A micro wind turbine – designed to capture wind travelling in any direction – could soon well be hanging off the sides of high-rise buildings or balconies in cities, transforming how consumers in urban areas generate electricity.
Nicholas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani, two masters students at Lancaster University, have won the international James Dyson Award for their O-Wind Turbine – a sphere with geometric vents that spins when hit by wind from any angle, driving a generator.
The pair see it as becoming an urban alternative to wind turbines – designed for built-up areas where wind speed is typically high.
O-Wind Turbine is a 25cm sphere with geometric vents; it sits on a fixed axis and spins when wind hits it from any direction. When wind energy turns the device, gears drive a generator which converts the power of the wind into electricity. This can either be used as a direct source of power, or it can be fed into the electricity grid.
Unlike other turbines on the market, the O-Wind is able to capture winds from all directions. Because traditional wind turbines only capture wind travelling in one direction, this means they are inefficient in cities where the wind is unpredictable and multi-directional.
When wind blows through cities it becomes trapped between buildings, is dragged down to the street and is pushed up into the sky. This catapults wind into chaos causing it to flow in many directions, which renders conventional turbines unusable. Using a simple geometric shape, O-Wind Turbine is designed to utilise this powerful untapped resource.
Chilean-born Nicolas Orellana first became interested in the challenge of multidirectional wind after studying NASA’s Mars Tumbleweed rover. Six feet in diameter, this inflatable ball was designed to autonomously bounce and roll like tumbleweed, across Mars’ surface to measure atmospheric conditions. Like conventional wind turbines, it was powered by unidirectional wind which severely impaired the rover’s mobility when faced with obstructions, often throwing it off course and resulting, ultimately, in the failure of the project.
By exploring the limitations of the Tumbleweed, the scientist’s three-dimensional wind turbine technology was born. Nicolas Orellana and his fellow student Yaseen Noorani soon identified how this technology could be used to harness wind energy to produce electricity.
Nicolas Orellana said: “We hope that O-Wind Turbine will improve the usability and affordability of turbines for people across the world. Cities are windy places but we are currently not harnessing this resource. Our belief is that making it easier to generate green energy, people will be encouraged to play a bigger own role in conserving our planet.
“Winning the international James Dyson Award has validated our concept. The attention we’ve received so far has been humbling and given us the confidence to see the development of this concept as a future career. Already we are in discussions with investors and we hope to secure a deal in the coming months.”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea