Henry and I worked together on the design for a superconducting ceramic battery, but we were hampered by the lack of facilities for actually building a prototype. We felt it important to start with the design of the battery; a working prototype might give us enough additional power over current designs to allow us to finish the Indy 500 car race. In some ways, the lack of access to hardware forced us to be more careful and methodical, testing simulations using mathematical models and computers with much more rigor than we might have had we been able to just build the damn things and test them directly. Eventually, we hoped to build a lab for assembling our own prototypes, but we were just getting started on working with an architect for our facilities on the eighth floor, and space for a lab would be limited, at least for now. Ultimately, we might have to build a larger facility out in New Jersey. For the time being, our prototypes were assembled in Cupertino and shipped east, and that took time.
In the process, I got to know the person who’d been personally responsible for reducing the cost of fabrication of our superconductive ceramics. Her name was Nithya Ramamurthy, and she had a Ph.D. from Stanford in electrical engineering with specialization in solid-state physics. She was just 23 years old, with a husband who was an assistant CFO at Pfizer, and a baby on the way. She’d come up with a means of 3D-printing for our ceramic elements that was orders of magnitude faster and cheaper than conventional methods, and it was easily scalable. It was eminently well-suited to building our prototypes. Like Henry and me, she was a paper billionaire, earning royalties from the patents on every server we sold.
As I got to know her, I realized that her talents would be much better suited to our research on superconducting ceramics in New York, so I asked her if she’d be interested in relocating to the Big Apple and heading up our solid-state-physics division. The issue was that her husband was on a fast track at Pfizer and very reluctant to leave the Bay Area. However, Pfizer’s headquartered in New York and there was an opening for an executive position that could eventually lead to a job in senior management. I ended up stepping on quite a few toes in the process, but I arranged for an interview and he was chosen on the spot. There wasn’t time for them to complete the move before the Indy 500, but that didn’t matter. They’d be settled in by the time I took on the next major project.
At first, our experiments with superconducting batteries were disappointing, and the prototypes Nithya built were far off the mark when it came to capacity. Once again, pathologic currents were causing heat generation, with rapid loss of superconductance. This time it was because, in spite of our best efforts to fashion the cyanosilicate crystal matrix into a toroidal shape, the superconducting channels weren’t perfectly circular. Higher capacities would mean nothing if the batteries exploded. It wasn’t until Henry came up with an idea for doping the battery with circular layers of iron that we found a viable solution. Only a single atom thick, the iron didn’t interfere with the superconductivity of the crystalline structure, yet it stabilized the magnetic field and restored the lossless nature of the circular current flow. The resulting prototype could store twelve kilowatts per kilogram.
It was a start, but then came our biggest breakthrough yet. Using his talents in computational mathematics, Henry attempted to optimize the placement of iron in the structure of our ceramics; then he made an amazing discovery. If I live to a hundred, I’ll always remember the look on his face when he burst in on me when I was sitting on the throne in our apartment, unceremoniously taking a dump. Once I was cleaned up and was sitting with him at his desk in the study off the home theater, he explained what he’d found.
“In a superconducting ceramic, the characteristic wavelength of the axial covalent bond corresponds with the dimension of the crystal structure,” he began.
“Yes, that’s what makes the ceramic a superconductor.”
“Right. Well, when I realized that iron doping could stabilize the magnetic field in a toroidal element, I became curious as to why that occurred. After all, elemental iron isn’t itself a superconductor except at near-absolute zero, but the fluidity of the outer orbitals makes it an effective electron donor, and it’s ferromagnetic, which is why I thought it might stabilize the magnetic field. So that got me to wonder what would happen if you deposited a thin layer of iron on the parallel axial ends of an anisotropic ceramic crystal —”
“You created a superconductive laser?” I asked with a level of excitement that matched Henry’s.
“Technically, it should be called something like — SCEMRT: superconductive electromagnetic resonant trap, but yes, you get currents that flow in both directions, generating an electromagnetic standing wave at integer multiples of the wavelength. At least in simulations, you do. But because the electrons themselves don’t move, the only limit to the current density is the distance between energy bands, as absorption and emission from higher-energy orbitals would generate pathologic wavelengths that destroy superconductivity.”
