New Bladeless Wind Turbines

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Wed, May 20, 2015 - 2:09pm

The Future of Wind Power: Scientists Are Creating New Bladeless Wind Turbines

"The first step was to ensure that the Vortex’s shape was designed in such a way that the spinning wind is encountered synchronously. To achieve this, the prototype is composed of a composite of fiberglass and carbon fiber, allowing the central mast to vibrate freely. At the base of the central mast are two rings of repelling magnets. When the cone veers in one direction, the repelling magnets pull it in the other direction. This kinetic energy is then converted into electricity via an alternator that multiplies the frequency of the mast’s oscillation (allowing us to generate even more power from the motion).

According to field tests conducted with the prototype, this design ultimately captures 30% less than traditional wind turbines; however, you can place twice as many Vortex turbines into the same space as a propeller turbine (because you don’t have a giant propeller getting in the way), so you actually generate more energy in the end. These are also cheaper to produce (by about 50%) and, when they are running, they are silent."

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Mark Cochrane's picture
Mark Cochrane
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These bladeless windturbines are intriguing but I can't really get a good feel for how they are functioning from the text of the linked article. I'd like to see a diagram of the mechanism to understand the principles they are working under and the forces and motions they would be experiencing. Ultimately the make or break factors are likely to be the total materials and the maintenance required to establish and maintain these newly designed towers. The silence is a big plus and if there are fewer moving parts that would make long term functioning more likely. Do you know if they need more or less rare earth magnets? Depending on how they scale in size and the operating windspeeds that they will function at, the potential could really be interesting.

Thanks for the post.


Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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From what I gleaned from the article they are tuned to resonate in the wind. Resonance is undesirable in a bridge, but used here.

The motion of a winding through a magnetic field converts the kinetic energy into electrical energy. Lenzes law would dampen the vibration.

If an induced current flows, its direction is always such that it will oppose the change which produced it.


No moving parts other than the tuning fork. Maintenance would be negligible. Capital costs slashed.

Scientists? Not so. Scientists uncover facts. The praise must go to Engineers in this case. They apply the discoveries of scientists. Journalists miss all their KPIs with elegant prose. 

tjwilhelm's picture
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I'm curious but doubtful...

The formula for finding power available from the wind =

(0.5) (air density) (swept area of the capture device) [(wind speed)cubed]

Energy needs to be captured and converted.  From the pictures in the original post/article, there doesn't seem to be much capture area at a sufficient level above grade. The general rule of thumb for wind-energy capture devices is to keep the bottom of the swept area at least 30 feet to 50 feet higher than any obstruction (tree, building, hill, etc.) that is within 300 feet away.  Placing the capture device lower than this lowers average wind speed and adds severe turbulence.  Good wind capture typically requires laminar flow air, and power varies with the cube of the wind speed.  Looking at the picture in light of these facts makes me doubtful.

At the same time, resonance is Mother Nature's method for most efficiently transferring energy from one mass to another -- this makes me curious.


Time2help's picture
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Looks simple. Nature loves complex simplicity. So do I. Devil is in the details, no doubt. 

So what's it's Q? Seen some nasty high Q's in my time. Things tend to end up as an unstable harmonic (below, top right). 

 Or for those more visually inclined (spoiler alert - this is also my expectation for the world economy):

Even better (and closer to home), Gallopin' Gertie:

Imagine extracting the energy generated by that bridge's motion, such that you can capture enough of it to keep it stable (prevent failure).

Give it a nice high Q and keep it stable by extracting energy (there may be an app for that) and hmmmm....but isn't there some rule about no free lunch?  Wouldn't the inductive energy extraction necessary change (reduce) the resonant frequency of the "tuning fork"?  So on-off logic for the energy extraction then, allowing the amplitude swings at resonance to build during the off state? Or could you tune the inductive damper such that it reduces the amplitude swings at resonance (converting these to electrical energy) without falling off the mode?

I'm quite curious. Perhaps they are on to something.

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Perhaps they could use PID control on the extraction of energy. They can be tuned. I think that the latest versions tune themselves with an evolutionary algorithm.

A sensor measures the frequency of the induced currents and that is used as an input to the controller. The output of the controller controls a pulse width modulator and thereby controls the energy extraction rate which controls the amplitude of the Oscillations of the tower.

Pulse Width Modulation.

PWM can be used to control the amount of power delivered to a load without incurring the losses that would result from linear power delivery by resistive means. Drawbacks to this technique are the power drawn by the load is not constant but rather discontinuous (see Buck converter), and energy delivered to the load is not continuous either, however the load may be inductive, and with a sufficiently high frequency and when necessary using additional passive electronic filters, the pulse train can be smoothed and average analog waveform recovered, power flow into the load can be continuous.

It will be necessary for the load to be inductive (with possible rectification).

And so on an so forth. 

thatchmo's picture
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quite simple, actually....

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Umm. I think I made a Mistake

Being a resonating structure the frequency will be locked. The amplitude will vary.blush

As long as the load is large enough, the natural damping by Lenzes law will be adequate to keep the structure safe. (Implying large conductors and No fuses.)

Time2help's picture
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Not necessarily

Perhaps they could account for that by tuning the resonant frequency of the structure (via stiffness) to match the available wind(speed).   

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