Thomsen, Knud (Lenggstrasse 7, Koblenz, CH-5322, CH)
Willmott, Phillip (Seestrasse 15, Küsnacht, CH-8700, CH)
Thomsen, Knud (Lenggstrasse 7, Koblenz, CH-5322, CH)
|1.||A gyroscope, comprising: a housing (12) having an inner wall (16) defining an internal spherical cavity (50) and an outer wall (18) defining a hermetically sealed circumference; a rotor (10) arranged within and completely encapsulated by said cavity (50) ; and a gas (48) arranged within said cavity (50).|
|2.||The gyroscope according to claim 1, wherein said rotor (10) comprises a spherical ball having at least one inner magnet (14) affixed thereto and spherical surface patches means for dynamically producing local pressure.|
|3.||The gyroscope according to claim 2, wherein the surface patches means comprises at least one of grooves (52), fishbone patterns and combinations of protrusions and recessions.|
|4.||The gyroscope according to claim 3, wherein said at least one inner magnet (14) comprises a plurality of magnets (44,45) arranged to form a ring encircling said rotor (10), and said grooves (52) comprise polar groves (56) and circumferential grooves (54).|
|5.||The gyroscope according to claims 24, wherein said at least one inner magnet (14) further comprises a first and second magnet located at opposing pole positions (46) on said ball.|
|6.||The gyroscope according to any of claims 16, further comprising at least one outer magnet (40,41) arranged outside of said housing such that said at least one inner (14) and outer (40,41) magnet intersect each other's magnetic field.|
|7.||The gyroscope according to any of claims 16, further comprising at least one sensor (62) arranged outside of said housing (12) so that said at least one sensor (62) can detect a posture of said rotor (10).|
|8.||The gyroscope according to claim 6, wherein said at least one sensor (62) is a Hall or other field sensor.|
|9.||The gyroscope according to claim 6, wherein said at least one sensor is an optical sensor and said housing (12) is partly transparent.|
|10.||The gyroscope according to claim 6, wherein said at least one sensor is a capacitive sensor.|
|11.||The gyroscope according to any of claims 17, wherein said housing (12) is arranged on at least one gimbal (20,24, 26, 30, 32, 36).|
|12.||The gyroscope according to any of claims 19, wherein said gas (48) is helium.|
|13.||Use of the gyroscope according to claim 1 in a vehicle navigation system.|
|14.||Use of the gyroscope according to claim 1, in a reaction wheel system.|
|15.||Use of the gyroscope according to claim 1, in An energy storage system.|
A standard gyroscope device includes a suspended flywheel resting on one or more bearings. The flywheel is arranged to include one rotational degree of freedom about its central axis. In operation, the flywheel is made to spin about its central axis thereby effecting an angular momentum which causes the rotational axis of the flywheel to remain in a substantially same and/or stable position or attitude. This attitude can then be used for navigation and/or orientation purposes for vehicles of all types. In application, the gyroscopes serve two basic uses for somewhat different purposes.
A first use is for inertial navigation systems. In such systems, a number of gyroscopes are mounted on a platform with their central axis at right angles to one another. The platform may then be placed inside a set of gimbals. When the gyroscopes spin, the platform will remain substantially rigid as the gimbals rotate.
Accordingly, the platform serves as a reference for the body which is attached to the gimbals. This body may be a moving vehicle such as an automobile, aircraft or spacecraft. Accordingly, appropriate instrumentation on the moving vehicle can calculate or assess its rotation relative to the platform, i. e. the vehicle's pitch or attitude. Further, with the addition of accelerometers to the platform, the change of the vehicles heading and amount thereof, can be monitored and used for automatic piloting.
A second use is for reaction wheels. Reaction wheels or momentum wheels are often used in satellites to assist in maintaining the satellite steady or redirected per slewing operations. Such may be used in combination with other forms of propulsion such as rockets, gas jets or magnetic torque rods. Applying torques to the reaction wheels
exerts torques (turning moments) on the satellite and therefore can be made to control the satellites pointing direction. Reaction wheels are often used as part of the Attitude Control System of the Satellite. The reaction wheels comprise a spinning flywheel mounted on a central bearing whose rate of rotation can be adjusted as necessary by an electric motor to apply a desired torque on and therefore redirect the satellite. Such may in fact be used for any free floating craft. In practice, three reaction wheels on perpendicular axes are used in concert to produce a specifically desired torque in a specifically desired location. For practicality and redundancy purposes, a fourth fly wheel may be employed such that the first three fly wheels are mounted perpendicular to one another and the fourth lies at an angle therebetween. Of course, two fly wheels may be used to stabilize a platform.
