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Microwind Generator For Low Power Systems

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the welcome-to-sunday dept.

Power 243

An anonymous reader wrote in to say that "Shawn Frayne, has developed Windbelt, efficient, cheap lowpower wind generator built out of taut kite fabric." Everyone has seen the video where the suspension bridge is ripped apart by wind- his idea was to use the same thing to generate power. I doubt I'll be running my desktop off it any time soon, but it's a cool idea.

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243 comments

Macro wind power: Kite Gen (4, Interesting)

Sub Zero 992 (947972) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973099)

And now for a really interesting renewable energy concept: kite gen [kitegen.com] . Would have made Newton smile :)

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (2, Informative)

Futile Rhetoric (1105323) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973265)

It's an interesting concept, but it also seems utterly impractical to me. Kilometer-long lines zipping around at high speeds would mean that no aircraft can pass through the area under 1000m, it'll wreak havoc on any birds passing through, and it seems to me that if you're going to have several of these, they'll need to be far enough apart to keep the lines from getting entangled -- which of course means a drastic increase in the required area for the windfarm. And yes, I know of course that normal wind turbines aren't exactly bird-friendly either, but at least they don't reach to the same heights.

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (1, Interesting)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973451)

Didn't read the article, did we? Come on, admit it.

The device is specifically aimed at powering very low power devices in poor and developing countries -- radios, (very) low wattage lights, etc. The generators are projected to be relatively small and the illustration seems to show one hung on the side of a building. The major point is that conventional turbines are inefficient at very low power levels because of frictional losses whereas these windscreens are projected to be an order of magnitude or more better (10-30x according to the article).

You're correct, the device might not scale up to windfarm scale although it's hard to see it as more of a hazard to birds and aircraft than a rotating blade. I have my doubts that a big windscreen will be as efficient at the high end as a turbine, but that's just a guess.

Anyway, it looks to be a cute idea, and I hope it works out.

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20973529)

Didn't read the linked web page, did we? Come on, admit it.
Seems to me vtcodger was not commenting on the article at all, but on the technology mentioned in SubZero992's post.

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973949)

Oops I see the point. Took a while because you have it slightly backwards. I was commenting on the original slashdot article at http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/industry/4224763.html?series=37. I didn't understand that the post I was responding to was talking about the technology in SubZero992's post. My fault, I should have figured that out.

Now that I understand that, I agree pretty much. It's possible that the kites wouldn't be a menace to birds -- probably depends on how fast they move. Birds manage not to get whacked by wind blown tree branches, but there are presumably limits on their ability to identify things that might hit them. Birds are not noted for their advanced intelligence. It's hard to believe that the cables wouldn't be a menace to aircraft. Presumably air traffic at lower altitudes could be restricted in their vicinity. But I still wouldn't want to be in an aircraft flying at night or in a cloud anywhere near those things.

Maybe there are some places on the planet that have reasonably reliable wind, no air traffic, no mountains suitable for putting conventional turbines on, and where it's possible to get the power generated to where people live without undue expense. But offhand, I can't think of many.

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (1)

Belacgod (1103921) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974313)

Here's a question I'd like to see answered: Are birds getting better at avoiding hazards? If we put up loads of windmills, will that lead over evolutionary time to smarter birds?

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (2, Funny)

Futile Rhetoric (1105323) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973543)

Oh boy.

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973359)

What happens to the kite when it's not windy? Someone would have to drive up to the plant and relaunch the kite. : /

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (1)

ThinkOfaNumber (836424) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973449)

I find it hard to see how this "kite" technology works. At such a height, any movement from the air foil would be diminished to a few degrees or less at the generator on the ground.

Also, From the blurb, "the holding structure grows exponentially heavier, more unstable and above all more expensive with the height." Actually the larger the tower and therefore the larger the rated capacity means the price per kWh gets cheaper, not more expensive. That's why wind turbines are getting ever larger.

And finally "... a wind turbine, whose most efficient part are the wing tips - in red - where the highest speeds are reached". The power you can harvest from the wind is not purely related to the tip speed, but rather to the "swept area". The power is not even related to the number of blades, just the area. So the blue circle is not representative of the power output of a turbine.

The tips have a maximum speed of course above which turbulence starts to work against the blade.

But give it a go - lets see one in action. When they start producing more power for a lower cost, then we'll start using them!

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20973865)

Well, since immigrant labor is so inexpensive, the sensible practice will be to have low-cost Kite Maintenance Engineers onsite to restart the kites. Plus, when they're not running across a field towing a kite, they can mount bicycles with generators and pedal away. Since speaking English is not a necessity, this opens the labor market to anyone. Any VC who wishes to fund this magnificent idea, please contact me at: BrooklynBridgeForSale.com.

Posted as AC because some idiot might actually take me seriously.

