Environment

Virtually silent, fully enclosed, bladeless wind turbines on the way

Virtually silent, fully enclos...
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A wind turbine that uses boundary layers instead of blades to generate power has been patented by Solar Aero, a New Hampshire based not-for-profit scientific research organization. Modeled on the 1913 Tesla steam turbine, the Fuller turbine is virtually silent and completely enclosed, which avoids many of the drawbacks of bladed turbines such as noise, radar interference, visual pollution and wildlife injuries.

Solar Aero's Howard Fuller says the principal of operation is roughly the same as for the Tesla steam turbine.

"Closely-spaced discs trap the motive fluid molecules (in this case air) in a laminar flow adjacent to the disc surface. This provides aerodynamic drag, which imparts force to the disc surface. By using multiple discs, the turbine then provides considerable torque to accelerate the rotation of the central driveshaft, which is directly coupled to an alternator, typically located at the base of a tower, or alternatively co-located on a rooftop."

The turbine is likely to have a cut-in speed of about 3.5 knots and optimum speed is about 20 knots and near transparency to radar microwave transmissions can be achieved with proper construction materials and techniques.

Although currently only in pre-prototype stage, it is anticipated that units would be available in different sizes. The smallest unit would be likely to produce about 5kW at 15 knots.

Solar Aero expects costs to be comparable to coal-fired power generation - around $0.05/kWh. When used in conjunction with a suitable storage device, this should provide reliable, inexpensive power in either residential or commercial applications.

Maintenance costs should be less than for bladed turbines. As the up-tower turbine is supported solely on zero maintenance magnetic bearings, there will be no friction to impede acceleration and no routine lubrication required.

Solar Aero is currently completing a full scale prototype. The design will be available for worldwide production licensing following testing.

Contact Solar Aero for further information.

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24 comments
matthew.rings
Is that picture of a bladed-centrifugal system an actual picture of the \"bladeless\" design? I though the Tesla system had a series of closely spaced discs that began to turn with water or air flowing between the discs on the adherent boundary layer.
It will be interesting to see what power this produces at low wind speeds... which may be it\'s drawback vs. lightweight bladed designs.
jimbo92107
The neat thing about this design is that you could enhance the turbine\'s efficiency by using cheap, adjustable sails to focus wind into the intake.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh
Yet another breakthrough in Wind Energy Technology.
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
Gadgeteer
The beauty and downfall of many patents is that you don\'t need to prove that something works well or even at all in order to be granted a patent. You just have to prove that nobody has patented it before. This design has so many problems and this is nothing more than a reprinted press release. A design that relies on drag like this one is always less efficient than a lift design. The faster it turns, the less drag it has until in theory, if it can reach the actual wind speed (which is impossible), it has no drag. Such a slow-turning turbine will need multistage gearing to step up the RPM to drive an electric generator at optimum speed. Gears always reduce efficiency. Magnetic bearings don\'t work well at such low RPMs, either. That mesh grill over the inlet to exclude wildlife will create turbulence, which will reduce efficiency even more. The bare bones website providing no details at all is a dead giveaway that this is a one-man operation.
jerryd
Can you say scam? There is no way this unit shown can make any useful power for it\'s size, weight, cost.
Nor is the one shown a Tesla Turbine which is even less eff. The people who do these kind of things should be put in jail for fraud.
John M
Years ago I build a small 4 inch Tesla turbine. As an air motor.This was not balanced, no need. It was veryquiet & smooth running. The only drawback was the lack of torque. On 70 PSI air pressure the RPMS were about 15000, very quick. The Solar Aero looks very interesting & I hope it comes to market.


kiwi
Gadgeteer
matthew.rings,
That\'s not a centrifugal turbine. First, if you look at what you assume are blades, they\'re pointed in the wrong direction -- inward, not outward. Second, if you go read the patent at uspto.gov, you can see that the air flows from the right in this drawing and through the airfoil-shaped spacers which you believe are blades. Once through the short spacers, they pass over the disks to the central opening and out through the exhaust on the left. Still a bad design that I don\'t think will work. The patent files are full of \"innovative\" wind turbine designs that have never panned out. Their functional problems are obvious, but again, the patent examiner\'s job is not to decide whether an invention will work, just whether it\'s novel and unobvious.
jimbo,
Research in the 1970s and 1980s showed that concentrator intake ducts don\'t really work. Wind just backs up and goes around them. Diffuser exhaust ducts work much better.
Acuma
I am sure as with all mechanical devices there are drawbacks. If this turbine is based on a Tesla model it has a good chance of working. Tesla was an absolute genius, hundreds of things that exist today are here only because of Tesla. One man did change the world, maybe this one can also. Good luck to his and his turbine.
Gadgeteer
If this has a good chance of working, why hasn\'t the Tesla steam turbine taken over in the nearly 100 years it\'s been around? Tesla had some good ideas. He also had some bad ones. Nobody\'s perfect. Remember the words of another inventive genius, one Thomas Edison. When asked about all his failed experiments (before he was able to make a working light bulb), he said, \"Results? Why, I have plenty of results. I know of 10,000 things that will not work!\" Edison was well aware that he didn\'t know everything.
TypeDr
Wonder if this can be grid-tied, like solar?