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This paper describes a new form of actuator with a spherical permanent magnet rotor and a simple winding arrangement, which is capable of a high specific torque by utilizing a rare-earth permanent magnet. The magnetic-field distribution is established using an analytical technique formulated in spherical coordinates, and the results are validated by finite element analysis. The analytical field solution allows the prediction of the actuator torque and back emf in closed forms. In turn, these facilitate the characterization of the actuator and provide a firm basis for design optimization, system dynamic modeling, and closed-loop control law development. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.