“That’s related to the critical threshold temperature of the superconductor.”
“What’s important is that the layers of iron trap a linear alternating current within a magnetic field, much as a toroid does with a circular current, and that the two are persistent and stable.”
“A better acronym would be SCEMPER: Super-Conductive Electro-Magnetic Persistence via Electron Resonance.” Then I asked, “You can still store twelve kilowatt-hours per kilogram? Shit, that’s one hell of a lot of energy, and you can do that within the ceramic structure of the motor itself? Is that reversible?”
“Absolutely,” Henry confirmed. “All you have to do is to dope the ceramic with layers of iron, a single atom thick. What’s more is that you can use an external magnetic field to induce a current that will charge the matrix, and then reverse the process to generate the magnetic fields that will drive the motor – and there’s more. Look at the thermal coefficients.”
“It’s a thermal superconductor?” I realized in shock.
“Exactly,” Henry confirmed. “The resonance ensures that heat phonons will be transferred without resistance to the surface, equalizing the temperature throughout the ceramic substrate. We won’t even need to use a vacuum chamber with this design. An insulating ceramic layer will suffice to provide an excellent thermal barrier through which we can use the Peltier effect to pump the heat out and keep the internal elements cooled.”
“This would be revolutionary and not just for battery-powered motors,” I realized. “It should work equally well with the wind turbines, with supersonic jets and magnetic levitation. It would eliminate the need for vacuum isolation, reducing the complexity, weight and cost by at least half. Maybe even more. Perhaps even an order of magnitude more.” Then I had another flash of insight. “Fuck, we could use the same approach with our data servers. We could arrange the servers in layers, separated by layers of iron providing uniform cooling by thermal superconductance to the surface. We could reduce the physical size by maybe ninety percent, and we could cool it by passive radiation. It would cut the costs by at least an order of magnitude – again.”
Henry and I worked through the night, using Applazon’s CAD-CAM software before we realized there was someone better suited to come up with a working design. It was 6:00 AM in New York and still 3:00 AM in Cupertino when we called Nithya, but her lack of sleep was quickly forgotten when she looked at the computer files we’d sent her. The three of us were engaged in work that was certain to earn a Nobel Prize in physics, and although none of us mentioned it, we all knew it. More importantly, the technology would do more to reverse climate change than anything else we’d done so far.
I had a feeling Nithya didn’t sleep at all during the coming week, as two weeks later, we had a working prototype motor, ready to test. Once we’d verified that it worked as well as the mathematical models had predicted, we asked her to manufacture a run of fifty of them, ready to install in place of the existing electric motors we were using in the prototype Indy cars. Jeff was thrilled by our progress, unaware of just how much our work would change everything.
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The end to the Cuban embargo came surprisingly quickly and with little contention as a deeply divided Congress gave overwhelming support. Much as some Republicans wanted to make an issue of it, with strong support from the Cuban diaspora in Miami, the party couldn’t risk alienating an important voting bloc. Obviously, Boris had been wrong about the Cuban-Americans. The agreement didn’t guarantee democracy, and it didn’t put an end to the Communist regime, but it did guarantee open markets and a free press. Perhaps Cuba would become another Vietnam, or perhaps the Cuban people would demand fair elections. Either way, Cuba would be far better off than anyone had considered possible. The Biden administration had used my captivity to broker a very good deal. But now it was time to get serious about the upcoming Indy 500.
I’d wanted to drive to Indianapolis. It would have been about a twelve-hour trip or perhaps a bit more than that with stops. We’d have had to stop twice along the way to recharge, at the Sheetz service station in Breezewood, PA, and at the Sheetz in Cambridge, Ohio, and of course we’d have needed to recharge as soon as we got to Indy. It would’ve been nice to have had our own car with us, and perhaps we’d have brought our bikes and used those as our primary transportation about the city. It was an easy half-hour ride from the Harney House Inn to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but it would’ve been too dangerous to even attempt to go anywhere alone. Our bodyguards needed to accompany us at all times.
