Energy

Quivering strips provide wind power where turbines cannot

A demo of the prototype device – note the magnetic pipe passing through the induction coils at the bottom of the strips
A demo of the prototype device – note the magnetic pipe passing through the induction coils at the bottom of the strips
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A demo of the prototype device – note the magnetic pipe passing through the induction coils at the bottom of the strips
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A demo of the prototype device – note the magnetic pipe passing through the induction coils at the bottom of the strips
An early version of the system, known as the Flutter Mallard
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An early version of the system, known as the Flutter Mallard

Back in 2014, US Army engineers Charles Marsh and Carl Feickert envisioned a wind-power system inspired by Venetian blinds fluttering in an open window. They have since teamed up with eight colleagues, creating a system that generates power in breezes that are too light to turn the blades of a traditional wind turbine.

The prototype device features eight flexible "elastic tension gradient" strips that are a mounted vertically in a row, and that are attached to PVC tubes at the top and bottom. Those tubes can be twisted to adjust the tension of the strips.

Angled so that they're parallel to the direction of wind flow, the strips wiggle snake-like in breezes blowing as slow as less than 9 mph (14 km/h). As they do so, a copper induction coil at the bottom of each strip moves back and forth along a smooth magnet-filled pipe that passes through it horizontally. The motion of the coil against the magnets creates an electrical current, which is carried by wiring within the pipe to a power converter. From there, it can be used to power devices, or to charge batteries.

According to TechLink, the Department of Defense's technology transfer intermediary, the system could not only be used by troops in the field, but it could also be scaled up to provide power to communities in regions that typically don't get strong winds. And as a side benefit, because the setup doesn't have turbine-style blades that are turning through the air, it shouldn't harm birds or bats.

TechLink is now looking for a business (on behalf of the Army) that's interesting in manufacturing, using or selling the system. In the meantime, the prototype can be seen in action, in the video below.

Source: TechLink

New Generator Can Create Power with a Light Breeze

13 comments
Username
It would be nice to know what size device generates what amount of power.
Grunchy
That's a clever idea, hopefully it makes enough power to be worthwhile.
toyhouse
Fascinating concept but some of us can't stand the sound of fluttering blinds. It would drive me nuts. Hopefully, they've got a work-around. Can't really tell from the vid as it's another one with music as the sound track.
highlandboy
Magnetic induction (inducing an electric current) produces a resistance to movement. So while this device may produce current in a low wind situation there is likely to be little produced.
Daishi
You can still spin a turbine under 9 MPH you just can't spin one that makes very much power. You could probably power a couple LED's with this maybe but it's doubtful that it produces very much power. Wind power requires being built to full (industrial) scale before it makes any sense. This has held true for so long against so many designs that the burden of proof is on anyone making a micro turbine.
DFrancis
Given that greatest displacement of the vanes occurs towards the middle of their length, would it not be more efficient to have the induction coils and magnet pipe located there instead of at an end.
TechGazer
There have long been 'new turbines' touted as 'capturing the energy in light winds'. The problem is that light winds just don't have much energy to capture. This latest device would certainly work for powering a really low power load, but is it going to be cheaper overall than a small solar panel or even disposable batteries? My guess is 'no'. It doesn't look like it has any protection from strong winds either, so figure replacement costs into that.
piperTom
It would help to know how much noise it makes (too).
sugamari
looks scaleable. artistic even.
Mr T
Was tried before several times, including by Humdinger Wind, now defunct by the look of it. These are too large, inefficient and expensive per watt generated, just not worth the effort. Solar panels are always simpler, cheaper more reliable and produce more energy per unit cost than small wind machines, regardless of design.