-- C. Fiorina

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (3, Insightful)

StarfishOne (756076) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973691)

They are certainly not the only ones doing pioneering work in this field:

Laddermill from the Technical University of Delft is also working on it for a number of years now:
http://www.lr.tudelft.nl/live/pagina.jsp?id=8d16d19a-e942-45aa-9b52-48deb9312e92&lang=en [tudelft.nl]

Publications:
http://www.tudelft.nl/live/pagina.jsp?id=fe263f84-29af-4010-8222-2f1112c8f223&lang=en [tudelft.nl]

The more alternatives for environmentally friendly energy sources the better! :)

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (2, Interesting)

lostsatellite82 (1153629) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973813)

I like the idea, it's nifty but I see at least one major flaw in it.

This would cause a circle of death above the power plant. Nothing could fly there (birds, planes, etc.) without getting chopped to pieces by extremely high speed wires flying about. I know some people who have experience with wind farms and they always mention the problems with birds - and yes, I've heard the statistics on these numbers but look a little closer and with a grain of salt - so uncontrolled, high speed wires in my opinion are far less green than modern coal plants.

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (2, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974019)

Traditional wind farms (using wind turbines) are apparently not much of a problem for birds. I recall a study done years ago in The Netherlands, where some environmental protection group wanted to see how much damage the wind turbines were doing. The startling result: nearly nil! The explanaition: birds will not fly into the turbines because they are warned by the noise.

Now how that would hold up with the kites I don't know. My only experience is with kiting at the beach: we could sometimes see seagulls make sudden movements to avoid our line. I don't think they can see it, possibly they can hear it. I've never had a seagull or other bird actually hit my line when kiting.

Wouter.

Re:Macro wind power: Kite Gen (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974199)

I don't know about less green that coal but I agree it would be like a kilometer high razor netting. Modern windmills OTOH are not a problem to birds any more than tall buildings are, (hint: big blades move slow).

Wow (0, Redundant)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973109)

I think these would sell.

Running Suit? (1)

jflo (1151079) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973127)

Could jogging appearal be made for the tin foil cap people?

Sub-100W generators are very interesting... (4, Informative)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973133)

...but it is not at all clear what their efficiency or $/Watt or manufacturing cost will be. Although absolute efficiency is maybe not critical for many applications given that the wind is free, cost is important in, for example, third-world deployments.

See the discussion here for example: http://www.fieldlines.com/story/2007/10/13/9445/4984 [fieldlines.com]

Much as I'm intrigued by this let's not get into perpetual motion machines nor "beating Betz" just yet! In particular the "30x as efficient as the best microturbines" claim in TFA is particularly suspect: I have a VAWT made from a cardboard cereal packet in my back garden that probably extracts 10% of the available energy.

Rgds

Damon

Re:Sub-100W generators are very interesting... (2, Interesting)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973189)

Are you kidding? I could build one of those! Well, maybe. Anyways the cost is magnitudes different from what I saw, and it looks to be user-repairable. Probably doesn't kill birds, either. Regarding the claimed efficiencies, I am not a scientist, but I learned from Tesla that efficiency increases with frequency. That thing was humming.

Re:Sub-100W generators are very interesting... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973807)

... but I learned from Tesla that efficiency increases with frequency.

So that just means that if we can make it run on microwaves we'll be in great shape.

Re:Sub-100W generators are very interesting... (4, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974059)

I'll steer clear of the efficiency claims, but the cost would definitely be a bargain.

All thing else being considered equal, compare a modern turbine:
-Mast
-At least two (Usually three) airfoil blades (engineered composite materials)
-Gearbox (fairly complex device)
-Generator head (fairly complex device)

To this thing:
-Mast with gap in middle
-Length of strong, flexible material (metal, plastic)
-Permanent magnet
-Coils of wire

That's dead simple and could probably be supplied in kit form and assembled with absolutely minimum tools... like nothing but a large hex wrench.
=Smidge=

Re:Sub-100W generators are very interesting... (1)

MyNymWasTaken (879908) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974167)

The claim is not "30x as efficient as the best microturbines" as all speeds, but at the low speeds (10 mph) where energy loss to friction is paramount & some microturbines won't even spin up.

Doesn't matter -- this thing works at night (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20974243)

RTFA. This thing is for lighting LED lights at night. The efficiency of the solar panel at night is probably 0. Or is it infinite? Either way, no juice unless there's sun.

Fundraiser application. (0, Troll)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973137)

OK, hear me out.

You set up a challenge for some charity, everyone pays an entry fee or a slightly overpriced beer. Now, as they drink, when ever they have to fart or belch, they do it in the direction of the generator. Who ever generates the most electricity WINS!

Huh!? What d'ya think?

Re:Fundraiser application. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973663)

Huh!? What d'ya think?

      Great, provided we can store the energy and use it to electrocute the winner. In the name of preventing global warming, of course.

Nah, this is dumb (0, Flamebait)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973153)

At least for the 3rd or developing world. Look. They barely have roads and running water. LEDs, mylar are top of the pyramid technical feats.

For niche markets in the developed world though it could be interesting.
 

Re:Nah, this is dumb (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973259)

Exactly. It's a good thing to ship these to our struggling bros, but I'm installing an ARRAY in my backyard. Here in the armpit of the San Joaquin delta, the wind is very adequate and reliable.