It would’ve been so much easier if Henry and I were just a couple of ordinary college students, or ordinary, middle-class engineers, but we were way beyond that now, and frankly, I wouldn’t have changed anything even if I could. We were making a difference in the world. I didn’t believe or not believe in a god, but I sure seemed to have a guardian angel who was looking out for me. I was blessed with the ability to design things most could only conceive of, and I happened to have been at the right place at the right time to actually make use of my skills. Not only that, but I found myself a partner who complemented my technical skills and made me emotionally complete.
Yes, I would have much rather driven to Indy, just the two of us, but it wasn’t safe, so we’d flown on the Applazon corporate jet from our home in New York. Jeff would fly in later in the month from his home in Seattle. Henry and I each had full-time bodyguards now. We hired them through an agency and arranged for them to stay in an apartment we purchased nearby on the same floor in the Walker Tower, where we lived. The apartment was much smaller than ours, and it lacked a terrace, but even so, it cost us five-million dollars and change. We attempted to purchase it through our corporation, so as to avoid paying taxes, and only then did we discover that Applazon would be covering the initial and ongoing costs of the apartment, as well as of our security detail, at no expense to us. It was yet another corporate perk. With our bodyguards living in a separate apartment, we still had our privacy. As a pair of horny teens who liked to walk around in the nude and to make love wherever and whenever we wanted to, our privacy was important to us. That privacy, however, would end the moment we opened the front door.
My bodyguard was Brian, and Henry’s was Lance, and they went everywhere with us. If we even wanted to go out for a cup of coffee, they went with us. When we ordered takeout, one of them picked it up for us and brought it back. Not even delivery by the likes of Uber, Seamless, GrubHub or DoorDash was considered safe. That we were vulnerable was driven home by my recent captivity in Cuba. We didn’t even question it when they said something wasn’t safe.
I hated that we couldn’t even fly on a commercial airline in first class anymore or take the train or drive ourselves. The corporate jet was horrible for the environment, never mind the cost. Applazon could afford it, as could we, but the planet couldn’t, and it would be years before airplanes built or retrofitted with our Peltier engines received FAA approval to fly.
A limousine picked us up right on the tarmac at the old Indianapolis International Airport, where our jet landed, and it took us straight to the hotel. I would’ve liked to have stayed at the Harney House Inn, where I’d stayed the last time. It was a beautifully restored Victorian mansion that had been turned into a B&B, and it was right in Lockerbie Square within a short walk of several nice clubs and entertainment venues. It was in the heart of gay Indy, but our security people deemed the location to be problematic, and so it was not to be. Hilton had three very nice hotels downtown that were within walking distance of everything of interest. However, Applazon had a contract with Marriott and that’s where the entire Rogers racing team, as well as the Applazon executives, were expected to stay. Staying in a single location not only simplified the security arrangements, but it allowed us to better limit access by the press.
We were staying at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, which was Marriott’s flagship hotel in Indianapolis. It was part of the convention-center complex and built on the site of what used to be the RCA Dome, long ago replaced by Lucas Oil Stadium. How ironic it was that for decades to come, the Indianapolis Colts would be playing in a stadium named after a dying industry. We went straight to our rooms, which were located on the VIP floor. We had an enormous suite with a living room, a dining room with a small kitchen, a bedroom, a home theater, an office and three bathrooms, one of which had a jacuzzi big enough for both of us. Our bodyguards were staying in a suite across the hall from us. It all seemed like such a waste for a couple of teenagers who were from modest backgrounds, but it was deemed necessary for our safety. Even our meals would be brought to us and served in our private dining room. If we wanted to go out for the evening, we had to make arrangements in advance, and Lance and Brian had to go with us.
We were in Indianapolis for the next month for two major reasons. For one thing, the Indy 500 would be held on the Sunday before Memorial Day, with time trials and qualifications held two weeks before that. As the ones who’d designed the batteries, the motors and the control systems for both e-race-car entries of the Rogers team, we were intimately involved with all aspects of the race and would be spending a lot of time at the racetrack, leading up to the race itself. Secondly, we were going to be involved in direct negotiations with General Motors to build at least one state-of-the-art automobile factory in Indianapolis. Actually, I hoped to open several factories in different parts of the metro area, as close in as we could find the land, yet accessible to those living in nearby rural communities who could benefit from the jobs they created.
