Livermore Lab’s Harmonic Air Motor

Livermore Lab’s Harmonic Air Motor

Dept. of Energy

Laboratory: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)

Technology: Harmonic air motor

Opportunity: LLNL's harmonic air motor technology has been proven with multiple prototypes, and the intellectual property is covered by both issued and pending patents. The efficiency of this motor has been proven to achieve over 60 percent of ideal air motor efficiency. High torque is maintained from rest up to full operating speed.

Details: LLNL's harmonic air motor uses reed valves and has a structure nearly identical to conventional, mass-produced, oil-free air compressors. As a result, it can be manufactured inexpensively and with minimal changes to existing production designs. It is ready for mass-market production.


  • Can use compressed air at pressures of 80 to 100 psig that are widely available in plants or at remote jobsites
  • Is capable of up to 200 psig operation for higher power
  • Has a competitive price, but consumes only 10 to 30 percent as much compressed air as conventional air motors for equivalent power
  • Harmonic valves reduce moving parts and yield high efficiency
  • Oil-free design enables use of exhaust air for cooling or AC purposes
  • Oil-free design eliminates need for oil lubrication over its lifetime
  • Has half the weight of conventional air motors of the same power
  • Features an automatic speed governor to prevent runaway
  • Is compatible with saturated or superheated steam operation


  • Can be used in environments too hazardous for electric motors or internal combustion motors, such as with flammable atmospheres or flammable materials.
  • Hoisting operations benefit by the simple speed control of the harmonic air motor, and the ease of reversing permits accurate lifting, lowering and travelling control.
  • Can be used for direct-drive vehicular propulsion, thus eliminating the need for a transmission.
  • In conjunction with a compressed air storage reservoir, the harmonic air motor, by virtue of its high efficiency, is a viable approach to the storage and recovery of energy originating from intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar.

Contact: For more information about this technology, contact

To view the original technology listing on LLNL’s website, visit

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