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Graphene-drum pump and engine systems

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Graphene-drum pump and engine systems


The present invention relates to pump systems and engine systems having graphene drums. In embodiments of the invention, the graphene drum can be utilized in the main chambers and/or valves of the pumps and engines.

Browse recent Clean Energy Labs, LLC patents - Austin, TX, US
Inventor: Joseph F. Pinkerton
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120308415 - Class: 4174131 (USPTO) - 12/06/12 - Class 417 
Pumps > Motor Driven >Electric Or Magnetic Motor >Collapsible Wall Pump >Diaphragm Type



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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120308415, Graphene-drum pump and engine systems.

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CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED PATENT APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to: provisional U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 61/301,209, filed on Feb. 4, 2010, entitled “Graphene-Drum Pump and Engine Systems,” which provisional patent application is each commonly assigned to the Assignee of the present invention and is hereby incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to pump systems and engine systems having graphene drums.

SUMMARY

OF THE INVENTION

Graphene membranes (also otherwise referred to as “graphene drums”) have been manufactured using process such as disclosed in Lee el al. Science, 2008, 321, 385-388. PCT Patent Appl. No. PCT/US09/59266 (Pinkerton) (the “PCT US09/59266 Application”) described tunneling current switch assemblies having graphene drums (which graphene drums generally having a diameter between about 500 nm and about 1500 nm). As described in the PCT US09/59266 Application, which is incorporated herein by reference, the graphene drum is capable of completely sealing the chamber formed by the graphene drum (i.e., the graphene drum provides a complete seal to fluids inside and outside the chamber). A graphene membrane is atomically thin.

In embodiments of the present invention, graphene drums are employed in pump systems and engine systems, such as to replace pistons and valves in conventional pumps and engines. Advantages of utilizing graphene drums (and other electrically conductive drums that are atomically thin) in such systems include: a. Higher power density (because graphene drum “piston/valves” can operate in the MHz range (i.e., at least about 1 MHz) instead of the approximately 100 Hz range of conventional pumps and engines). b. Higher efficiency (because graphene can withstand high temperatures and no oil is required for graphene diaphragm motion). c. Quiet operation (because an operating frequency in the MHz range is not perceived by humans). d. Smaller size, as compared to conventional pumps and engines. e. More precise fluid flow.

For instance, U.S. Pat. No. 7,008,193 (Najafi) (“the Najafi Patent”) is directed to a MEMS-fabricated microvacuum pump assembly that utilizes a diaphragm made of a metal with a polymer layer on each side that is not atomically thin. Accordingly, the pump assembly is limited to kHz operation (resulting in slow pump speed) and requires a relatively high voltage to actuate (to overcome the inertia and stiffness of a thick diaphragm). It is believed that, unlike graphene drums and other atomically thin, electrically conductive drums, the MEMS-fabricated microvacuum pump assembly of the Najafi Patent cannot maintain a high vacuum on one side. This would be disadvantageous because a vacuum enables a high electric field (and, thus, a high actuation force, between the gate and the diaphragm without arcing). The Najafi Patent also appears to be a high wear device because the pump and valve membranes of the MEMS-fabricated microvacuum pump assembly require repeated physical contact with other parts of the pump assembly to operate properly. This is disadvantageous compared to embodiments of the present invention in that the present invention does not require the graphene drum or other atomically thin, electrically conductive drum to come in contact with other parts of the pump to work.

As used herein, a “gaphene-drum pump system” is a pump system that utilizes one or more gaphene drums (such as a pump system that utilizes an array of graphene drums). A “graphene-drum pump” is a pump that utilizes a graphene drum, such as a pump that utilizes the graphene drum to displace the fluid during operation of the pump. A “graphene-drum engine system” is an engine system that utilizes one or more graphene drums (such as an engine system that utilizes an array of graphene drums). A “graphene-pump engine” is an engine that utilizes a graphene drum, such as an engine that utilizes a graphene drum to displace fluid during operation of the engine.

