Wind energy may be one of the more sustainable sources of power available, but the spinning blades of conventional wind turbines require regular maintenance and have attracted criticism from bird lovers. That might explain why we've seen wind turbine prototypes that enclose the blades in a chamber or replace them entirely with a disc-like system. But researchers in the Netherlands set out to eliminate the need for a mechanical component entirely and created the EWICON, a bladeless wind turbine with no moving parts that produces electricity using charged water droplets.
Where most wind turbines generate electricity through mechanical energy, the EWICON (short for Electrostatic WInd energy CONvertor) creates potential energy with charged particles – in this case, water droplets. The current design consists of a steel frame holding a series of insulated tubes arranged horizontally. Each tube contains several electrodes and nozzles, which continually release positively-charged water particles into the air. As the particles are blown away, the voltage of the device changes and creates an electric field, which can be transferred to the grid for everyday use.
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Energy output would be dependent not only on the wind speed, but also the number of droplets, the amount of charge placed on the droplets, and the strength of the electric field.
According to the developers, the system could easily be installed on land or sea, much like regular wind turbines, but the design is particularly suited to urban areas. Expansive wind farms usually aren't feasible in big cities due to a lack of space, but one or more EWICONs could be incorporated into existing architecture just by altering it's shape. Also, with a lack of moving parts, it would require less maintenance while producing less noise and no flickering shadows.
So far, only a few small-scale prototypes of the EWICON have been produced: two that are incorporated into a sign on top of the Stadstimmerhuis 010 building in Rotterdam and another standalone version that was erected on the Delft Technical University campus. The designers are currently testing the device's capabilities, but are trying to gather funding for a larger model that could produce more power.
The EWICON was designed by architecture firm Mecanoo using technology developed by Delft Technical University researchers Johan Smit and Dhiradj Djairam. The video below demonstrates how the EWICON works.