back to article Mag-lev flywheel UPS firm says shipments speeding up

A company making magnetically-levitated composite fibre flywheels spinning in vacuum bottles at 50,000 rpm claims it has just shipped its 500th unit. Pentadyne Power Corp also announced proudly that a mag-lev whirlywheel it sold to NASA in March 2004 - one of its first deals - has now racked up 35,000 hours operational. "These …


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  1. Paul

    I want one...

    Not to use as a UPS, but just because of the name and idea of having it was on my desk spinning at 50000rpm.


    "At last, a story with IT angular momentum."

    Get your coat now...

  2. Matthew J

    Better not...

    ... Put the backup tapes on top of this thing then

  3. moylan

    mil spec version

    mil spec fly wheel backups? how would the military version be different? would it have cutting blades?

  4. Ian K

    Handle with care

    Given the gyroscopic effects those things will have when up to speed, it could get very interesting if you have to move one about when fully "charged". Sounds like a starter job for the new PNY...

  5. jai

    re: I want one...

    I totally agree Paul - before i even read the article to find out what they were, "mag-lev flywheel" just sounded so cool that i wanted one

    desperately trying to think of how to justify one so i can carry on playing on my ps3 in during a powercut

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ... you know how everyone's complaining that it's difficult to store windfarm electricity for when the wind stops? Couldn't we just use a reeeeeeaally big maglev flywheel UPS?

    Make it in a dish-shape and we could use it as a radio-telescope too!

  7. Anonymous Coward

    All these years...

    How long have we spent researching power technology?

    I mean, electricity is an OLD invention....and once again here we are using spinning magnets AGAIN!

    Physics boffins: come up with an original idea for power!

  8. Alex Wright

    Don't bash the case while its on!

    If the maglev bearings fail, you are going to have a pretty sizable explosion on your hands. At least batteries have some internal resistance when shorted. This would give up all its energy in one loud bang.

  9. Ian Oliver

    Energy storage

    Wind farms are storing energy in a number of different ways.

    In particular -



  10. Joe K

    What happens if you pour liquid nitrogen in?

    Will it become superconductive and hold a charge forever?

    Will gravity above the core be reduced?

    Will the core implode into subspace taking your server farm with it?

    Such experimentation needs to be done!

  11. Chris Miller


    The Pentadyne website provides interesting information. The flywheel is carbon fibre contained in a 2-inch thick steel casing, so even catastrophic failure gives you just some black 'candy floss', with all energy fully contained. I'd still take care when moving one - I'd guess they take quite a while to run down after being switched off!

  12. John Edwards
    Paris Hilton

    Maglev UPS

    Just imagine what the BOFH could do with one of these. Especially now that the PFY has zapped him. Roll on next Friday. Even Paris would see the danger.

  13. Gwyn Kemp-Philp

    Another way

    The idea with having such a thick steel core is that by the time you have figured out a way of moving it, it will - hopefully - have wound down.

    Mine's the bomb disposal jacket...

  14. JeffyPooh

    Angular momentum

    As Ian K mentioned, angular momentum can cause interesting effects. If these gadgets were used to replace batteries in hybrid cars, then it might be difficult (for example) to turn left. If you used two of them spinning in opposite directions to try to counter the effect, then the mount may (for example) flex up and down as the car turns left and right. Or the chassis may tilt left or right under acceleration. This sort of behaviour might be very useful for comedy cars.

  15. Suzi

    Powering a car

    I once designed a (theoretical) car that stored enery in a huge flywheel. Was fine till you tried to turn a corner.....

  16. Anonymously Deflowered


    Weight: 590Kg

    Dimensions D x W x H: 83x63x180cm

    Got a big desk, have you?

  17. Derek Roberts

    Angular momentum

    When used in a mobile application, the flywheel would be suspended in a gimbal bearing (like a compass on a ship). Then by the suitable application of springs to the gimbal, the gyroscopic effect can be used to benefit - i.e. to give increased roadholding force while cornering.

  18. Wayland Sothcott
    Black Helicopters

    "homeland security [and] military defense applications"

    That [and] has been added by the editor?

    "homeland security military defense applications" Homeland security is military?

    Also with Wind Farms, we had some TV adverts showing how they get rid of surplus energy during the day. People on the coast were being blown sideways and had to hang onto things, it seemed like a waste of enery but they seemed to be enjoying it.

    Helecopters could be used to power windfarms. (or is that biofuels could be grown from fossel oil derived fertilizers and farmed with fossel fueled tractors)

  19. Anonymous Coward

    what ever happened to the guy who...