As a graphene drum may be between about 500 nm and about 1500 nm in diameter (i.e., around one micron in diameter), millions of graphene-drum pumps could fit on one square centimeter of a graphene-drum pump system or graphene-drum engine system. In other embodiments, the graphene drum may be between about 10 μm to about 20 μm) in diameter and have a maximum deflection between about 1 μm to about 3 μm (i.e., a maximum deflection that is about 10% to 15% of the diameter of the graphene drum). As used herein, “deflection” of the graphene drum is measured relative to the non-deflected graphene drum (i.e., the deflection of a non-deflected graphene drum is zero).

In some instances, it is advantageous to use two or more graphene membranes stacked on top of one another for use as a unit (such as for use as a diaphragm). Such a stack of two or more graphene membranes are referred to as a “multi graphene-membrane stack.” While each of the individual graphene membranes of a multi graphene-membrane stack is atomically thin, the multi graphene-membrane stack itself generally is not. For instance, a multi graphene-membrane stack of a dozen graphene membranes generally would have a thickness of about 4 nm.

Alternatively, other types of electrically conductive membranes (also referred to as “electrically conductive drums”) that are atomically thin may be utilized in lieu of graphene membranes in embodiments of the present invention, such as, for example, graphene oxide membranes. A stack of two or more electrically conductive membranes are referred to as a “multi electrically-conductive-membrane stack.”

Moreover, the electrically conductive membranes or the multi electrically-conductive-membrane stack may include a thin (i.e., several nanometers in thickness) protective coating to protect the electrically conductive membranes from oxidation or corrosive fluids. For instance, a protective coating of graphene oxide or tungsten can be applied to a graphene drum.

In general, in one aspect, the invention features a pump that includes a cavity having a diaphragm. The diaphragm is operable to change the volume capacity of the cavity. The pump further includes an upstream valve connected to the cavity. The upstream valve is operable to be in an open position such that fluid can flow through the upstream valve into the cavity. The upstream valve is also operable to be in a closed position such that fluid cannot flow through the upstream valve into the cavity. The pump further includes a downstream valve connected to the cavity. The downstream valve is operable to be in an open position such that fluid can flow from the cavity through the downstream valve. The downstream valve is also operable to be in a closed position such that fluid cannot flow from the cavity through the downstream valve. At least one of the cavity, upstream valve, or downstream valve of the pump includes an electrically conductive drum. The electrically conductive drum is atomically thin.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features an engine that includes a cavity having a diaphragm. The diaphragm is operable to change the volume capacity of the cavity. The cavity is operable to receive a combustible fluid mixture that can ignite in the cavity to form a combusted fluid mixture. The engine further includes an upstream valve connected to the cavity. The upstream valve is operable to be in an open position such that the combustible fluid mixture can flow through the upstream valve into the cavity. The upstream valve is also operable to be in a closed position such that the combustible fluid mixture cannot flow through the upstream valve into the cavity. The engine further includes a downstream valve connected to the cavity. The downstream valve is operable to be in an open position such that the combusted fluid mixture can flow from the cavity through the downstream valve. The downstream valve is also operable to be in a closed position such that the combusted fluid mixture cannot flow from the cavity through the downstream valve. At least one of the cavity, upstream valve, or downstream valve in the engine includes an electrically conductive drum. The electrically conductive drum is atomically thin.

Implementations of the invention can include one or more of the following features:

The engine can further include an igniter positioned inside the cavity to ignite the combustible fluid mixture in the cavity to form the combusted fluid mixture.

The cavity can be operable to provide a pressure and a temperature inside the cavity to ignite the combustible fluid mixture in the cavity to form the combusted fluid mixture.

The electrically conductive drum can have a thickness between about 0.3 nm and about 1 nm.

The electrically conductive drum of the pump or the engine may be a graphene drum.

