Photo credit: Courthouse News

Small wind turbines have been invented by scientists to power electronics with slight breeze made while moving.

This small wind “turbine” can harness the power of a slight breeze. The scientists plan to manufacture a full-size version that might compete with traditional wind turbines later on.

This small wind turbine can be carried around in a backpack and can be used to power electronics.

The conventional wind turbines need strong winds to rotate their huge rotor blades, but this nanogenerator, dubbed the B-Teng, is capable of powering your electronics using the slight breeze made while walking.

Wind speeds reduces as you move further inland, causing a considerable drop-off in efficiency for conventional wind turbines as you move away from shore. The conventional wind turbines are also huge, noisy, costly and particularly harmful for birds, making them unviable for usage close to national parks or nature preserves.

But this small wind turbine is composed of two tiny strips of plastic that flap jointly inside a tube. This flapping produces an electrical charge, considerably like brushing a balloon against your head, known as the triboelectric effect, which gets stored in a capacitor.

Researchers explained this new design in a new study published Wednesday in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science.

“You can collect all the breeze in your everyday life,” said senior author Ya Yang of the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a statement. “We once placed our nanogenerator on a person’s arm, and a swinging arm’s airflow was enough to generate power.”

Rather than depending on the heavy winds needed by conventional turbines, this new design can create power from gentle breeze as weak as 3.6 miles per hour, but works perfectly with wind speeds between nine and 18 miles per hour.

“Our intention isn’t to replace existing wind power generation technology. Our goal is to solve the issues that the traditional wind turbines can’t solve,” Yang said. “Unlike wind turbines that use coils and magnets, where the costs are fixed, we can pick and choose low-cost materials for our device. Our device can also be safely applied to nature reserves or cities because it doesn’t have the rotating structures.”

The quantity of power produced by the B-Teng relies precisely on how the two pieces of plastic flap together. Counting on how the winds blow, its flapping can be categorized into four possible states: stable (no contact), out-of-phase flapping, in-phase flapping and chaotic. Out-of-phase flapping is the spot for power production, so the goal is to facilitate that type of movement.

“As the wind velocity increased, the fluttering motion became chaotic, and irregular fluttering could also be observed that unpredictably decreased the effective contact area, which is the reason for the lower electricity output. The results showed that the movement frequency of B-TENG increased as the wind velocity increased from 4 ms¯¹ to 15 ms¯¹, a vital element of the increase in electricity output,” the study states.

The authors intend to manufacture two successive versions of the B-Teng, one larger and one smaller. Yang hopes an even smaller device could be integrated with small electronics such as a phone to deliver a steady power supply.

“I’m hoping to scale up the device to produce 1,000 watts, so it’s competitive with traditional wind turbines,” Yang said. “We can place these devices where traditional wind turbines can’t reach. We can put it in the mountains or on the top of buildings for sustainable energy.”

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