94-year-old scientist still cranking out inventions

March 5, 2012 9:07:46 AM PST
The drive to discover has kept Dick Post working for nearly a hundred years. At 94, he is still cranking out patents and inventions, including an electric car that doesn't use a battery.

One day, a spinning cylinder could sit in your basement and power your entire house. It shares technology with maglev trains and nuclear fusion -- technology that is the specialty of Dick Post.

"I like what I'm doing," he says. "And it's a great environment."

His idea of retirement is coming in to his office at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory only four days a week. He has worked there since it opened more than 60 years ago.

"Gosh, I remember the first little electronic calculator we had here," he said. "And the first Mac I had at home was one of the original 512s."

His favorite toy is mathematical software called Mathematica.

Today, it's all about the bearings. Passive magnetic bearings, which he invented. He uses them to create clever new energy sources with colleagues like Bob Yamamoto.

"This is carbon fiber," they explain, pointing to a futuristic flywheel.

By spinning a flywheel really fast (50-80,000 rpm), you store kinetic energy in it. To get that energy back out, you harness an electric generator to it.

"We would hope that one could fit flywheels into a vehicle to replace the batteries in electric cars," Post said.

Post's flywheels look more like cylinders than wheels, and are wound from high-strength glass or carbon fibers instead of steel. That combination stores more energy for much longer. The reason it can spin so incredibly fast without losing energy is that the "bearings" are actually a ring of magnets. The whole thing levitates, much the way a maglev train does above the tracks."

Post has contributed his magnet expertise to the tracks that support a train-with-no-wheels that is being developed at General Atomic corporation.

He has more ideas: alternative solutions from magnetic confinement nuclear to wind and solar.

"I want very much to see things that I work on to happen within my lifetime," Post said.

And so many have, thanks to his drive and his magnetic personality.


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