Re:Nah, this is dumb (5, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973287)

Not too dumb. He was designing it for use in Haiti. While I suspect there are places where nothing is tenable, a thin ribbon under tension is a whole lot simpler and cheaper to manufacture and maintain than a rotating wind turbine. It doesn't have to be mylar, you could use scrap cloth, although mylar may last longer and be easier to keep under tension. LED's were for the demo. You could use the thing to run any light; or better yet charge a small battery so you have power on demand.

He made another good point in the article: If you break this you have something that a local can fix. If you break a solar panel, your stuck with a broken panel (which is trash). What he didn't mention is that this would run at night too, as opposed to a solar panel that only works during the day.

while I agree with another poster's comment that the 30x improvement in efficiency over a microturbine is probably not real, I think it's fairly interesting. Enough so that, since IAAAP (I am an applied physicist), I'm thinking about building one myself to get some numbers and see how well it scales. I know some people in Africa who might be interested in something like this...

Re:Nah, this is dumb (3, Insightful)

ezavada (91752) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973639)

What he didn't mention is that this would run at night too, as opposed to a solar panel that only works during the day.

Sure, but this will only run when there is wind. In any case you are going to need some kind of energy storage, whether batteries for small scale use, or pumped water for larger scale.

With a small scale system like this, you could also combine it with solar panels and a battery and get luggable power generation that would work in most places.

I'm thinking about building one myself to get some numbers and see how well it scales

Cool! I'm sure a lot of people would love to see a project page for a DIY wind generator of this sort!

Re:Nah, this is dumb (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973653)

This has actually given me an idea to see if the same basic principle can be applied to a denser medium, ie water.

Re:Nah, this is dumb (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974107)

I'm thinking about building one myself to get some numbers and see how well it scales. I know some people in Africa who might be interested in something like this...
It WAS made in America. Make sure it hasn't been patented first.

'Taught' material? (4, Insightful)

Alicat1194 (970019) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973155)

What did they teach it? Um, Editors, I think the word you're looking for is 'taut'.

Re:'Taught' material? (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973303)

Hey, at least they didn't weave [slashdot.org] the kite...

Re:'Taught' material? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20973319)

What did they teach it?

Perhaps it was smart fabric [mit.edu] .

Noise issue (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20973159)

I recently was looking at microturbines for my urban house recently and decided it was a bad idea because of the noise they make when the wind isnt going fast and people are trying to sleep - woosh...woosh...woosh...woosh...

I wonder if this makes a noise. buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
I have decided to use these instead of microturbines and added a pivot and tail so it can turn with the wind direction, and put 20 up on my roof. Would be interesting to see how the buzz multiplies. Would I be living under a swarm of bees?

Units (4, Funny)

springbox (853816) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973169)

Everyone has seen the video where the suspension bridge is ripped apart by wind- his idea was to use the same thing to generate power.

So will the power output be measured in bridges per minute?

Re:Units (1)

jozeph78 (895503) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973541)

Everyone has seen the video where the suspension bridge is ripped apart by wind- his idea was to use the same thing to generate power.

So will the power output be measured in bridges per minute?
risque, shrill, rude... hilarious. Mod parent up funny, my dark soul requires it.

Re:Units (1)

LindaMack (1134133) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973585)

I am a power bridge, you insensitive clod!
Actually I think it was a funny comment - flamebait my hairy behind...

Prior Art, 1964 (2, Interesting)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973185)

(In fiction at least) The Subways Of Tazoo, Colin Kapp, 1964. [ansible.co.uk] In the story, it was strings rather than ribbons. The story involves an alien race that killed themselves by climate change. Tsk, what science-fiction twaddle!

Re:Prior Art, 1964 (1)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973879)

(In fiction at least) The Subways Of Tazoo, Colin Kapp, 1964. [ansible.co.uk] In the story, it was strings rather than ribbons. The story involves an alien race that killed themselves by climate change. Tsk, what science-fiction twaddle!
You laugh but if you've ever been in a subway you know that they certainly generate a lot of air as the trains travel.

I'm half wondering if you could either have these mounted in the tunnels to charge batteries for emergency power use OR mount them on electric trains themselves to create some sort of regenerative system.

Wouldn't be the first time Science Fiction has lead the way...

Re:Prior Art, 1964 (1)

FLEB (312391) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974311)

I'm out of my realm of experience here, but I'd think that mounting them on trains would just be converting the air drag that the devices themselves created. Now, as for wall mounting, there might be something there.

And how exactly does the science work? (1)

gihan_ripper (785510) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973199)

Could someone explain the science behind this? I remember from high school physics that the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was used as an example of forced resonance, but now I see from the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] that resonance has nothing to do with it, and that complicated aerodynamics come in to play. Are there any experts out there who could conjecture on how the Windbelt actually works and explain it in terms of the bridge collapse?

Re:And how exactly does the science work? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973637)

IT's a strap with a magnet glued on that vibrates in front of a length of copper wire. There's no magic, and the reference to the Tacoma Narrows bridge is just hype. Everyone knows that stuff moves in the wind. So if you cause a magnet to move in front of a wire, you will induce an e.m.f., which gives you voltage. The real science is probably how much tension you put in the strap, because you want it to move but not too much.

