October 10, 2009

Coded Programmable Magnets

Inventor Larry Fullerton applies signal correlation methods and coding theory to magnetism to precisely control magnetic fields. Coded magnetic structures correlate to produce stronger bonding force, programmable precision alignment, and deterministic magnetic field interaction that promise to accelerate product performance and innovation.

Coded magnetic structures can be designed to deliver precise holding strength characteristics, customized release behavior, prescribed alignment tolerances and even unique identities that can discriminate among other programmed magnets and determine which devices will interact. Rare-earth materials, ferrites and electromagnets alike can be programmed using one-, two- or three-dimensional arrays of magnetic elements that alternate polarities in a prescribed spatial pattern.

“We applied signal correlation methods that are well-understood and widely used in radio communications today”, said company founder and Chief Scientist Larry Fullerton. “By alternating the polarity of individual magnetic elements on the magnet surface, we can alter the shape and density of the magnetic field.

“I initially programmed a pair of correlated magnets to produce a peak attractive force at one alignment and one alignment only. What this means in practical terms is that two very strong magnets will lock together in one particular alignment, but then can be easily released by twisting the patterns away from the correlated position,” Fullerton said.

Coded magnetic devices offer dramatic improvement in safety for applications involving strong industrial magnets as well, because the engagement distance or “reach” can be precisely controlled.

For example, a coded magnet strong enough to lift a large metal cargo container won’t attract metal until it’s within inches of its intended target. Door locks and other hardware can be programmed so pacemakers and credit cards are not affected.

By using programmed magnets, designers can increase magnet performance, or decrease the size and weight required to achieve a particular design objective. This realization comes at a time when the cost of magnetic materials is increasing rapidly, and the availability of rare-earth materials is becoming less reliable.

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