GM had a long history of parts manufacture in the region, and we hoped to capitalize on that, no pun intended. Indeed, Remy International got its start in the nearby community of Anderson and remained a major economic driver in the area. After merging with its largest competitor, Delco, which was headquartered in Dayton, GM bought Delco-Remy, and Delco electronics became a major feature in GM vehicles for more than a century. GM had an impressive history of electric-car development, starting with the Volt and then the Bolt to complete with similar entries from Toyota and Nissan. More recently they’d invested heavily in EV development, making the commitment to produce only electric vehicles by 2035. Not that Ford hadn’t leapt to the forefront with their Mustang Mach-E and their F150 Lightning, but helping GM transition to their all-electric future would have an even greater impact.
Not only did I hope to convince GM to build electric cars that used our motors, but I hoped to convince them to let us work as an integral part of the design teams, redesigning the entire concept of what a car should be from the ground up. The battery in my Tesla was rated at 80 kilowatt-hours per charge and weighed 480 kg. The four superconducting ceramic motors I’d designed for use in our race cars each stored twenty kilowatt-hours per charge and could easily be scaled down for use in a consumer vehicle. That meant I could match the battery capacity of my Tesla without the weight, but my motors were an order of magnitude more efficient. Hence, I could deliver a real-world driving range in an SUV of up to a thousand miles at a cost that wouldn’t break the bank. With the motors embedded in each wheel and no other drivetrain, there was little need for anything under the hood. Obviously, we needed to rethink the design of the car entirely. Perhaps we could design SUVs with a locking trunk in the motor’s original place, as Ford had done with their truck.
I’d also put out some feelers to Culver Diesel and hoped to meet with their chief engineers and maybe their CEO while I was in town. Culver was a huge multinational corporation that supplied diesel engines and power systems to companies all over the world. Headquartered in Columbus, Indiana, located about an hour south of Indy, their engines were ubiquitous. If we could work out a deal with Culver, we could electrify the entire transportation industry, from trucks to trains to ships at sea. Culver could be a phenomenal partner or a powerful adversary, so getting them onboard would be a major development in our plans for the future.
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“I can’t believe this place,” Henry exclaimed as we looked down on the enormous Dale Chihuly glass sculpture that had been installed as the centerpiece of the atrium of the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Already, we’d seen the full-size mockup of a section of the International Space Station and visited the Star Trek exhibit, and we were just getting started. Brian and Lance were standing nearby, acting as discreetly as they could while we explored the vast complex of the world’s largest children’s museum. They became much more attentive when we were approached by a pair of boys, one of whom was in his teens and the other who appeared to be his younger brother.
“I know you,” he began speaking to me. “You used to live in North Vernon, and you went by Adam. You used to tutor me in math and science when I was in middle school. I saw you on TV the other night, but I knew it was you.”
The teen looked to be about my age, and his brother was maybe eight or nine. I scrutinized them both more closely, and the memory of spending time with him snapped into place. “Connor? Connor Wilson?” I asked.
“I wasn’t sure you’d remember me,” he replied. “You really helped me, but then you just disappeared without a trace, your phone number stopped working, and your address turned out to be bogus.”
“Speaking of school —” I began, but he interrupted before I could ask how he was doing in high school. He’d be a senior now and approaching graduation.
“Yeah, it’s a school day,” he said, “but I’m ahead in all my classes, and I need to finish my community service to graduate, so I volunteered to chaperone Kent’s class field trip to the Children’s Museum. I love coming here, but at my age, you need to come with a younger brother or sister, if you know what I mean.”
“Like Henry,” I replied with a glance in my boyfriend’s direction. That earned me a pretty strong shove.
“Younger brother, my ass,” Henry said. “You’re only a year older than me, and I should hope we’re well beyond calling me your brother,” which earned a raised eyebrow from Connor.
“Connor Wilson, this is Henry Gonzalez, my boyfriend,” I explained. “I used to refer to him as my foster brother because his family took me in. His brother was my colleague at work.”
“I always figured you were gay,” Connor replied. “So’s my best friend, but he’s deeply in the closet. His father’s the head pastor at the First Assembly of God – ironically, the acronym’s so appropriate, but coming out’s not an option for him. At least he has a full ride to Butler next year. Things will be different there.”
“For sure,” I agreed.