The electrically conductive drum can be a graphene oxide membrane.

The electrically conductive drum can have a protective coating.

At least one of the cavity, upstream valve, or downstream valve can include a multi electrically-conductive-drum stack of at least two electrically conductive drums.

The multi electrically-conductive-drum stack can have a protective coating.

The protective coating can include graphene oxide, tungsten, or a combination thereof. The protective coating can have a thickness less than about 5 nm. The protective coating can protect against oxidation, corrosive fluids, or both.

The cavity of the pump or the engine may include a first electrically conductive drum. The upstream valve of the pump or the engine may include a second electrically conductive drum. And, the downstream valve of the pump or the engine may include a third electrically conductive drum. The first electrically conductive drum, the second electrically conductive drum, and the third electrically conductive drum may all be part of one continuous sheet of electrically conductive material.

The first electrically conductive drum can be a first graphene drum. The second electrically conductive drum can be a second graphene drum. The third electrically conductive drum can be a third graphene drum.

The pump or the engine may further include a metallic gate. The electrically conductive drum may be operable to be pulled toward the metallic gate due to a voltage between the electrically conductive drum and the metallic gate. The metallic gate may include tungsten.

The diaphragm of the pump or the engine may be the electrically conductive drum.

The diaphragm may be operable to move to a first position such that the cavity has a first volume capacity. The diaphragm may be operable to move to a second position such that the cavity has a second volume capacity. The first volume capacity may be larger than the second larger capacity.

The diaphragm may operable to cycle back and forth between the first position and the second position at a frequency of at least about 1 MHz.

The pump or the engine may further include a second cavity. The diaphragm may be operable to change the volume capacity of the second cavity. As the volume capacity of the cavity increases, the volume capacity of the second cavity may decrease. As the volume capacity of the cavity decreases, the volume capacity of the second cavity may increase. The pump or the engine may further include a metallic gate located within the second cavity. The electrically conductive drum may be operable to be pulled toward the metallic gate due to a voltage between the electrically conductive drum and the metallic gate.

The second cavity of the pump or the engine may be under vacuum.

The upstream valve of the pump or the engine may include the electrically conductive drum. The electrically conductive drum may be operable to cycle back and forth between the open position and the closed position at a frequency of at least about 1 MHz.

The downstream valve of the pump or the engine may include the electrically conductive e drum. The electrically conductive drum may be operable to cycle back and forth between the open position and the closed position at a frequency of at least about 1 MHz.

The electrically conductive drum of the pump or the engine may have a diameter between about 500 nm and about 1500 nm.

The electrically conductive drum may have a diameter between about 10 μm and about 20 μm. The electrically conductive drum, may have a maximum deflection between about 1 μm and about 3 μm.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features an engine that includes a first cavity having a first electrically conductive drum. The first electrically conductive drum is atomically thin and is operable to change the volume of the first cavity. The engine further includes a second cavity having a second electrically conductive drum. The second electrically conductive drum is atomically thin and is operable to change the volume of the second cavity. The engine further includes a passage that allows fluid to flow between the first cavity and the second cavity. The engine further includes a heat exchanger operable to change the temperature of the fluid. The change of temperature of the fluid is either: (a) cooling the temperature of the fluid as it moves from the first cavity to the second cavity and heating the temperature of the fluid as it moves from the second cavity to the first cavity, or (b) heating the temperature of the fluid as it moves from the first cavity to the second cavity and cooling the temperature of the fluid as it moves from the second cavity to the first cavity. The engine further includes a metallic gate located in the first cavity. The first electrically conductive drum is operable to move away from the metallic gate to generate energy.

Implementations of the invention can include one or more of the following features:

The first electrically conductive drum may be a first graphene drum. The second electrically conductive drum may be a second graphene drum.

The first electrically conductive drum may have a diameter between about 500 nm and about 1500 nm. The second electrically conductive drum may have a diameter between about 500 nm and about 1500 nm.

