The taller we build our cities, the windier they become. As we hunt for renewable sources of power generation why is this powerful and plentiful resource untapped? That is the question asked by the winners of this year’s James Dyson Award, Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani from Lancaster University as they set out to harness urban wind with an inventive new type of turbine.
Traditional wind turbines only capture wind travelling in one direction, but are very 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, which renders conventional turbines unusable. Using a simple geometric shape, O-Wind Turbine is designed to utilise this powerful untapped resource, generating energy even on the windiest of days.
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 and geographical location. Like conventional wind turbines, it was powered by unidirectional wind blows 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, Nicolas’s three-dimensional wind turbine technology was born. Nicolas and his fellow student Yaseen Noorani soon identified how cities could use this technology to harness energy to produce electricity.
How does O-Wind Turbine work?
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. Nicolas and Yaseen aim for O-Wind Turbine to be installed to large structures such as the side of a building, or balcony, where wind speeds are at their highest. Click here to see the device in action.
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 role in conserving our planet. Winning the James Dyson Award has validated our concept, and given us the confidence to approach investors to secure the capital we need to continue turn our idea into a reality.”
Sir Kenneth Grange, Chair of judges said:
"I was captivated by the simplicity of the design, relative to the enormous ambition of competing in the renewable energy sector. Developing ways to embed sustainability into society is an important challenge which will puzzle engineers for centuries, and these innovators show promise as early pioneers. Whilst the project is still at the beginning of a long and gruelling journey of iterations and frustrations, the James Dyson Award exists to reward young engineers with vision. For this reason we felt O-Wind Turbine was worthy of holding the accolade of JDA UK National Winner 2018, and receiving £2,000 investment to kick start their product development."
The UK national runners up are Mi Plug and Gilaasi Finetunes.
Mi Plug designed by Will De Brett, Northumbria University
Witnessing his grandparents struggling to handle a 3-pin plug sparked the beginnings of Mi Plug.
From there Will soon realised that whether its babies crawling near sockets, or plugs shortcutting on boats, people of all ages find the plug challenging.
Attempts to redesign the plug so far, have failed to address fundamental issues in using a heavy brass plug the consumes a huge amount of energy. Wanting to improve the usability, Will was driven to redesign the plug and develop a solution that truly supports 21stcentury living.
Using magnetic induction Mi Plug is designed to be stackable, safe, and easy to use. Also benefiting from its plastic construction, Mi Plug is waterproof and has the potential to be used underwater.
Gilaasi Finetunes designed by Bukki Adedapo, Imperial College London
Bukki bought his first, and only, pair of photochromic lenses, only to be met by jokes from his colleagues. After weeks of ridicule and the inconvenience of lenses taking a long time to change from glasses to sunglasses, he soon realised they were just as impractical as taking two pairs of glasses everywhere you go.
Determined to find a more efficient way of switching between glasses and sunglasses, Bukki set about solving this problem alongside his day job.
As a chemical engineer Bukki lacked the expertise to develop Gilaasi Finetunes, however, in true start-up spirit he put posters up at Imperial university. After a series of interviews and an agreed wage he enlisted the help of an electrical engineer to help him develop the technology.
Gilaasi Finetunes simplify wearing prescription glasses and empower users to be on trend with just one tap to the right for sunglasses and tap to the left for glasses.