“So, you’re like a celebrity now, with bodyguards tryin’ to look cool and blend in where no adult can blend in without kids. So, what did happen to you?” Connor asked. “A lot of us think you had something to do with that cabin that burned down last year.”
I started to open my mouth – I had trouble thinking of what to say – but he continued, “You don’t hafta say anything. Your dad was a real piece of work who always creeped me out. People said he did good work but warned their kids not to go near him. I can’t imagine what it was like bein’ his son, and then it turned out he robbed banks.”
“It turned out he wasn’t even my real father,” I responded. “He was a pedo who kidnapped me from daycare in Cincinnati. My real parents live in New York now, where my father’s a law professor and my mom’s a cardiologist, and I have a brother I never knew existed before.”
“Wow, that’s crazy,” Connor responded. “You live with them now?”
Shaking my head, I answered, “Henry and I bought a place of our own in New York before I even knew my real parents lived there, too. I’ve been on my own since I was twelve. I went to work for Applazon when I was thirteen but faked an I.D. as a kid who was sixteen.”
“How do you fake something like that?” Connor asked. “Wouldn’t you need a copy of your birth certificate?”
“Don’t tell anyone else,” I replied. “The Feds already know, but identity theft’s a federal crime. I was only twelve when I did it, but it’s better not to belabor the point. I searched for kids who’d died and had no living relatives. It had to be a kid with the same blood type as mine and from a small town, and his Social Security number still had to be active. A lot of small-town clerks will issue a duplicate birth certificate without proof if you can answer the right questions – questions whose answers are on the internet.”
Shaking his head, Connor responded, “How many twelve-year-old kids would even think of something like that? Your secret’s safe with me.”
“Connor, it’s almost time for lunch,” Kent interrupted.
Sighing, Connor said, “Looks like it’s time to go feed a hundred hungry third graders. You wanna help out? The pizza’s decent here, and I can get you each a slice for free.”
Laughing, I replied, “Not that I wouldn’t love eating with a hundred screaming kids, but our bodyguards wouldn’t allow it. I’m not like a rock star or anything, but I’ve already been kidnapped twice in my life, and I’d rather not try for a third time.”
“You serious?” Connor asked.
“Very,” I replied, “but it was nice talking to you. By the way, you going to college next year?”
“Pre-veterinary at Purdue,” he answered.
“That’s fantastic,” I responded. “Good luck to you.”
“Yeah, you too,” Connor replied, and then he and Kent joined up with the other third graders from North Vernon Elementary.
“Is it true that Lance and Brian wouldn’t let us eat here?” Henry asked.
“Maybe. Maybe not,” I replied. “Not that the food court’s not decent, but it could get awkward when we decline the free pizza in favor of a real lunch. Besides, The Big City Grill and Lemonade is nearby, and they make an excellent Philly cheesesteak sandwich, among other things.”
“Sounds good,” Henry agreed.
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“How long does it take the track to dry?” I asked. It was the first day of qualifications, and it looked like the weekend might be rained out. Henry and I were in the team garage with the rest of the Rogers racing team, waiting for a break in the weather. Indiana weather is known for its unpredictability, with severe weather being common from April through June. How ironic it was that the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ was held during the height of the tornado season. I grew up in Southern Indiana and, like most, had personally seen more than one funnel cloud. Our shack was hardly a place one would want to have been during a tornado, so when the sirens sounded, we could do little more than pray. Dad laughed it off, but more than once I spent the night sleeping in the bathtub. When I was younger, I thought that if the weather got bad enough, I could hide in the cave behind our house. Later, I realized that I’d have to get to the cave first, and that would be more dangerous than just staying put.
Fortunately, the racetrack had never been hit directly by a tornado during a race, although there had been some close calls. Rain was more problematic, with close to half the races experiencing at least some delays due to rain. Light rain resulted in the race being run under a yellow flag, in which passing wasn’t allowed. Anything heavier would result in the race being halted. The asphalt tended to dry quickly, but for a heavier thunder shower like the one we were experiencing at the moment, they’d have to use giant blower trucks to speed the process. Sometimes they’d just get the track dried off when it would start to rain again.
Rusty, the chief mechanic who was standing next to me, answered, “With the blower trucks, we can dry the track off enough to race in under an hour. But it hasta stop raining first.”