The first electrically conductive drum may have a diameter between about 10 μm and about 20 μm. The second electrically conductive drum may have a diameter between about 10 μm and about 20 μm.

The first electrically conductive drum may have a maximum deflection between about 1 μm and about 3 μm. The second electrically conductive drum may have a maximum deflection between about 1 μm and about 3 μm.

The engine may further include a plurality of thermally conductive nanowires. The plurality of the thermally conductive nanowires may be operatively connected to the cool cavity. The cool cavity may be the first cavity or the second cavity. The thermally conductive nanowires may be operable to cool the cool cavity.

Implementations of the invention can include one or more of the following features:

The pump or engine of the above embodiments may further include an insulating material. The insulating material may be silicon dioxide.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a pump system that includes an array of pumps. The pumps in that array are pumps of one or more of the above embodiments.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features an engine system that includes an array of engines. The pumps in that array are engines of one or more of the above embodiments.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a method of operating one of the pumps of the above embodiments.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a method of operating one of the pump systems of the above embodiments.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a method of operating one of the engines of the above embodiments.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a method of operating one of the engine systems of the above embodiments.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a method that includes opening an upstream valve to allow fluid to flow through the upstream valve to a cavity. The cavity is connected to a downstream valve that is in a closed position. The method further includes closing the upstream valve. The method further includes reducing the volume capacity in the cavity. The method further includes opening the downstream valve to allow the fluid to flow from the cavity to through the downstream valve while maintaining the upstream valve in the closed position. At least one of the cavity, upstream valve, or downstream valve includes a electrically conductive drum. The electrically conductive drum is atomically thin.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a method that includes opening an upstream valve to allow combustible fluid mixture to flow through the upstream valve to a cavity. The cavity is connected to a downstream valve that is in a closed position. The method further includes closing the upstream valve. The method further includes reducing the volume capacity of the cavity. The method further includes igniting the combustible fluid mixture forming a combusted fluid mixture that expands the volume capacity of the cavity. The method further includes opening the downstream valve to allow the fluid to flow from the cavity to through the downstream valve while maintaining the upstream valve in the closed position. At least one of the cavity, upstream valve, or downstream valve includes a electrically conductive drum. The electrically conductive is atomically thin.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a method that includes flowing a fluid from a first cavity to a second cavity. The first cavity has a first electrically conductive drum that moves to decrease the volume of the first cavity. The first electrically conductive drum is atomically thin. The second cavity has a second electrically conductive drum that moves to increase the volume of the second cavity. The second electrically conductive drum is atomically thin. The fluid is heated. The method further includes flowing fluid from the second cavity to the first cavity. The first electrically conductive drum moves to increase the volume of the first cavity. The second electrically conductive drum moves to decrease the volume of the second cavity. The fluid is cooled. The method further includes a voltage is applied to a metallic gate. The metallic gate is located by the first electrically conductive drum or the second electrically conductive drum. Energy is generated when that electrically conductive drum (i.e., the first electrically conductive drum or the second electrically conductive drum located by the metallic gate) moves away from the metallic gate.

Implementations of the invention can include one or more of the following features:

The electrically conductive drums can be graphene drums.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a valve that includes a cavity. The cavity has an electrically conductive membrane and an opening for flowing fluid though the cavity. The electrically conductive membrane is atomically thin. The valve further includes a gate operable to move the electrically conductive membrane between a first position and second position due to a change in voltage applied to the gate. When the electrically conductive membrane is in the first position, the electrically conductive membrane is located away from the opening such that fluid can flow freely through the opening. When the electrically conductive membrane is in the second position, the electrically conductive membrane is located at a predetermined distance from the opening such that fluid flow though the opening is restricted.

Implementations of the invention can include one or more of the following features:

The valve can further include an electrical conductor located near the opening. When the electrically conductive membrane is located at or near the second position, the electrical conductor and electrically conductive membrane are operatively connected to allow a current to flow therebetween that is indicative of the location of the electrically conductive membrane.

