An invention capable of transforming the way of using energy of those who live in big cities has just received the Dyson Award 2018 - one of the world’s biggest Engineering Innovations awards. It's an in-home wind turbine called O-Wind, developed by the students Yaseen Noorani and Nicolas Orellana, from Lancaster University, in England. This invention can generate energy from winds blowing from all directions, such as the erratic urban winds, due to the topography and specificities of the city.
"At the moment, the focus is to improve the design, identify the best materials to use and adjust the size of the turbine. Having the James Dyson award makes it possible to have support and investment," both inventors said to Dezeen magazine when questioned about the Dyson Award 2018.
According to the James Dyson Award's staff, the initiative celebrates, encourages, and inspires the next generations of project engineers. It is open to Design and Engineering students, and it's managed by the James Dyson Foundation, which runs it to support and encourage young talents.
How does the O-wind turbine work?
It's been a while since NASA, the North-American spatial agency, started studying the concept of wind-powered balls. The agency has been working with this concept to create a wind-powered vehicle to explore the surface of Mars. However, the wind blowing from different directions was still a huge barrier to the project. A prototype tested in the Atacama Desert, in Chile, was a good testing ground for the concept, but the project didn't advance any further. The idea was recently brought back by the development staff of O-Wind.
A regular wind turbine needs to be installed on a tall tower, and it only uses the wind blowing from one direction. On the other hand, the O-Wind turbine is portable – it has about 25 centimeters (9,8 inches) in diameter - and uses the wind blowing from all directions, even from the top to the bottom and vice-versa.
Yaseen Noorani believes that engineering can change lives by helping people to solve daily issues. In an urban area full of buildings and obstacles, the wind tends to blow in an erratic manner. "The turbines are usually viable in open spaces. This one is ideal to places where it doesn't matter where the wind is coming from. The turbine is moving in the same axis and direction."
The sphere has geometric spots around a fixed axis that rotates when the wind reaches it. When the Aeolic power rotates the device, the gears of the turbine activate a generator that transforms the Aeolic power into electricity, which can be used to power a local system or can be sent to a switchyard. "It allows people to generate energy in their own apartments," says Nicolas Orellana.
More experiments and prototypes will be made to optimize the performance of O-Wind. This technology can also be used to develop other alternatives related to the on- and off-grid distribution network to the urban market and to ships and other independent applications in different sizes. Another possible use is the generation of energy from the waves, since the flow of the ocean, too, is chaotic, mainly on the coast.
Published 16 January 2018