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Mobile phone does some heavy lifting

posted 17 Jan 2011, 08:59 by Mpelembe   [ updated 17 Jan 2011, 09:01 ]

Today's mobile phones can take photographs, send text messages and yes, even make phone calls but a Chinese mechanics professor has demonstrated yet another use for the ubiquitous device. Using the laws of physics, Professor Gao Yungeng has demonstrated that it is possible to lift a fridge using the mobile phone's vibrator motor.

Why struggle to lift a fridge by yourself, when you could simply use your mobile phone?

Chinese mechanics professor Gao Yunfeng set his students this task, arming them with steel wire, a borrowed mobile phone and the laws of physics

He says he wanted them to put the theories he had taught them into practice.

"I am teaching mechanics and I wanted to assign my students challenging assignments. Now, the challenge that I gave my students this time was how to magnify power. Magnifying power itself isn't too hard, but greatly magnifying it is the challenging part, for example increasing it 10,000-fold. Archimedes once boasted that as long as he had given a long lever, he could move the Earth," said Gao.

It took the 43-year-old professor and his students two weeks to develop their idea and build it.

Their mechanism relies on a tailor-made gearbox containing a series of cogs that help to slow down the mobile phone's vibrator motor, thus increasing its force. Slowing the spin of the motor which could lift weights of only one gram, magnifies its force 100,000 times, Gao says, making it powerful enough to lift up to 100 kilograms.

Gao says the hardest challenge was finding the right cogs and parts to create their gearbox.

"In making the gearbox, we couldn't find a device to reduce weight, so we had to make one ourselves. We searched a lot of shops to find the parts to put it together. We ended up taking parts from toys and industrial electric motors. We also pulled some parts out of vehicles. We had some technical troubles," Gao said.

Their invention works but requires patience. It takes the motor more than two hours to lift a refrigerator one metre above the ground.

Nevertheless, Gao plans to patent his idea and develop a gearbox that could magnify the power collected from a wind turbine in a light breeze.

He also plans to return the mobile phone to its original owner, eventually.