    ..built one of these in massive scale in a concrete pit in his basement?? wasn't he charging it up with cheap leccy at night and selling it back at a higher rate in the daytime????

    yep bearing failure is not a good outcome.. I agree with the concrete pit idea!

  20. Tuomo Stauffer

    Flying - literally

    Backtracking - spinning things can do interesting damage. This company gave up the flywheel UPS's after we watched a FASTRAND drum storage go through a brick wall when it jumped out of the case. Decent size hole, have to say. But fast service - next day delivery from Univac a new one but the flywheels were replaced shortly after that - they were a little heavier and also promised never to break?

  21. Tim

    existing tech on different scale

    Beacon Power has flywheel-based technology at power plant scale for frequency regulation and storage:

    And Volkswagen has done the flywheel thing in their Ecomatic system, which turned off the engine when stopped, and used flywheel stored energy to start it up again once you wanted to go.

  22. Ben Greisler

    Failed mag-lev bearings

    I have seen and smelled the result of a failed mag-lev bearing on a large industrial gas compressor. The bearings were about 12 inches in diameter supporting the rotor of the gas compressor. It was quite the sight to see knowing that this huge chunk of steel was spinning as fast as it was levitated by magnetism. One day the entire facility was filled with an awful, acrid smell and a cloud of smoke that you just knew wasn't good for you. The circuitry that ran the mag-lev bearings failed during a test and the rotor settled into the magnets that formed the bearing. The resulting heat melted the magnets encasing resin creating the cloud and smell. Blech. Once they disassembled the compressor, the bearings destruction was quite complete and impressive.

  23. Ron

    FASTRAND other effects

    Those FASTRAND drives were put in computer systems installed on a destroyer. They had significant problems turning the ship.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Got several here

    Running a couple years now, no maintenance. Like 'em. 100+ cycles so far, never a problem. And uses less power than the old battery strings I gladly chucked (Look ma! No batteries!) Socomec sells 'em over there in Europe. Seen photos of destructive tests at the factory. Results inside the containment look like thick black cotton candy. Yum. Spinny bit weighs only 25 pounds I think, so no worries

  25. Anteaus

    Levitating UPS next?

    If we could get Sandy Kidd in on the design, maybe we could have a self-supporting UPS that floats alongside the server rack. You could then easily tell if it was running low, because it would slowly sink to the floor.

  26. StopthePropaganda

    Just in time for Iron Man

    Black Sabbath style, that is!

    just avoid the time travel and any great magnetic fields...

  27. noodle heimer

    hm. seconds of runtime. swank, but not so much

    Wow. The company website is interesting. For some applications, I suppose these would be helpful, but given that they've only got 60 seconds of runtime

    at half load under the most favorable conditions (some of the kit is rated as low as 15 seconds!) seems like a very, very spendy route to go.

    Not so much as a deskside device, though. These pups need a full cabinet to

    live in!

  28. Vendicar Decarian

    Not quite so fast

    "If the maglev bearings fail, you are going to have a pretty sizable explosion on your hands. At least batteries have some internal resistance when shorted. This would give up all its energy in one loud bang."

    Incorrect. It's gonna sound more like, "frrriiiiiiiiiiiiinnggggsssta, rrrrrrrrrraaaaaaammmmmmddddddaa, WOMP, WOMP, WOMP, WOMP, WOMP, Frista grrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnggggggggg, Wamma, wamma wamma, wammmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaa, rinstashshshshshshshshshshshsshshshshsh, Crack, shshshshshshsshshshshshshshshshshs, fffffffffffffffffffframmmmmmmm ammmmmmmmmmm ammmmmmmmmm ammmmmmmmmm ahmmmmmmmmmmm, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr rrrr rr r. Clunk, click, tinggggggg."

    followed by

    "What the Fuck was that?"

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    have these guys run out of venture capital? Is it IPO time?

    They had a few pages of self-written coverage (call it advertorial if you like) in the IEE News a few weeks back (well, strictly it's the IET News these days)?

    You want serious energy storage? Try - response not quite as fast as a standard UPS, but runtime rather longer, and maximum output in a class of its own, as is the scenery.

  30. Stewart Haywood

    Angular Momentum

    This is not a problem, use two contra-rotating flywheels.

    This was done with aircraft airscrews a long time ago.

  31. Heff
    Paris Hilton

    not enough smerts to answer this myself;

    massive gyroscopic battery in room full of wet cells and ther horridly toxic noxious shit.

    Add earthquake. a sudden jolt with the kind of power tectonic shifts have to throw around, and the UPS room becomes a hazmat area? I can see the device failing safe by itself, or even by "lets hit it with a sledgehammer", but wherever theres a strong force, nature provides a stronger one. usually without warning at 4am.

    or am I just being srsly Thick?

