator Award.
Rethinking the synchronous reluctance motor
Large firms, including BMW and MAHLE, are developing magnet-free motors for the same reasons as Sansone. Namely, the production of regular magnet motors is a stain on the EV industry, which is otherwise geared towards sustainability. The vast majority of the rare-earth metals required are mined in China, meaning the western EV industry is currently highly reliant on their imports.