A problem with existing gyroscope systems, especially when applied to satellites, is that they are among the most common parts to fail. A common solution is to incorporate redundant and/or extra systems into the crafts in question. Such would provide replacement systems in the event of failure. However, this solution is costly and makes engineering demands on efficiency. Arguably the most common source of failure for gyroscope systems lay in wear and tear of the bearings over time. As detailed above, the most common gyroscope systems make use of flywheels mounted on bearings. Accordingly, the present solution is to provide an essentially mechanical bearing-less gyroscope system for use in the aforementioned applications. The traditional bearings used in driving the flywheel are essentially replaced by a gas bearing. Use of the gimbals may be otherwise maintained. Advantages of the present solution system include increased reliability and relatively straight forward implementation and/or adaptation into present existing applications-such as the ones detailed above. Additionally, the present design affords the opportunity for redundancy in the easily accessible drive electronics on the outside of the device.
In the present solution, the prior art bearings are replaced by a dynamical gas bearing.
The flywheel is essentially replaced by a spinning mass floating in the gas. The spinning mass may comprise a spherical ball or rotor. Other shapes may also be used, as would be known to one skilled in the art, provided such shapes satisfy the below discussed criteria. For clarity purposes the term rotor will be used hereinbelow. The
rotor may be machined with high precision to include grooves in its surface. The groves and surface patterns may be circumferential about the rotor's body as well as pass over the rotors poles, i. e. polar grooves. In one embodiment grooves would run in approximate spirals from the equator of the rotor towards the poles with several spirals meeting there. Other surface structuring may be used including fishbone patterns, knobs or burls. The rotor's geometrical center coincides with the center of gravity of the rotor with the rotor's axis of rotation passing therethrough.
A housing is provided for the rotor. The housing includes inner walls defining a spherical cavity and the outer walls may define a hermetically sealed shell.
Alternatively, feed and drain holes in the cavity wall may be used to establish a gas flow providing a static gas bearing for the rotor when at rest or slowly spinning. The cavity, as with the rotor, may also be machined to substantially tight tolerances.
Somewhat more relaxed tolerances may be used for the stator as compared to the rotor. The cavity comprises a substantially smooth surface. In addition to accommodating the rotor, the cavity accommodates the gas. The gas may be helium in a preferred embodiment. The housing is mounted on a series of gimbals, the number and orientation being a matter of design choice.
Supporting electronics of the present inventive system includes a series of magnets plus their driving circuits. At least one inner magnet is mounted on the rotor in the case of a synchronous embodiment as depicted in the sketch. This magnet may be a permanent magnet. Alternatively, a conducting sphere could be used as rotor in a short circuit rotor machine. A plurality of magnets may be so mounted, with magnets arranged to define a circumferential ring and/or individually located at the rotor's poles. One or more external magnets are located outside of the cavity and arranged so that the magnet fields of the external and internal magnets intersect. A pair of kick coils can be arranged on opposite sides of the housing, also within range of the internal magnets magnetic fields. In an alternate embodiment, the rotor comprises a conductor and no internal permanent magnets.
Depending on the details of the position monitoring set-up for the rotor, the device can deliver attitude information for all rigid body degrees of freedom, i. e. rotation
around an arbitrary axis as well as acceleration in any direction with the least sensitivity being for rotation around the spinning axis of the rotor.
These and further aspects and advantages of the invention will be discussed more in detail hereinafter with reference to the disclosure of preferred embodiments, and in particular with reference to the appended figures wherein: Figure 1 depicts a cut-away view of an embodiment of the present invention; Figure 2 depicts a corresponding cross sectional view of the housing and rotor ; and Figure 3 depicts the rotor with example grooves formed thereon.
Figure 1 depicts a cut-away view of an example embodiment of the present invention.
As shown, a rotor 10 is housed in a housing 12. The housing 12 includes inner walls 16 defining an internal cavity 50 in which the rotor 10 is confined. The housing and rotor are depicted with particular shapes, namely spherical balls. Other geometrical shapes may be employed as envisioned by one skilled in the art provided the gyroscopic effect described herein is achieved. Such shapes would include a double or multi-head mushroom. Further, the rotor may comprise holes machined and positioned to optimize gas circulation. Such may be determined on a trial by error basis, and in relation to a particular application, as envisioned by one skilled in the art.
Affixed to rotor 10 is a band of inner permanent magnets 14. Alternatively, a single or plurality of inner magnets may be used. The band encircles the rotor about a circumferential line, such as the equator. Additional magnets, such as polar magnets, may be affixed at the poles (46, Fig. 2) of the rotor. The inner magnets may number one or more and be located at other rotor locations, additionally, the magnetism and polarity of the inner magnets are variable, provided the herein discussed effects are achieved.
Bearings might be equipped with encoders and drives for their active positioning/alignment.