The valve may further include a controller operable to control the voltage applied to the gate by utilizing the current to adjust the gate voltage so that the electrically conductive membrane is located at the second position.

The current may be a tunneling current.

The valve can further include a resistor and a voltage source that are operatively connected to the electrically conductive membrane and the gate. When the electrically conductive membrane is located near the second position, a current can operatively flow through the resistor that passively lowers the voltage between the electrically conductive membrane and the gate.

The valve can further include a capacitor sensor. The capacitor sensor is operatively connected to the electrically conductive membrane and the gate such that it may detect a change of capacitance between the electrically conductive membrane and the gate that is indicative of the location of the electrically conductive membrane.

The valve can further include a controller operable to control the voltage applied to the gate by utilizing the capacitance to adjust the gate voltage so that the electrically conductive membrane is located at the second position.

The valve can be operable to prevent the electrically conductive member from coming in contact with the gate.

The valve can further include a non-conductive member located between the electrically conductive membrane and the gate. The non-conductive member can prevent the electrically conductive membrane from coming in contact with the gate.

The electrically conductive membrane can be located at a distance such that stiffness of the electrically conductive membrane precludes the electrically conductive membrane from deflecting to a degree in which the electrically conductive membrane comes in contact with gate.

The valve can further include a sensor and stabilizer system operable for preventing the electrically conductive membrane from coming in contact with the gate.

The electrically conductive membrane may be a graphene membrane.

The predetermined distance may be about 1 nm.

The predetermined distance may be about 0.5 nm.

The predetermined distance may be about 0.3 nm.

The predetermine distance may be small enough to prevent most molecules of the fluid from flowing though the opening and may be big enough to avoid wear of the valve.

The predetermined distance may be a range of distances from the opening. The predetermined distance may be a range of distances between about 0.3 nm and about 1 nm. The predetermined distance may be a range of distances of about 0.7 nm±50%.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a method of operating one of the valves of the above embodiments.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a pump that includes one of the valves of the above embodiments.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a pump of one of the above pump embodiments that includes one of the valves of the above valve embodiments.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a method of operating one of the pumps of the above embodiments.

In general, in another aspect, the invention features a device that includes a pump. The pump includes a cavity having a diaphragm. The diaphragm is operable to change the volume capacity of the cavity. The pump further includes a first valve connected to the cavity. The first valve is operable to be in an open position in which fluid can flow (a) through the first valve into the cavity and (b) from the cavity through the first valve, depending upon the pressure differential across the first valve. The first valve is further operable to be in a closed position in which fluid cannot flow (a) through the first valve into the cavity and (b) from the cavity through the first valve, regardless of the pressure differential across the first valve. The pump further includes a second valve connected to the cavity. The second valve is operable to be in an open position in which fluid can flow (a) through the second valve into the cavity and (b) from the cavity through the second valve, depending upon the pressure differential across the second valve. The second valve is further operable to be in a closed position in which fluid cannot flow (a) through the second valve into the cavity and (b) from the cavity through the second valve, regardless of the pressure differential across the second valve. At least one of the cavity, first valve, or second valve includes an electrically conductive drum. The electrically conductive drum is atomically thin.

Implementations of the invention can include one or more of the following features:

The device may be operable as a speaker. The device may be operable as a compact audio speaker.

The electrically conductive drum may be a graphene drum.

The graphene drum may be operable for producing an audio signal having a frequency in the audio frequency range. The frequency may be between about 20 Hz and about 20 kHz.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20120308415 A1
Publish Date
12/06/2012
Document #
13577422
File Date
02/03/2011
USPTO Class
4174131
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
04B43/04
Drawings
10


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Pumps   Motor Driven   Electric Or Magnetic Motor   Collapsible Wall Pump   Diaphragm Type