Bored with your plain old ceiling fan, with its old school, conservative straight blades? Perhaps what you need is the Ribbon. A one-off exercise from Australian industrial designer Ben McMahon, the Ribbon not only looks radically different than traditional fans, but is also claimed to be much more effective at air circulation. The designer obviously believes his invention has potential, as he has entered it in this year’s James Dyson Awards.

The design is based on a three-dimensional helical loop, which adds stability and increases air flow, according to McMahon. On a traditional axial fan, he states, the most effective part of a blade is the section closest to the end. His fan, essentially, is all end. Because the blade is the only non-traditional part of the Ribbon, it could be mounted on existing fan motors, thus reducing production costs and technical challenges.

To establish the optimum blade curvature, McMahon ran trials with scale models, full-size test fans, and CFD (computational fluid dynamics) simulations. He eventually ended up with a design that created a vortex, dispersing the air throughout the room. By contrast, he observed that traditional fans tended to direct the air into more of a focused plume, directly beneath themselves.

Of course, with any funny-looking product of industrial design, aesthetics count at least as much as function. McMahon says that once in motion, the Ribbon's blade blurs into a singular whirling loop of color, and gives “the impression of a hovering unsuspended form rotating around a static central hub.” That sounds, and presumably feels, pretty cool.

View gallery - 6 images