Will the real flux capacitor please stand up?

‘Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me you built a time machine out of a DeLorean?’ – Marty McFly: Back to the Future.

Ever wondered what a flux capacitor is? Well, until last week, I can’t say I’d given the subject a lot of thought until Nico Irby, our erstwhile marketing manager asked me whether, in fact, anyone had actually ever built one.

I think he was just kidding, because, as any film buff can tell you, the flux capacitor was the crowning achievement of ‘Doc’, a scientist who featured in the rather terrific motion picture ‘Back to the Future’ some years ago.

Nevertheless, your trusty e4 editor was intrigued to see what else he could find about the subject – had anyone actually engineered such a thing?

A lot of folks have pages on the Internet relating to flux capacitors. Few of them have anything to do with engineering, however. Of no relevance whatsoever was a site dedicated to Flux Capacitor, the Atlanta rock and roll band led by singer and guitarist, Jeremy Spake.

But hard work always pays off. And e4engineering can now reveal that Doc’s flux capacitor must now compete with the real McCoy (as opposed to the real McFly) which has actually been developed and patented by researchers at Stanford University, CA.

The Stanford flux capacitor design won’t let you travel back in time, but is claimed to allow you to store more charge per unit area than more traditional approaches to integrated circuit capacitor designs do. These capacitors are pretty to look at too – the very perimeters of the devices have been created using fractals.

Details of the Stanford capacitor can be found on the Delphion Patent Server site by clicking <a href=’http://www.delphion.com/details?pn=US06084285__’>here</a>.

But if you find that reading the patent is a little tedious, then why not head to the <a href=’http://www-smirc.stanford.edu’>Stanford SmiRC</a> site, home of one of the lead authors of the patent Arvin Shahani.

While you’re there, you can listen to one of his colleagues Tamara A. Papalias singing her ‘hit’ single ‘Stanford Ph.D. Blues’. She hasn’t got the same approach to music as the original Flux Capacitors do, but she’s probably closer to the makers of the real thing.