Environment

Folding turbine makes smartphone charging in the wild a breeze

Folding turbine makes smartpho...
The Micro Wind Turbine is designed for ease-of-use portability
The Micro Wind Turbine is designed for ease-of-use portability
View 13 Images
The Micro Wind Turbine is designed for ease-of-use portability
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The Micro Wind Turbine is designed for ease-of-use portability
The turbine can be erected in a matter of seconds
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The turbine can be erected in a matter of seconds
It is based on the principles of tension and compression
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It is based on the principles of tension and compression
it is erected by pulling on the telescopic shaft
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it is erected by pulling on the telescopic shaft
The shape of the vertical axis rotor is said to be based on that of an optimized Savonius turbine
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The shape of the vertical axis rotor is said to be based on that of an optimized Savonius turbine
The turbine weighs less than 1 kg (2.2 lb)
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The turbine weighs less than 1 kg (2.2 lb)
The turbine can reportedly produce a constant output of 5 watts at a wind-speed of 18 km/h (11 mph)
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The turbine can reportedly produce a constant output of 5 watts at a wind-speed of 18 km/h (11 mph)
The energy produced can be used to charge devices directly via a USB output
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The energy produced can be used to charge devices directly via a USB output
A series of digital and physical models were made during the design stage of the prototype
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A series of digital and physical models were made during the design stage of the prototype
Stability, different folding mechanisms and performance in different wind conditions were all tested
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Stability, different folding mechanisms and performance in different wind conditions were all tested
The turbine can work in a wide range of wind speeds, as well as in unsteady and gusty winds
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The turbine can work in a wide range of wind speeds, as well as in unsteady and gusty winds
Any excess power produced can be stored in an integrated 24-Wh battery pack
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Any excess power produced can be stored in an integrated 24-Wh battery pack
The turbine has a standard USB output
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The turbine has a standard USB output

Solar chargers are one means of keeping a smartphone charged when in remote locations, but they're dependant on hours of daylight and sunlight intensity. Portable turbines are an alternative and product designer Nils Ferber has created one he says is more portable and effective than any other.

The idea for the Micro Wind Turbine came about in March this year as a result of Ferber finding that his smartphone would routinely lose charge on long treks. He turned to a number of mountaineers, climbers, film-makers and expedition leaders for advice and found that solar chargers were the overwhelmingly popular solution, but that their sunlight dependency was considered a serious shortcoming.

His suggestion of a wind turbine is said to have been well received, but weight, pack-size and ease-of-use were flagged up as key factors that would affect uptake. Portable wind turbine device chargers, like the Trinity, do already exist, but Ferber says there are none of a similar scale that are commercially available, as well as adequately simple, portable and effective. As such, he went about creating one that would meet all these requirements as the graduation project for his Master's course of product design at the École cantonale d'art Lausanne (ECAL).

A series of digital and physical models were made to test stability, different folding mechanisms and performance in various wind conditions. Different generators were also tested, with voltage converters, a battery pack and a circuit board to manage incoming and outgoing loads all added to complete the required electronics.

A series of digital and physical models were made during the design stage of the prototype
A series of digital and physical models were made during the design stage of the prototype

All this came together in a prototype completed in June that weighs less than 1 kg (2.2 lb), which Ferber believes is 40 percent lighter that the closest competitor. Based on tension and compression, it is able to be erected in a matter of seconds by pulling on the telescopic shaft and securing it in place with guide ropes. Crucially, unlike a solar charger, it can operate both during the day and at night ... if there's a sufficient breeze.

The shape of the vertical axis rotor is said to be based on that of an optimized Savonius turbine, with a vertical, shaft-mounted cylinder design. This, says Ferber, allows the turbine sails to catch wind from all directions and allows it to work in a wide range of wind speeds, as well as in unsteady and gusty winds.

High output, even at low wind speeds, is said to be made possible by using a larger rotor than competitors and by mounting it directly on the generator shaft to minimize energy loss through both friction and mechanical transmission.

The turbine has a standard USB output
The turbine has a standard USB output

Power output obviously varies depending on wind-speed, but the turbine can reportedly produce a constant output of 5 watts if the wind is blowing at 18 km/h (11 mph). The energy harvested can either be used to charge devices directly via a USB output or can be stored in an integrated 24-Wh battery pack.

At the wind-speed given above, the generator is claimed to produce enough power to maintain the load of the battery pack while also charging a USB device.

Ferber says the simple design of the turbine means that it can be manufactured at a very low cost and that it could be easily adapted for varying scenarios or for communal use.

Partners are currently being sought to develop the concept further and to commercialize the turbine. The prototype is set to be exhibited at this year's Dubai Design Week from October 24.

The video below shows the Micro Wind Turbine in use.

Source: Nils Ferber


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9 comments
swaan
Ok if you can carry around 1kg you might as well get a flexible solar panel that will yield more than 5W even on an overcast day. Just like there is no sunshine at night, there can be periods without that 18kmh/11mph wind and a powerbank is required for both cases. It des look nice but solar is getting harder and harder to beat.
AlexBotkin
The Trinity has already come under suspicion. http://icelandmag.visir.is/article/icelandic-brothers-suspected-raising-350000-usd-fraudulent-kickstarter-campaigns Lets hope this one isn't a bust too.
attoman
If you are in the wilderness there is no signal, the smart phone goes stupid. So the rig might be useful for recharging lamps or rescue beacons. However one good fall or mishap and the plastic fantastic would be trash.
wle
5 watts? a 1 sq ft solar panel can do that . easy, cheap, small, light. what do you do with this thing when there is no wind? same problem as solar. wle
Tanstar
swaan, I would assume this is for people who will be on the move all day and need something to charge at night.
VincentBrennan
Would have worked great in the 40 some years camping in the Mojave Desert. Lack of wind was NEVER a problem there. It might get calm in the heat of mid day but it was windy 80% of the time. I know because I chased awnings, EZ Ups and maps across that place too many times!! I can see how different places might be better for differing forms of generation. This thing would be great for all night generation for LED camp lanterns and such. Being that we only camped out of our vehicles (for me it was a Baja Bug at times and 1971 Ford van other times. Because of this it would have been easy to use solar AND wind because even in the little Type 1 VW Baja Bug there was always enough room for something like this kit or a 1 square foot panel. Back in those early days there were no phones and even an LED flashlight was a real eye opener when they came along. When we camped in groups with even a motor home or two (that was cheating I thought back then) you would have been kicked out of camp if you fired up a noisy gas generator for more than a few minutes. We did not go into the middle of the desert mountains to listen to that crap. For me even the old liquid fueled Coleman lanterns were too noisy. One of these at each vehicle would have been very nice indeed!
Lumen
I agree with Vincent. It makes sense, and is lightweight. If trekking in remote locations, why not have more than one power source? If this wind turbine and a solar option for devices are both lightweight enough, why not have both? Cover your bases for multiple conditions, and be prepared.
swaan
@Tanstar You can attach a foldable or rollable solar panel on your backpack when on the move. There are some cases where wind is usable - polar night for example. Pound for pound and dollar for dollar - it is better to get a solar panel and a power bank for the nights and rainy days.
mhenriday
Intriguing device ; as I recall from my days trekking in the mountains, lack of wind was never a problem, while sunlight varied a great deal. Any idea what this little turbine might cost, if and when it comes into production ?...