Re:And how exactly does the science work? (3, Informative)

ashitaka (27544) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974091)

The reference to the Tacoma Narrows bridge is very relevant. Galloping Gertie showed that even without hurricane-force winds a very heavy ribbon-shaped strip can me made to move in an extreme fashion due to mechanical resonance. Even a small strip would have the same kind of resonance so that large relative movement can be extracted from even light winds.

Haven't you ever made a blade of grass whistle between your thumbs?

Um, did you not read the article you linked to? (2, Informative)

SIIHP (1128921) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974205)

"but now I see from the Wikipedia article that resonance has nothing to do with it"

Did you read the whole article, because you seem to have missed this part,

"The wind-induced collapse occurred on November 7, 1940 at 11:00 AM(Pacific time), due partially to a physical phenomenon known as mechanical resonance."

Wrong solution (4, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973231)

I wonder why [some] westerners always come up with their pet projects and think these projects will solve third world problems. To the shown apparatus generates too little power to be of any use at all.

The only sure way to help countries of the third world is for countries like the US to open up their subsidized markets. The corn market in the US for example is subsidized to an extent of almost 10 billion dollars in 2005!

If third world countries got just half of that market, a lot of lives would be changed.

Re:Wrong solution (2, Interesting)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973295)

"The only sure way to help countries of the third world is for countries like the US to open up their subsidized markets. The corn market in the US for example is subsidized to an extent of almost 10 billion dollars in 2005!"

Subsidies are necessary, you're not thinking about how the world works. A country should never let a large proportion of it's food production all be outsourced. What happens in case of war or political/trade fallout? Yeah I thought so too. Whle free-market apologists will cry "protectionism" the US was BUILT by protectionists. They understood from gaining their independence that you need to have control over industries that are of strategic value in case of war/disagreement/embargo/etc.

Re:Wrong solution (2, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973309)

A country should never let a large proportion of it's food production all be outsourced. What happens in case of war or political/trade fallout?

Here is the problem: When the Australians, Japanese and Europeans do exactly that, the US screams "subsidies, subsidies, subsidies...", as if the US is any innocent.

Re:Wrong solution (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973411)

A country should never let a large proportion of it's food production all be outsourced. What happens in case of war or political/trade fallout?
Here is the problem: When the Australians, Japanese and Europeans do exactly that, the US screams "subsidies, subsidies, subsidies...", as if the US is any innocent.
The U.S. is the bigger market, therefore it can negotiate trade agreements that are in its favor. Chances are, the Australians want access to the U.S. market a lot more badly than the U.S. wants access to Australia's; therefore, the U.S. can keep its subsidies and make other nations get rid of theirs.

Life is not fair.

Re:Wrong solution (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973617)

The U.S. is the bigger market, therefore it can negotiate trade agreements that are in its favor.

      Not for long. Soon India and China will be the bigger markets. Their economies are growing at phenomenal rates, and will soon be able to afford more complex (and expensive) goods on an unprecedented scale: 3 billion people.

Re:Wrong solution (1)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973929)

So what? Seriously. Just because the US complains doesn't mean you have to actually *do* something about it you know...

Re:Wrong solution (1)

Futile Rhetoric (1105323) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973315)

Yeah, well, but, why can't we all just get along?

Re:Wrong solution (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973607)

Yeah, well, but, why can't we all just get along?

      Well we can, but first I require you remove your clothing and bend over.

Re:Wrong solution (1)

Futile Rhetoric (1105323) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973625)

What is this, the confessional booth all over again?

Re:Wrong solution (2, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973921)

No, I was just using metaphor to point out WHY we can't all get along. This world consists of those who want to fuck, and those who get fucked (even if they don't want to be). THAT is why we can't get along.

Re:Wrong solution (3, Insightful)

Belacgod (1103921) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974375)

Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, the world is "divided between wolves who do not understand, and sheep who cannot defend, the things which make life desirable."

Re:Wrong solution (2, Interesting)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973601)

The US was created as a rebellion against England's protectionism. The US grew in spite of , not because of, protectionism. Economic efficiency always demands using the least expensive of equivalent alternatives, and that means no protectionism.

Protected industries grew; their customers failed to grow because of the higher prices. The net effect was inferior to free trade.

Re:Wrong solution (1)

paulatz (744216) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973839)

Commons sense economics never works

Re:Wrong solution (4, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974405)

What you free trade types eternally fail to grasp is that people aren't nice, don't always play by the same rules, and frequently use their economies to damage each other. To me, it seems like you have a rose-colored world view that is simply not borne out by history and current events. Yes, competition is good, it keeps companies on their toes, and certainly excessive protectionism has negative consequences in that regard. No argument from me there. But you have to understand, the converse also has negative effects. That's especially true when dealing with a culture and economy such as China, which doesn't have the slightest conception of Western business ethic, and sees nothing wrong with eliminating the competition by any means whatsoever. Very efficient from their perspective, downright disastrous for us.

