Energy

​Omnidirectional urban wind turbine takes out 2018 James Dyson Award

Any way the wind blows, this turbine will spin in a constant direction
Any way the wind blows, this turbine will spin in a constant direction
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CAD model of the O-Wind turbine ball design
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CAD model of the O-Wind turbine ball design
Any way the wind blows, this turbine will spin in a constant direction
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Any way the wind blows, this turbine will spin in a constant direction

Beating out a fascinating list of other entries, the O-Wind Turbine has taken out the UK£30,000 (US$39,000) first prize in this year's James Dyson Awards. This crooked, vented spherical device is designed to hang from skyscraper balconies and generate electricity in the chaotic wind conditions of a high-rise metropolis.

Traditional wind generators are very efficient, but only when they're pointed straight into the wind. You don't see much wind generation in large cities, because the built-up environment plays havoc with wind patterns, causing swirling three-dimensional vortices where wind constantly changes direction.

So there's plenty of wind to draw energy from – urban winds can be very strong – but if you want to convert them into electricity, you'd need something that could take wind from any direction, including upwards, downwards and everything in between, and harness it into rotating a turbine in a constant direction.

And that's what we've got here. Inspired by NASA "tumbleweed" technology designed to use the swirling winds on Mars to continually push an exploration ball in a single direction, the O-Wind team set out to design an omnidirectional turbine shape.

CAD model of the O-Wind turbine ball design
CAD model of the O-Wind turbine ball design

The structure uses a more or less spherical shape, covered with vents that have large entrances and small exits for air to pass through. Thanks to Bernoulli's principle, pressure differences are generated that cause the sphere to rotate clockwise around a single fixed axis no matter which direction the wind is coming from. This rotational energy can then be used to drive a generator and produce electricity.

The team, from Lancaster University, tested their prototypes with a hairdryer, which was enough to prove its initial efficacy and win the UK national Dyson award a month ago, before being announced as the global winner today.

Team member Nicolas Gonzalo summed up the significance of the device saying, "it allows people living in apartments to generate their own electricity."

House owners have had the option of solar for many years now, but the O-Wind turbine could give similar power production capabilities to city high-rise dwellers in a world that's urbanizing quicker by the year.

We look forward to hearing more from these guys as they work toward commercializing the device.

Check out the turbine in the video below.

Source: O-Wind Turbine (Dyson Awards)

O-Wind Turbine: James Dyson Award National UK Winner

11 comments
windykites
Vertical axis wind turbines rotate with wind from all directions. This looks unnecessarily complicated. Cool award!
EZ
This is nothing but frivolity. The technology to extract electrons from the Ether already exists. The problem is that it is locked up in the vaults controlled by the CIA. All of Tesla's records were stolen by the FBI shortly after Tesla died, then locked up for the people that control our government under the guise of "national security." This may hint of the "deep state" theory, which is also a CIA invented nomenclature, just like the term "conspiracy theory" was. I know that most people think this is all BS but they are the same people that have no desire to consider otherwise. We all live in our own "bubble" and believe what makes us feel comfortable. I wish my belief was wrong.
jerryd
Please stop posting WG scams like this. While it may spin, it won't produce any power worthwhile, if at all. There is a reason successful units are 2-5 blade normal ones and no commercial VAWTs, basic physics. Sadly most of these scams a normal WG would be lower cost while actually putting out decent power.
holdenmidfield
EZ and jerryd, Are you guys Russian trolls? You “Deep Staters” are ridiculous. Wouldn’t Trump have uncovered all these conspiracies by now and tweeted it to all? Perhaps his golf game got in the way. If you want to know where the Deep State is, ask Putin. Just because you know some engineering or other specialty doesn’t mean you are immune to the stealthy brainwashing of Rupert Murdoch and the Kremlin. Why waste your time badmouthing little innovations like this with your blather?
christopher
A days harvest should power a dimly lit torch for a minute or two - maybe just enough to find a good hiding place against zombies when the apocalypse comes. But seriously - the energy spent mounting this will exceed what it generates in a lifetime...
T N Args
I wish that councils would lift their bans on domestic wind generation, provided that the residential generators comply with a noise limit.
Alec Sevins
It's too bad these will probably not generate more than piecemeal power for cities. Meanwhile, the countryside hundreds of miles away is being turned into industrial parks by gigantic wind "farms" that can't do much about the fossil fuel problem. The eastern Columbia river area looks like a boneyard with flashing red lights. Those who call it "beautiful" have no respect for nature itself. The required scale of land (and ocean) would be enormous to make much difference, and you can't build them without fossil fuels to start with. Some of us see industrial wind power as worse than climate change due to its futility and disrespect for open space ethics and wildlife (see bat-kill data). Growing levels of ugliness and noise would not have been tolerated in years before climate obsession took hold.
ljaques
Cool concept. Congrats, guys. I'm sure they'll find little niches. Now, how large will it have to be to do 2 things: 1) charge my phone and 2) thoroughly piss off my neighbor, in his $4M apartment in NYC? Won't these look cool hanging like airbags or barnacles off the side of billion dollar highrises? What a treat!
akarp
Not surprising from James Dyson. 'Air Multipliers' and other nonsence leads to these kinds of awards. :-(
Robert Schreib
?? Years ago, I read a popular Mechanics article that described a telephone cable relay system that had a device called a 'Pneumatic Battery'. It consisted of a standard compressed air cylinder tank, and a set of steel washers suspended in a strong magnetic coil. Whenever the relay station, which was in very cold climes, which ruined conventional batteries, needed electrical power to transmit telephone communications, this device released a jet of compressed air through that washers and magnets device, and that made electricity flow through a wire coil between them, to supply the needed juice. What if we could set up something like that, atop tall buildings? If we made a very tall hollow air billows, that is shaped like a big wood screw, and anchored it securely to a rooftop, then, when the winds push it back and forth, it could compressed an internal reserve of compressed air or Nitrogen, to force the gas through a pneumatic battery like this, to supply some of the building's electric power needs. Further, we could add a steel spring-supported corkscrew-shaped air billows, in this thing's base, to push the air or Nitrogen back up into the towering billow unit, so the gas could propel the pneumatic battery with the to and for motions of this device waving in the wind. Or, we could innovate a small air turbine inside of this unit to indirectly propel a standard electric generator. Finally, it might be possible to wire a big slinky coil, throughout the length of this air billow tower, to enable it to be a radio antenna as well. And, the wood screw design would look artistically pleasing in an urban environment, if we put striped colors of all spectrums on it, like a barber's pole!