    Paris, cos she knows what happens when big forces meet at 4am.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    eeek !

    My father, a marine engineer reckoned he was stood on the deck of a ship when across the bay another vessel had a major flywheel failure resulting in said flywheels exit, through the side of the ship. With a substantial hole in the hull the ship concerned apparently ended up stuck at its berth for some time whilst it was refloated and repairs effected.

    I've seen the results of brake disk failures on rally cars and race cars which have resulted in the disc braking up and the bits being punched slap through thousands of quids worth of magnesium wheel rim. The cars concerned were then pitched off the road at relatively undiminished speed. Most impressive.

    In the eighties a British Clubmans racer sustained serious leg injuries when the flywheel on his sportscar broke up, driving shrapnel through the tub. In some 750MC Clubmans cars you end up sat with your legs next to an inline engine right in the line of fire if such an event occurs....

    I did my work experience in facility with a Univac 11/10 with a couple of big drum storage devices. whilst I never saw one of those fail, I did see the results of a head crash on a piddly wee PDP-8 installation during my college years. Quite a bit of energy in those old disk drives.... The computer room stank of scorched synthetic materials for weeks afterwards.

  33. Charles Smith

    Hole in the wall

    Back in the 1970's I visited the Police National Computer site at Hendon. In those days the PNC database was stored on large vertically mounted disks. I remember the manager who showed me around mentioning that they had put extra strengthening in the computer room walls in case the drive bearings failed.

    As to this "latest" flywheel stuff a 30 second endurance is kind of limiting. I'd looked at their products once before and decided against them. I always assume that the generator will fail to start at the critical time and you need some time to initate a controlled load shedding and shutdown of critical servers. So a 30 minutes comfort zone is much easier for a commercial environment, well it would be if if you can cool the data centre as well.

  34. Steven Guenther

    mil spec

    Military spec (on similar units) has all the power going into motor,

    then the flywheel and out a different generator to produce power for the system.

    This provides complete isolation from the grid.

    If you turn your kit on or off, the grid does not get feedback.

    Someone can tell alot about what you are doing from your power lines.

    Put one of these between yourself and the outside world and that info goes down.

  35. Fred Tourette

    Best of Luck

    Beacon Power has been trying to sell the flywheel concept (or make a profit from it) for years:


  36. Daniel B.

    @Vendicar Decarian


    Incorrect. It's gonna sound more like, "frrriiiiiiiiiiiiinnggggsssta, rrrrrrrrrraaaaaaammmmmmddddddaa, WOMP, WOMP, WOMP, WOMP, WOMP, Frista grrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnggggggggg, Wamma, wamma wamma, wammmmmmmaaaaaaaaaaa, rinstashshshshshshshshshshshsshshshshsh, Crack, shshshshshshsshshshshshshshshshshs, fffffffffffffffffffframmmmmmmm ammmmmmmmmmm ammmmmmmmmm ammmmmmmmmm ahmmmmmmmmmmm, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr rrrr rr r. Clunk, click, tinggggggg."


    So, basically its gonna sound like:

    - That weird techno music

    - One of those old Ruta 100 buses breaking nearby

    - My former roommates' brakes

    - Something unblendable falling into a Blendtec blender? (Will it blend? Oops, it didn't!)

  37. Steve

    My geek moment

    These devices are sometimes called compulsators and are going to be used to power the aircraft catapults of new fangled electric carriers. Then they'll eventually be used to power electro-magnetic railguins, coil guns and other forms of leccy warfare. Perhaps that explains the "mil spec"?!?

    Those who say that steering a car would be troublesome: not necessarily; it depends on how the axis of rotation is set up. Have it such that the planes or rotation are the same and there's no problem!

    or maybe I've been playing with my powerball a bit too much.....

  38. Drennans

    Mag Lev flywheels

    I have read some of the comments about Flywheel technology on the site, especially the piece about Pentadyne. As a former employee of theirs I know more about their system than most. Flywheels are safe, don't move when working and if they were to fail, the dont explode or any of the other mad mis-conceptions. They are contained within cylinders and are very safe. Older technology did have safety issues but not now.

    Flywheels provide a vital part in providing power quality and energy savings on a grand scale, depending on the application involved. They make huge savings on disposal of chemicals and lead, they are cheaper to run and much cheaper when you look at maintenance. I work for a major competitor of Pentadyne and we have a Regen product on the market which has done over a million cycles - forget 35,000 working hours! If you really want to see proper flywheel technology at work visit and see there what flywheels can really do.

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