I have news for you: raw industrial efficiency is not the only measure of a successful economy. How a nation's economy provides for its people, long term, is an equally important metric. I would say, a far more important one. Throwing away domestic manufacturing in favor of cheap imports from inimical foreign powers is not a good way to serve the needs of your people. In fact, free trade, so far as the United States is concerned, is doing exactly the opposite. We are transferring massive amounts of money to China in exchange for cheap imports, while simultaneously losing the ability to provide for ourselves. What good are these customers of whom you speak, when there are no longer any American producers of those products? Explain to me how this is good, how it grows our economy?

The original poster in this thread was correct: if you have any sense of self-preservation whatsoever you protect your key industries. If you don't, and someone takes them away from you (as is happening with virtually every manufacturing sector in the United States today) you are vulnerable at every level. I'm not saying that means exclude all foreign competition, but it does mean that you make damn sure that foreign competition isn't allowed to operate in a predatory manner. Unfortunately for us, our government and corporate leaders sold us out for a song. Now, I don't know exactly what's going to happen over the next few years, but if what I read about American manufacturing being down to 1950's levels is even close to being true, we are in deep shit.

This is not a joke, this is not some philosophical issue with no real-world effects: when a major economy falls people get hurt. Ours is heading for a fall of Biblical proportions, and it's you Free Traders that will bear a significant responsibility for that event.

Re:Wrong solution (2, Insightful)

Angostura (703910) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973465)

I wonder why [some] westerners always come up with their pet projects and think these projects will solve third world problems.


  Because said Westerner knows that he can have little impact on international trade policy, but does have a potentially nifty, cheap approach to micro-generation? Don't let me stop you from looking that gift-horse in the mouth though.

Re:Wrong solution (1)

ThinkOfaNumber (836424) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973487)

If third world countries got just half of that market, a lot of lives would be changed.

won't somebody think of the children?

Re:Wrong solution (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20973535)

I like how you're faulting "western" inventors. Are you American by any chance? Or at least from a western nation yourself?

I've seen your kind of reaction turn up in the Slashdot discussions about the OLPC project. Here's a summary of what I see as being your argument:

"This is a waste of time -- a worthless solution -- because it doesn't provide the power and performance that I, as a westerner, demand from technology."

If that's an accurate summary, I have news for you: if you've spent a lifetime living on the edge of civilization, having a power source that can turn on a few LEDs at night or run a radio, or having a "worthless, underpowered laptop" can mean a real improvement in your life.

I'm sorry if this windbelt doesn't provide you with enough power to run your home's AC unit, your 62 inch plasma display, your 100+ halogen and assorted incandescent light bulbs, and that server room in your basement. The thing is, this solution isn't meant for you. I know that's hard to handle -- that someone might be thinking about people other than yourself -- but please try to accept that possibility. If you find that overly taxing, just crack open another beer and take your Hummer out for a drive to the gas station.

Believe it or not, there are people out there who can get by with a lot less than you, and for them, something like this will be a big deal.

Mod up! (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973689)

Hear, hear! Well said, AC.

-jcr

Re:Wrong solution (1)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973919)

I like how you're faulting "western" inventors. Are you American by any chance? Or at least from a western nation yourself?

I've seen your kind of reaction turn up in the Slashdot discussions about the OLPC project. Here's a summary of what I see as being your argument:

"This is a waste of time -- a worthless solution -- because it doesn't provide the power and performance that I, as a westerner, demand from technology."

If that's an accurate summary, I have news for you: if you've spent a lifetime living on the edge of civilization, having a power source that can turn on a few LEDs at night or run a radio, or having a "worthless, underpowered laptop" can mean a real improvement in your life.

I'm sorry if this windbelt doesn't provide you with enough power to run your home's AC unit, your 62 inch plasma display, your 100+ halogen and assorted incandescent light bulbs, and that server room in your basement. The thing is, this solution isn't meant for you. I know that's hard to handle -- that someone might be thinking about people other than yourself -- but please try to accept that possibility. If you find that overly taxing, just crack open another beer and take your Hummer out for a drive to the gas station.

Believe it or not, there are people out there who can get by with a lot less than you, and for them, something like this will be a big deal.


Even as a wasteful "Westerner" typing away on my MacBook I find this positively insightful!

Will someone mod parent up please?

So, there's only one "right" solution -- yours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20973561)

By that logic, helping any of the victims of Hurricane Katrina was obviously the wrong solution, since the right solution is telling them not to live in such a stupidly dangerous hurricane target in the first place.

Grow up. This isn't some situation where "the good is the enemy of the best" applies. Applying this solution to improve the quality of people's lives now won't have an effect one way or the other on whether your favored "magic bullet" solution is ever adopted.

Re:So, there's only one "right" solution -- yours? (1)

Belacgod (1103921) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974401)

This is some solution where the perfect is the enemy of the good. He's demanding we do nothing 'til the perfect shows up, because any resources plowed into the good are a waste.

You, and other posters, are right, however, that he's completely and utterly wrong.