Housing 12 is mounted on a first gimbal 20,24 which facilitates rotation as well as the degree of freedom as indicated by arrow 22. The first gimbal 20,24 is mounted on a second gimbal 26,30 having a rotation indicated by arrow 28. The second gimbal 20,24
is mounted on a third gimbal 32,36 having a rotation indicated by arrow 34. The third gimbal 32,36 is mounted on a platform 38. Other numbers of gimbals or similar such mounting elements may be used depending upon application. Alternatively, a strapped down arrangement would include no other bearing with the gyroscope running intermittently because for each spinning-up it would first be necessary to bring the rotor to a stand still and in alignment with the drive coils. Having two or more such devices run in parallel would ensure continuous knowledge and tracking of the platform attitude.
Other advantages to running two or more bearingless gyros in parallel would be realized by application as envisioned by one skilled in the art.
Outer wall 18 and inner wall 16 cooperate to define a hermitically sealed cavity 50.
Alternatively, an active gas feed system would employ feeding and draining openings 51 in the housing allowing to support the rotor in a gas bearing of the static type also when the rotor is at rest. A gas (48, Fig. 2) is housed within the cavity 50 along with the rotor 10. The gas may be Helium or any other gas with preferably low friction, high thermal conductivity and chemical inertness. The sealed cavity 50 prevents escape of the gas 48 therefrom. The gas 48 encloses the rotor 10 and is generally located between rotor 10 and cavity inner wall 16. In an alternate embodiment, no gas is used. In place the outer magnets (40,41, Fig. 2), possibly in other arrangements, are controlled so as to maintain the rotor in a levitated state as will be described in more detail below.
Figure 2 depicts a cross section of the housing 12 and rotor through the equatorial plane of the rotor with the drive coils aligned in the same plane. The rotor 10 is depicted suspended within cavity 50. A gas 48 encloses the rotor 10. In this example embodiment six inner magnets 14 of opposing first and second polarities 44,45, are arranged on the surface of rotor 10. A suitable and possibly matching number of outer magnets 40,41 are arranged outside of the housing such that the magnetic fields of the inner and outer magnets intersect. The outer magnets may be electro-magnets controlled by means known in the art. Two kick coils 42 are included interspaced between adjacent outer magnets 40,41. Any number of sensors 62, such as Hall sensors, are also arranged interspaced between adjacent outer magnets 40,41 and/or at other locations on the device or platform). Additionally, the drive coils, when idle, may be used for sensing, alone or in combination with the Hall sensors. Alternatively, electrostatic capacitive
sensing might be achieved with suitably formed electrodes. The sensors 62 are so arranged so as to detect the position, orientation and rotation of the rotor 10.
Additionally, the sensors may be used to determine the exact attitude with respect to the stator and finally to the platform via encoders. Further, the outer wall may encapsulate the whole device encasing the rotor, stator, gimbal and platform.
Figure 3 depicts rotor 10 having a series of groves 52. A first set of one or more grooves, circumferential groves 54, are located about the rotor's circumference in the equatorial plane. A second set of grooves, polar groves 56 interspaced in troughs defined by walls 58, are located about the rotor's polar regions. In a preferred embodiment, the grooves are spirals or loxodromes encircling the poles. Other surface structuring e. g. a fishbone pattern around the equator or burls or nubs might be used, especially in the case of a short circuit rotor. The rotor 10 includes a spinning axis 60 normal to the equatorial plane.
Operation of the present invention will now be described with general reference to all the figures. The operation will run from a stand still to normal gyrating. An arrangement with evenly spaced even number of inner magnets of opposite polarities; north and south polar magnets; and matching number of outer magnets will be used for describing the operation. This arrangement is similar to a bearing-less slice motor. Use of an increased number of magnets provides for smoother drives and higher torques.
Initially, the rotor is at rest and lying against the cavity inner wall 16. Gas is present within the cavity. The rotor is levitated by means of actively controlling the outer magnets and/or production of gas flow through the ports in the housing 5 1. In the latter case the gas flow is generated by an active gas circulation system. The gas operates to loosens the contact between rotor and inner wall when there is an active gas system. The rotor will be brought to alignment with the external drive coils by suitably powering one or several of the external coils. During the powering, the gimbal may be fixed. Coils facing the nominal positions of the poles might prove very handy for aligning and levitating the rotor. For a short circuit rotor this aligning and levitating steps might not apply; the rotor might also be kicked on while still in loose contact to the wall. Once aligned and possibly free of the inner walls, the rotor is kicked on with an optimized
start-up sequence providing some asymmetry to initialize rotation in a desired direction.
The kick procedure may be effected by the kick coils. The active gas flow could also be steered appropriately so as to prevent the rotor from coming back into contact with the inner walls. This may be effected when there is an external gas system. The drive frequency is increased so that an appropriate gyroscopic spin is achieved with the rotor.
