Quivering strips provide wind power where turbines cannot
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.