Re:Wrong solution (2, Interesting)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973573)

I'm against corn subsidies but why is the solution to all the third world problems the gutting of US industries? The point is the Euro is stronger so why doesn't some one ever mention Europe opening up more to foreign markets? The US has exported a large percentage of it's industrial production and it's importing more food from foreign countries than ever before. The US produces more food than any other country in the world and generally countries want more food exports from the US not the other way around. The irony is if the US increased food imports from third world countries the complaint would be we were buying food that the country of origin needed. I've already heard this complaint about some crops. It's a no win argument but the US is an easy target and saying the US could do more doesn't get the rest of the first world off the hook. Most of the first world has subsidies. That was actually the biggest sticking point to creating the European Union was all the pet subsidies each country had.

Re:Wrong solution (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974121)

If I had mod points, I'd mod you up. As it is, I'll just say you are spot on. Oh, and for the record, people do pick on the EU. I know, I live there. And we're (that is, some people are) trying to cut the subsidies and import barriers and all those, but, as you can imagine, the people benefiting from them scream bloody murder every time. It's a huge mess. Such is politics.

"pet projects" eh? think early early prototypes! (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973577)

You are thinking too in the box when you think a pet project can't go and help third world countries. It all must start with a small idea first. How do you think the XO-laptop was developed? I'm sure it started with a really simple mockup prototype at the earliest stages, a "pet project".



It all starts with some dude tinkering in his garage, in his office playing with components. Then you go to the engineering/R and D level which applies the PRINCIPLES of the pet project onto a larger scale. Not the same little toy, but the same concepts shown in the toy. Once a device has been built that captures the same principles at a much larger level, it then can be sent to third world countries. Solar panels started out as a "pet project" in some scientist's lab in the middle of the 20th century. They're now being sent all around third world countries to run water pumps to help villages get water, run Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayas, etc...

Re:Wrong solution (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973587)

I wonder why [some] westerners always come up with their pet projects and think these projects will solve third world problems.

      Because the West (and more recently Japan) have clearly demonstrated themselves to be innovators.

Re:Wrong solution (2, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973703)

The only sure way to help countries of the third world is for countries like the US to open up their subsidized markets.

That's not the biggest problem that most of the third world has, not by a long shot. Sure, they'd benefit even more than we would if our tax money wasn't spent on keeping farmers growing more of a given crop than the market wants them to, but the biggest drag on any third world country today is the local kleptocrats who hand out monopolies to their cronies, and use aid money to buy weapons.

-jcr

Re:Wrong solution (1)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973977)

I wonder why [some] westerners always come up with their pet projects and think these projects will solve third world problems.

Becuase most of the innovation in third world nations takes the form of "new ways to commit genocide?"

Re:Wrong solution (1)

x1n933k (966581) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974229)

Well, you have a point but there are a few things I'd like to point out that's wrong with that statement.

First off, if you watch the video he's explaining what is needed and that the approach the problem of smaller generators is that companies would make a turbine smaller which, is foolish because of the costs and repair to these very small parts, so, his idea was this and thus he built a prototype.

His demonstration shows him powering LEDs and a clock on only one of these devices. If we read the article under the video we find the information your looking for:

Frayne's device, which he calls a Windbelt, is a taut membrane fitted with a pair of magnets that oscillate between metal coils. Prototypes have generated 40 milliwatts in 10-mph slivers of wind, making his device 10 to 30 times as efficient as the best microturbines. Frayne envisions the Windbelt costing a few dollars and replacing kerosene lamps in Haitian homes.

He also says in the video this invention isn't about just changing 3rd world areas but can ultimately help everyone. His way to get his idea known is to submit it to this project contest, wouldn't you be doing the same?

[J]

We've been doing this for years. ;-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20973237)

Instead of blowing wind, we've been vibrating strings by plucking them with our fingers. This is how our electric guitars work.

One problem that I see is that the current generated is AC. It has to be converted to DC to be useful. That means we need rectifiers with very low forward voltage drop because there won't be much voltage from the generator. Because the generator is producing AC and the generators probably can't be synchronized, you won't be able to hook them up in series to get more voltage. In order for this invention to be useful, some work is still required.

Re:We've been doing this for years. ;-) (2, Interesting)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973701)

TFA shows LEDs lit by a single generator. Output voltage is proportional to (magnet strength) times (magnet velocity) times (number of turns in the coil). Pick your output voltage and build accordingly.

My guess is that generators in series can't easily be synchronized, but generators in parallel would tend to self-synchonize (assuming near-identical construction and side-by-side location).

A bit more detail (4, Informative)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973241)

Mod parent up (1)

Woldry (928749) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973433)

"Flamebait"? This should be "Informative".

Some new materials tech here ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973279)

From the summary: taught kite fabric.

Must be some kind of memory fiber that returns to its original shape when the wind stops blowing.

OLPC power source? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973339)

On a windy day you won't have to crank your computer!

taut (0, Troll)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973349)

That's "taut", for you half-literate people. It means "tight, under tension". One might use it to describe sails on a ship while the wind blows hard, or a rope.

I may be an English nazi, but my children will not write like they're half-wits.