As the rotation speeds up, the dynamic contribution of the gas bearing increases and a continuous gas circulation through the stator which may have provided the initial supporting force can be switched off. During the active spinning up of the rotor, the rotor is primarily held by the magnetic field. With higher rotational frequencies and depending on the design details, nominally in the several hundred Hertz range, the contribution of the dynamic gas bearing rises proportionally. At a select maximum rotational speed, the magnetic drive may be switched off and the rotating rotor continues spinning and is kept levitating by the self-pumping dynamic gas bearing alone. A gyroscopic effect is achieved by the rotor, namely, the rotor remains substantially stable about its axis. Additionally, the rotor will remain substantially self-centering inside the cavity, making it relatively immune to external disturbances. In other words, the rotor will maintain its center of gravity position, relative to the cavity, and display little drift in its"absolute"orientation.
With the rotor spinning at a high frequency, the rotor's braking is proportional to the gas pressure. The gas pressure may therefore be reduced as compared to the pressure at spin up. At this point, the freely gyrating rotor stably maintains its orientation of its spinning axis. Friction in the low pressure gas is very low; depending on the design and the intended application pressure could be chosen appropriately somewhere between several bar and ultra high vacuum. In case there is an active gas system, pressure could be adjusted e. g. for different phases of a mission. The ultimate range will depend upon optimizing the trade off between stiffness and friction, sensitivity and free coasting time, including considerations of the surface pattern. Accordingly, movement of the platform and/or supporting structure, as well as the housing itself, will hardly effect or influence the rotor. As the spinning winds down, the gimbals and housing may be realigned with the rotor for reacceleration. Torque of arbitrary orientation may also be applied to the rotor by appropriately aligning and engaging outer magnets. Accordingly, braking may
be performed by the application of inverse (to the spinning direction) torque.
Additionally, through careful control of the outer magnets, the rotor may be maintained and spun without the use of gas, via fields as may be applied in a vacuum The magnetic interaction between inner and outer magnets may also used to selectively orient the platform with respect to the rotor. Given the stable orientation of the rotor axis, the platform can be aligned with it and thus be actively stabilized. This need not happen directly over the force link via the magnetic field between housing and rotor in the prevailing periods with the rotor freely spinning. During actively exerting a torque on the rotor there is of course a mechanical communication.
The rotor and housing may comprise fused quartz or Zerodur. The manufacturing may be via high-precision machining, such as diamond tuning, and polishing of the rotor and cavity. Other materials, such as stiff and uniform optical materials and associated production technology developed for lens manufacturing may be employed to obtain a usable spherical rotor and housing. For applications in optical scanning wherein spins of upto more than 1000 Hz might be required, a typical gap separation of 5 microns has been achieved. Additionally, in place of full spherical rotors, adequate surface patches or calottes, may be employed. Spiral grooves in the rotor surface of 15 mm diameter and upto 4000 N/mm bearing stiffness may be used. Imperfections restricted to the poles have been found to have less disturbing effect than imperfections closer to the equator.
The housing structure may be composed of insulating materials which would minimize friction due to uncontrollable eddy currents.
The driving of the rotor may be effected by a multi-pole brush-less DC motor of the permanent magnet synchronous type as viewed in figures 1-3. Similarities may be found to stepper motors. In contrast to conventional stepper motors, however, the number of poles on the rotor preferably equals the number of drive poles in the housing (or stator).
Such symmetry has been found to provide accurate drive control without lateral forces that cannot be easily absorbed by the gas bearing.
The housing may be optically transparent so as to facilitate use of optical sensors, in place of or addition to the Hall and other magnetic or electric sensors, to determine rotor orientation and/or attitude.
An alternative still lay in the use of a metallic rotor absent use of internal permanent magnets. The rotor may be hollow or full and the metal may be steel or any electrically conducting material. The rotor would then represent a degenerate short circuit rotor.
Inductive heating, if any, is dissipated by the gas, if present. Other drives, still, may be used as envisioned by one skilled in the art.
List of Elements: 10 rotor 12 housing 14 inner magnet 16 cavity internal wall 18 cavity outer wall 20 first gimbal 22 direction of first gimbal 24 first gimbal 26 second gimbal 28 direction of second gimbal 30 second gimbal 32 third gimbal 34 direction of third gimbal 36 third gimbal 38 platform 40 outer magnet 41 outer magnet 42 kick coil 44 first polarity 45 second polarity 46 pole 48 gas 50 internal cavity 51 gas feed/drain holes 52 grooves 54 circumferential grooves 56 polar grooves 58 polar groove wall 60 axis of rotation 62 sensor