And for my next trick - the vacuum cleaner that talks

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The Independent Online

The British innovator James Dyson has invented a high-speed vacuum cleaner motor that spins faster than a Formula 1 car engine - and is able to "talk" to a call centre to say what is wrong if it breaks down.

The new motor will turn at 100,000 revolutions per minute, up to four times faster than those in existing appliances, producing a vacuum with up to one-third more suction power. It will also have fewer parts, as well as being lighter, and so should have a longer operational life.

A computer chip used to control the motor will also be able to send a huge chunk of data electronically over the phone to a service centre if the machine breaks down - cutting short the unwelcome task of talking to call centre staff and providing serial numbers and an explanation of what you were doing when the problem occurred.

"When something's broken the call centre always wants to know the serial number and model number, and you've never got it to hand, so you have to ring back later," Mr Dyson told New Scientist Reports, on the Discovery satellite channel. "But with this technology, you will simply hold down the vacuum's 'On' button and put the phone next to a speaker on the machine, and in our call centre we'll get the entire history of the machine's motor, what model it is, when it was built, what temperature conditions it has been used in, and so on."

The motor and diagnostic chips are being developed in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, as part of an effort to develop a new generation of electric motors.

The idea was praised by Trevor Baylis, inventor of the clockwork radio, who said: "Usually we British are great at inventing but bad at bringing things to market; James does have both abilities."

But he added that he was concerned that any machines using the motor would be made in Malaysia - where Dyson Appliances shifted its manufacturing plant last year. "It seems cruel to the 600 people here who made it happen for Dyson originally," he said.

The new motor is the result of six years' work on a design called a "switched reluctance" motor, which does not use the carbon "brushes" of conventional AC motors. Because the brushes touch the moving central rotor, they generally wear out after 600 hours of use, equivalent to five years for a vacuum cleaner. In the switched reluctance motor, however, there is no contact between the exterior and the magnetised rotor, which is kept moving by constantly changing the electric field around it, using computer chips.

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