Re:taut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20973667)

Maybe it was taunt? (Because the generator is going to be making raspberries 24/7. Pppppffftt!)

bridge is ripped apart by wind- (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973351)

It wasn't just the wind, it was also the resonance of the poorly designed structure.

The wind was just the power to get it to resonate, from that point on it was all vibrations.

Dupe (1)

Snowgen (586732) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973363)

This was just posted on Thursday [slashdot.org] .

Re:Dupe (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973457)

Apparently in the recent interview, no one bothered to take Taco to task over dupes.

Desktop? (0, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973445)

Taco, don't you just use the free Mac laptop you got from Apple for shamelessly pimping them?

Yay for ingenuity! (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973471)

This right here is what science and inventing is all about. Forget how things have been done in the past and come up with something better.

If you think about it, the wind turbine is essentially based on the old windmill design that has been around for centuries. It's reasonable to think that when people people were first thinking of a way to harness wind energy, that was the first thing they thought of for that exact reason.

Not a Single Engineering Reply (4, Informative)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973511)

There was not any engineering detail to go on from the video, I agree. But trashing the idea without getting the numbers is bad science, more akin to the nightly news.

The whole concept is interesting, because it can work with wood and cloth instead of mylar and aluminum. The "first world" part would be the magnet, coils and the DC rectifier/converter to allow a user to likely charge a battery.

How many of these generators and how big they would be to extract a usable 10 watts of charging power in a 5-10 mph wind hasn't been defined, but with a couple models, that can be determined.

You never learn anything by bitching. Buckling up and testing is the way this & other ideas will be understood and improved. For the 3rd world, just a minimal LED lamp array can make the difference between studying at night or not.

Re:Not a Single Engineering Reply (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973565)

There was not any engineering detail to go on from the video

      Engineering detail? It's a strap with a magnet glued on, placed in front of a copper wire. Not much engineering there.

Re:Not a Single Engineering Reply (3, Informative)

Bucc5062 (856482) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974155)

Fine, then make one and truly answer the parents post. He/she talks about how people were trashing the idea, but not by applying actual effort to prove or disprove, just unsubstantiated opinion.

I am not an engineer, I do not think I could build this, but were I capable I'd try it out and start to look at the numbers.

1 - It was said it would not work in low winds (5/10 mph) because the demo used a fan. Prove it I say. it may be a combination of material tension and mass of the magnet.

2 - It was said it would buzz. Prove it. Build one and measure the decibels produced. Can the sound be dampened without losing efficiency.

3 - It was said it was not 30x efficient. Prove it. Build one and compare it to other micro wind generators (though the video indicated there were few out there)

I know this is /. and most times we don't read the article, we have varying opinions, but it does surprise me that out of all the eggheads on this blog list, there are not some who could duplicate the experiment and show results. until proven differently, my opinion is that this device is a cool idea worthy of more review, and an example of genuine innovation.

Re:Not a Single Engineering Reply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20974235)

Whilst there are few real details in the video or article, the first warning bell is "10 to 30 times as efficient as the best microturbines."

Since the 'best' microturbines are say 30-40% efficient. So these machines are 300 to 1200% efficient according to the article (the vid didn't claim this).

Even if, as the article says, these are more efficient than a wind turbine at low wind speeds thats not really that important. Even if high wind speeds are rare they contain much more power than low wind speeds (the power available scales with the cube of wind speed), and wind turbines are designed with this in mind.

A couple more problems, How do they turn with the wind?

How do they deal with strong winds? I can see them being torn apart like the tacomma bridge.

40mW is not very much. There is a reason you don't built turbines this small, solar cell plus batter combination works much better. No moving parts.

A quick google gives a 250mW solar cell = $9AUD from a expensive hobby shop http://www.dse.com.au/cgi-bin/dse.storefront/4712383302567b142741c0a87f9c0682/Product/View/O2013 [dse.com.au]
Given the sun doesn't shine all day and what not that would probably work out to be close to an average of 40mW.

As for the 10W's in a 5-10mph wind.... You wouldn't bother with a small wind turbine. Here are some quick calcs:

At 5mph wind, a horizontal axis wind turbine capturing 25% of all available energy (which is conservative) would need a diameter of ~2.7m.
At 10mph, this becomes ~1m...

To put this into perspective a typical 3m diameter wind turbine would be rated at 600W at 10m/s (~22mph) so the idea of designing for 5mph seems impractical.

Assuming the frame has an aspect ratio of 10:1, and assuming that the windbelt captures 25% of wind through the frame (i'm being generous) then at 5mph you would need a 21.6m x 2.2m frame and at 10mph a 4.6 x .5m frame.

There is only so much energy in the wind, and buggar all at low wind speeds, horizontal axis wind turbines can operate very close to the betz limit, I would bet that the windbelt is impractical in practice and doesn't come close.

UP TO 30x MORE EFFICIENT !! BUY NOW !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20973579)

Either they are hyping the product or they've made miscalculations to it's efficiency.

Things are pretty much never 30x more efficient, ever, so for some kid to put together magnets and kite fabric and make those claims brings back memories of cold fusion for me.

