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The Mendocino motor is a solar-powered magnetically-levitated electric motor.



The motor consists of a four-sided rotor block in the middle of a shaft. The rotor block has two sets of windings and a solar cell attached to each side. The shaft is positioned horizontally and has a magnet at each end. The magnets on the shaft provide levitation by repelling magnets in a base under the motor. There is an additional magnet that sits under the rotor block and provides a magnet field for the rotor.

When light strikes one of the solar cells, it generates an electric current thus energizing one of the rotor windings. This produces an electromagnetic field which interacts with the magnet under the rotor. This interaction causes the rotor to turn. As the rotor rotates, the next solar cell moves into the light and energizes the second winding. This process repeats as the motor spins.


The idea of a light-commutated motor where solar cells power the individual coils of a motor has been first described by Daryl Chapin in an experiment kit from 1962 about solar energy.[1] The kit was distributed by Bell Labs where Chapin together with his colleagues Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson had invented the modern solar cell eight years earlier in 1954.[2] Instead of using magnetic levitation Chapin's version of the motor uses a glass cylinder on a needle point as a low-friction bearing.


  1. ^ Daryl M. Chapin (1962). "Uses and Demonstrations". Bell System Science Experiment No. 2: Energy from the Sun. Bell Telephone Laboratories, Incorporated. p. 77.  
  2. ^ "Bell System Memorial: Bell Labs Science Kits (Energy From The Sun)". Retrieved 2009-11-24.  

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