I was standing around with the crew, dressed only in shorts and sandals because it was a muggy day in May. Piquing my curiosity, a young woman and a young man, who was carrying a rather heavy-looking video camera, entered the garage. They both were wearing press passes, and I assumed they were hoping to interview one of the drivers while we waited for the rain to clear, but they came right up to me. The woman asked, “Dr. Jeffries? I’m Janet Huxley with WISH TV8. We’ve been cleared by your security team. Would you be willing to let me interview you?”
“Wow!” I replied. “That’s a first,” I said with a laugh. “When I was traveling all over the world installing servers during the height of the pandemic, did anyone care? Did anyone try to interview me then? I was helping provide the means for kids all over the world to continue their schooling at home, but as long as the internet worked, no one paid any attention to it. Now that I’m designing race cars, suddenly people are interested.”
“That’s good, Dr. Jeffries,” she responded. “I may ask you to repeat that during the interview. You still haven’t answered my question, though.”
With a smile, I responded, “Sure, I’ll do the interview; just let me grab my shirt. Where would you like to do it?” I asked.
“How about in front of one of the race cars?” she responded.
Donning my shirt and walking over to one of them, I replied, “Go ahead.”
“First, we have to get the legalities out of the way,” she began. “I understand you’re only seventeen, so I’ll need to have a parent or guardian sign a release to use the interview on air.”
Laughing, I replied, “I was kidnapped when I was two, escaped when I was twelve and have been on my own ever since. With a fake I.D. that said I was sixteen, I started working full time for Applazon when I was thirteen and got my Ph.D. in computer science when I was fourteen. I traveled the world for Applazon, installing data servers from when I was fourteen until I was sixteen. I’ve finally been reunited with my parents, but one of the first things we did was to legally emancipate me so I could keep doing what I’ve been doing. I can sign your release myself.”
“Did you get that, Bob?” she asked the cameraman.
“Sure did,” he replied. “Actually, I got that first part about traveling the world, too.” I hadn’t even realized the camera was pointed at me, let alone turned on.
I read over the release and crossed out an entire section, initialing the cross-out, and crossed out and initialed a few phrases, and then signed the form and handed it back. “I do not give you permission to use my likeness in your advertising. You’ll have to ask my permission if you ever wish to do so. The only exception is to advertise the segments in which I air. Those are my conditions. Take them or leave them.”
“You’re the first person I’ve interviewed who’s ever read the thing, let alone objected to it,” she commented. “That’s entirely fair, and I accept your conditions.” She initialed the sections I’d changed and signed the form and then faced the cameraman, held up her oversized microphone and began, “We’re here today in the garage of the Rogers racing team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With me is Dr. J.J. Jeffries, the brilliant boy billionaire responsible for Applazon’s battery-powered entries in this year’s race.
“Dr. Jeffries, everyone’s been talking about you since you returned from Cuba. You’re seventeen, you designed your first computer when you were thirteen, and you earned a Ph.D. in computer science when you were only fourteen, is that right?”
She turned her torso slightly so as to give the appearance of facing me, even as she kept her face to the camera, and thrust the microphone under my nose. For a moment I probably had a deer-in-the-headlights look, but then I regained my composure, smiled and answered, “There were a few other major steps in there, and it wasn’t a computer per se, but rather a means of assembling a bunch of computers as data servers into a compact cabinet. The key was the use of liquid-nitrogen cooling, which not only allowed us to pack many components into a tight space, but it also cut the power needed to run the servers by over ninety percent.”
“That’s impressive, Dr. Jeffries,” she continued. “So how did you get involved in auto racing?”
“I took a trip through the Midwest last year and while touring the 500 Museum came to an exhibit on Formula E racing and wondered why there’d never been an electric car at the Indy 500. It dawned on me that the technology I’d developed for superconducting ceramics in quantum servers would work in an electric motor as well. I knew nothing about auto racing at the time, but with Jeff Barlow’s backing, I took it on as a challenge.”
“What is it about your motor that’s so different from other electric motors?” Janet Huxley asked. “How is it that you could build a race car with an electric motor when others had tried and failed?”
