Environment

EWICON bladeless wind turbine generates electricity using charged water droplets

EWICON bladeless wind turbine ...
Dutch researchers have developed the EWICON, a bladeless windmill with no moving parts that produces electricity by pushing charged water droplets into the wind
Dutch researchers have developed the EWICON, a bladeless windmill with no moving parts that produces electricity by pushing charged water droplets into the wind
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The designers of the EWICON windmill incorporated it into the sign on top of the Stadstimmerhuis 010 building in Rotterdam
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The designers of the EWICON windmill incorporated it into the sign on top of the Stadstimmerhuis 010 building in Rotterdam
Dutch researchers have developed the EWICON, a bladeless windmill with no moving parts that produces electricity by pushing charged water droplets into the wind
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Dutch researchers have developed the EWICON, a bladeless windmill with no moving parts that produces electricity by pushing charged water droplets into the wind

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.

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.

The designers of the EWICON windmill incorporated it into the sign on top of the Stadstimmerhuis 010 building in Rotterdam
The designers of the EWICON windmill incorporated it into the sign on top of the Stadstimmerhuis 010 building in Rotterdam

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.

Sources: Mecanoo, Delft Technical University

Windenergy convertor EWICON animation, TU Delft

24 comments
Adrien
it's a bit light on how it works.
where do the charged particles come from.
how is bleeding charged particles going to give you a nett energy gain?
what happens when you run out of water? Wouldn't it be more efficient to just run an open tap through a turbine?
Alien
Great idea and it should be inexpensive to produce and maintain these units - but how efficient are they? The article makes no mention of power output or indeed power input. Surely we need some economic data before being able to judge the efficacity of this concept. If it's really viable one can foresee many applications...and hopefully less or those dreadful turbines.
More info please!
Slowburn
Assuming that it works. (I'm doubtful) How much water is used per Watt generated?
RandomNinja
This is a variation on the "Kelvin water dropper" electrostatic generator. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelvin_water_dropper In Kevin's design the gravitational potential energy of the water is providing the energy. In this system wind is providing some energy, but some still comes from gravity since the water drops are still falling.
This design would use a LOT of water unless they had a system set up to recycle the water and pump it back up. However, the place where the water lands is an electrical contact that collects charge, so having a pipe moving this water back to the top would short out the system. There is probably a solution to this though.
If the Kelvin water dropper was at all efficient we could have been using it as a hydroelectric generator all along instead of the mechanical system we use now. I get the feeling someone was impressed with the Kelvin design and said "What if we make it sideways?!?!", and are researching it not because it has any serious shot of being useful but because they wanted to play with it.
Richard Lachmann
Sooo basically if I touch this, I get fried ... right? Perfect for urban settings ... especially up to the moment some kid in the park touches one.
Jim Sadler
How much energy does it take to lift the water before it is dropped? The output may be trivial compared to the investment in energy and the water used. I suppose one could use a traditional wind mill to lift the water. I would also expect that a tall building would add energy to the falling water or perhaps allow these units to be stacked serially so that the water gives off charge more than once in a single fall. Air conditioning water towers already cascade water in order to dispense heat created by the chiller motors. Perhaps this could be combined with an AC water tower as the energy of lifting the water and expense of evaporation are already in play. The electrical charges might even help with the ever present algae issue in the towers.
techmanmacho
Seriously? This sounds like using an onboard electric fan to push a sail boat!
So where does the energy come from to charge the particles? Where does the water come from? Who pays for both the water and the energy this system needs to generate the electricity?....
Kwazai
Wouldn't a very large constantan-tin connection be just as effective. Or maybe a very large sheet of zinc buried underground(cold) and carbon above ground(hot)?
BillSF
@techmanmacho:
It's been a long time (15+ years), but it seems like your example was covered in my statics class and it does actually work, it just isn't very efficient. I believe it was something like the air bouncing off the sail produces double for the force, so you end up with 2 vectors going forward, 1 going back. The rare occasion that someone actually survives a parachute malfunction is usually because they land in mud or something similar. They stick (and because mud is soft it slightly increases the time it takes you to slow down, further reducing the force). Bouncing off pavement, hard earth, water (hard at 150 mph anyway) doubles the force.
zevulon
this is clearly awesome and will be super useful for something, i'm not sure what that something is, but it's certainly NOT going to ever be useful for creating commercial scale, or even home scale energy for consumption by powerhungry appliances.