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Jamaicans invent magnetic gearbox system, eyeing NASA project

NEW YORK, United States — An invention by two Jamaicans could soon determine how motor vehicles, boats, aeroplanes, and other devices with a gearbox system operate in the future.

St Mary native George Winston Whitfield and engineer Howard Martin Chin of Kingston have developed a magnetic gear system — including magnetic gearboxes — designed to enhance the efficiency, durability and cost-effectiveness of the equipment in which they are used.

Conceptualised by Whitfield, the invention has already been patented by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as evidenced by patent numbers US 2017/0271970 A1 and US 20150229198 A1.

On its website, USPTO describes the system as essentially that in which “one of a driving gear and a driven gear are in sequential linkage”, saying it is “designed to allow for one of the magnetic gears to be tilted, relative to the other gear, thereby preventing the magnetic gear from overlapping each other, which in turn will prevent loss of sequential magnetic interaction”.

This is not the first invention for Whitfield, who describes himself as a farmer from the district of Clarke Castle in rural St Mary. In the 1990s he invented a machine capable of capturing the ocean waves with the intention of generating electricity.

Whitfield said that invention “caught the attention of then Prime Minister PJ Patterson, who referred him to Dr Raymond Wright, head of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica at the time, as well as others at the Scientific Research Council (SRC).

“Nothing came of the project, however, as I spent years going from one government agency to another, as well as various persons,” Whitfield told the Jamaica Observer.

He said he was even more disappointed when several years later he discovered that a similar invention had been patented.

In regards to his latest invention, the gearbox system, Whitfield, who won a second-place prize in an SRC-sponsored competition, credits his partner Chin “for a lot of the work on advancing the project”.

Whitfield’s work was highlighted in the annual report of the SRC for 2000 to 2001. Chin, a member of the Jamaica Institution of Engineers, told the Observer that “one of the advantages of the magnetic gear system is that no lubricant, such as gear oil, will be required”.

Going forward, he said there are plans to approach the US National Aeronautic Space Agency (NASA) about the invention. Approaches are also planned for manufacturers of toys and other items which use a gear system.

The results of these approaches will determine where the invention goes next.