“First of all, to be fair, that’s what Formula E is all about. Formula E racing is a race based on the Formula 1 format but using only electric cars. Because of the limitations of existing motors and batteries, however, it’s slower than a Formula 1 race, and much shorter. Motors and batteries have come a long way, but they can’t compete with a gasoline engine for raw power, and the batteries can’t compete with ethanol for energy delivery, and that’s an even bigger limitation.”
Then walking over to a workbench nearby, I continued, “This is a conventional electric motor such as what you’ll find in a Tesla. It consists of a rotor that spins inside of an electromagnet called the stator. The stator is just a big electromagnet, and the rotor contains very strong permanent magnets.” I demonstrated by letting the rotor grab a wrench from out of my hand. “The stator creates an electromagnetic field, causing the rotor to turn to line up with the field, but then the phase of the current is switched, and the rotor has to turn further to line up with it, and so on. The only problem is the electromagnetic field requires a coil of wire, and the wire has resistance. Simply put, more energy winds up being converted to heat rather than power, and that’s a problem.”
Then moving over a bit, I pointed and said, “This is what’s inside our motors. For one thing, the rotor and stator are reversed, with the stator on the inside and the rotor on the outside. That’s because the whole thing sits inside the wheel, and the axle actually remains fixed while the motor spins around it. The other thing you’ll note is that we don’t use coiled wire to generate magnetic fields. Instead, we use superconducting ceramics with a cyanosilicate matrix as the conductor. It may seem strange that a combination of cyanide and sand would be a much better conductor than copper, and the reason is that we found a quirk of quantum mechanics that allows electrons to tunnel through the crystals that make up the lattice without any resistance at all. The intense magnetic field that results from an electric current is enough to turn the motor without generating much heat at all.
“Of course, an electric motor would be pretty useless unless we had a way to store the electricity in a compact enough form to power a race car for five hundred miles. Now I have to credit my boyfriend, Enrique Gonzalez, with figuring this out, but we both knew that a superconductor can store electrical energy in perpetual current loop, generating an intense magnetic field. That’s how MRI machines work. What Enrique did was to figure out that if we embed layers of iron a single atom thick in between the ceramic elements in our motors, we can store all the electricity we need right within the motor itself. In other words, the motor became the battery and vice versa. The underlying principle’s actually similar to that of the laser, but we call it a SCEMPER: superconductive electromagnetic persistence via electron resonance, and it yields capacities several times greater than that of lithium-based batteries. By having the battery inside the motor, we avoid the electrical losses usually associated with conventional circuits and wires. As a result, our motors can each store twenty kilowatts of power, and with four motors, one per wheel, that’s the same as in my Tesla Model 3, but without the using a ton of lithium-ion batteries.”
“That sounds fantastic,” she responded. “Why haven’t we seen anything like this before?”
“People have been searching for substances with superconducting properties for decades,” I replied. “We’ve known of the existence of superconductivity in metals for a century. The problem was that it required cooling the wires down to close to absolute zero, which could only be done with liquid helium. A lot of MRI scanners work that way, which is why they’re so expensive. People will pay a million dollars for an MRI machine but not for a motor in a car.
“About forty years ago, we accidentally discovered that certain ceramic crystals could become superconductors at relatively warmer temperatures such as you get using liquid nitrogen, which is easy to produce. However, they required the use of rare-earth metals that are hard to come by, and they’re very brittle.
“What I came up with, with the help of the physicists at Applazon, was a completely different kind of ceramic, fashioned from single crystals of cyanide silicates. They have a unique crystal structure that allows electrons to tunnel through them without interacting with the individual atoms and hence without any resistance in one direction. The cyanide bonds with silicon and loses its toxicity, by the way. The beauty of these crystals is that they’re superconducting at room temperature. I designed ceramic superconductors for use in building quantum computers, and they work very well in that role. Applazon is installing new servers all over the world based on the technology.”
“Technology you invented,” she responded.
“Technology I helped to invent, with the aid of a team of engineers, physicists and mathematicians. A case in point is the cooling system, which was invented by my boyfriend, too. Cooling is critical in our motors because if the crystals reach a temperature of 140 degrees, which they can from pathologic currents induced by an uneven road surface, for example, the crystals will shatter,” I explained. Henry approached us, having donned his shirt as well, and so I introduced him and his role, recognizing he’d need a signed release, too.