Scientifically it's prefect possible that under very low wind conditions this thing is much more efficieny than turbines which are made specifically to be placed in high wind areas.

The question of the hour is if this thing could be scaled upwards and still compete with a turbine, not if it would be an efficient power generation technique for inscets. Their claim to 30x efficiency is one big strike against the chances of this being real. You'd have to realize that claim cannot be true.. peroid.

The question isn't really how efficient it is anyway, it's whats the cost/watt, cost to develop, and max power you can realistically expect.

In microwind conditions I'm sure a kite unbetween magnetcs does well in relation to a giant turbine windmill, but that's only because a turbine needs a min wind speed to work and a kite doesn't. At some point this devince would be nearly infinately more efficieny than a turbine as the wind speed curve declines the efficiency of a microwind device increases unproportionately to it's practical electric output potential.

The interesting experiment would be to make a big array of those things and see if in high wind conditions they can actually keep an efficiency edge. I think it's an interesting design, but could be improved upon vastly to make it more feasible for large scale power needs. Something like a metalic woven fiber between magnets would seems to be to produce more power.

Perhaps he is creating large amount of voltage wth low amps such as static electricity or tasers and it's throwing off the efficiency measurments, but most likely it's just the hypothetically most advantageous situation possible in an unproven estimate.

Re:UP TO 30x MORE EFFICIENT !! BUY NOW !! (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973733)

RTFA. The claim is that turbines don't scale down very well, which they don't. 30x efficiency over a turbine that generates the same (very small) amount of power isn't an unreasonable claim at all.

-jcr

Re:UP TO 30x MORE EFFICIENT !! BUY NOW !! (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973803)

First off, i only heard claims of 10x more efficient in the demo video, but i may have missed 30x in the article somewhere. honestly though, if the device costs what he claimed it did (3-5$) and it can power a small radio. (it puts out enough power to replace a couple double A's) then its a useful device. as i understand it, its not a 10x more efficient in terms of wind energy converted to power, its 10x more cost efficient in terms of being able to power small devices for x number of $ invested. to make a turbine wind generator that is useful on any level for even 10$, is a VERY daunting task, if not impossible. This defiantly won't solve the world's energy problems, but it has lots of potential uses. someone mentioned AC to DC. in the video, he talked about "costs a quarter" power conditioners, and we saw the device power a clock and a radio, which both use DC. i appears he has solved that problem. this device is literally, a 5$ wind battery, provided the article/video was not just blowing smoke.

it's an electric guitar with one flat string (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20973673)

Nothig new here. It works on the same principle electric guitars and old spring reverbs work, with the difference that guitar pickups are placed where the string shows a stronger vibration, while he put his coils near the "string" attachment. If he put them more close to half string length the generator would produce much more power.

I would also try other methods for producing energy through vibration; piezoelectric transducers could be a viable alternative.

Another oscillating generator (2, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#20973887)

It's so Popular Mechanics. Another resonant oscillating generator.

This is an old idea, but the usual form is a free-piston engine. [freepistonpower.com] Popular Mechanics was hot about that one back in 2004. For something that will light two LEDs, that thing looks big and expensive. Note the machined aluminum frame. For comparison, here's a toy wind generator kit [amazon.co.uk] ("convert a plastic bottle to a wind generator!").

Notice how the guy with the vibrating ribbon generator demonstrates it in front of an electric fan. On high. That's probably because it only works in a strong wind. People generally don't live where winds are regularly that high. Wind speed in Port-au-Prince has been between 9 and 12MPH all day, so something that cuts in around 9MPH is needed for use in Haiti.

The classic cheapie generator is taking an oil drum, cutting it in half, and using that as a Savonius rotor. Then you get an alternator from a car, and there's your actual generator. The axle sticks up into the air, where the halves of the oil drum collect the wind and turn the alternator. Here's a smaller version [angelfire.com] .

Re:Another oscillating generator (2, Insightful)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974399)

You can also make them from Pringles cans:

http://shorterlink.org/3266 [shorterlink.org]

Or heating ductwork:

http://shorterlink.org/3267 [shorterlink.org]

As for the frame you're referring to that could easily be made of local materials like wood or recycled plastic or almost anything that will put tension on the material. And the repair on this object is considerably cheaper than replacing something like the spindle bearings of a oil-drum wind generator which will wear out over a long period of constant use.

The Fan (1)

eepok (545733) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974209)

Why doesn't he use the same source of power that's running the fan?
Common sense isn't so common, is it?

To the naysayers: (2, Insightful)

SeaDuck79 (851025) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974251)

I'm not saying that this is the greatest thing since sliced bread, BUT... Those who think a thing to be impossible should shut up and get out of the way of those who are doing it. You can waste your time cursing the darkness, but it's probably not going to be as productive as trying to light a candle. Or an LED.

Need specs! (1)

camg188 (932324) | more than 6 years ago | (#20974387)

Looks interesting, but it makes me skeptical when no real data is given. I'd be more interested in see him hook it to a multimeter and test it out at different wind speeds. Or put it outside and measure the output for a week.
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