“This is Enrique Gonzalez, my partner in business as well as in life. He’s a Ph.D. student at NYU and the director of Applazon’s new computational-mathematics division, not to mention the inventor of a superconducting cooling system that will soon be the basis of nearly all refrigeration, heating and cooling systems. To answer what I’m sure is your next question, he’s sixteen. Henry came up with a scheme for efficiently cooling the motors using something called the Peltier effect that takes advantage of the thermal properties of ceramic superconductors. The same technology in reverse, by the way, is at the heart of our wind-turbine design.”
Then moving again, I concluded my explanation by showing one of the wheel assemblies. “This is the drive mechanism and wheel assembly for our cars. We use four units like this one, which makes them all interchangeable. Our superconducting motor is mounted entirely inside the wheel, leaving nothing between the motors and the rubber. It’s true direct drive, and because our motors provide high torque throughout the speed range of the vehicle, there’s no need for a gear box. The gear box is the most common component to fail in an Indy car, and we don’t need one. There’s no gear box, no transmission, no differential and no drivetrain. There are no losses associated with any of those components. Not only that, but there are four independent motors that can be optimized separately to the road surface. That dramatically improves traction without increasing rolling resistance, and it improves efficiency, too.
“When our cars pull in for a pit stop, we’ll replace this entire wheel assembly. The driver will get new rubber, new motors and new batteries, all in a matter of seconds. There are a number of other innovations, too, including 100 percent regenerative breaking, mild rear-wheel steering to improve cornering and stability, and without the need for space for a motor, batteries or a fuel tank in the body, a much more aerodynamic shape with active, dynamic ground effects.”
“Why thank you, Dr. Jeffries,” Janet Huxley responded. “That was an outstanding review of your innovative race-car design.” She asked a number of questions about Henry’s and my history and the fact that we were so young. By the time she wrapped up the interview, the rain had stopped, and the blowers were halfway around the track.
A short time later, the time trials began, and after lunch our first driver made his qualification run. Qualifications involved driving four laps around the track for a total of ten miles. Without the need to complete the full race, our drivers would drive flat out, trying to achieve the fastest speed possible without wiping out. The slowest qualification speed would likely be around 225 mph, and any speed less than 230 risked being bumped out of the race by subsequent drivers, so if we got anything less than that, we’d almost certainly reject the run and try again.
There were several factors that allowed our driver to press more confidently through the turns than the other drivers. For one thing, we used both front- and rear-wheel steering. The rear wheel steering angle was limited to only two degrees, as anything more than a few degrees could cause the rear of the car to spin out, but even a mere two degrees significantly increased the stable speed through turns. Secondly, we’d added something I called active, dynamic ground effects. For decades, Formula 1 and Indy cars used baffles to limit the amount of air that could flow under the car, reducing drag. With fixed baffles, however, the clearance had to allow for uneven road surfaces and suspension. Without space for fuel tanks or an engine, we had the luxury of being able to use separate small actuators to adjust the clearance dynamically to within about a millimeter, significantly reducing air flow under the car. Our suspension system was itself active and dynamic, providing a smoother, more stable ride. That, in and of itself, was a game changer. Finally, with four motors and what amounted to four-wheel drive, each wheel could act independently, providing steadier handling in spite of track irregularities.
When the first lap speed of 239.82 mph was announced, an enormous cheer went up from the crowd. The second lap was even faster at 243.45 mph, followed by a third lap speed of 249.82. Normally, the driver would dial it back a bit on the last lap with a three-lap speed so high, but since he was so close to 250, I knew he’d go flat out, and he did, reaching a final lap speed of 251.63, for an average speed of 246.18 mph for all four laps, which was a new record. He’d almost certainly have the pole position unless our other driver beat him to the spot. Unfortunately, a heavy thunderstorm shut the track down in the late afternoon, so our second driver wouldn’t be able to have her qualifying run until tomorrow at the earliest.
Disclaimer: This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals is unintentional. Although it takes place in actual locations, in no way are any official policies, opinions or events inferred. Some characters may be underage and at times engage in homosexual acts. Anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of material where they live. The author retains full copyright and permission must be obtained prior to duplication in any form.