December 1, 2022

The device converts the slightest breeze into electricity

Breeze blowing a dandelion. Source: Pixabay

Scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed an inexpensive device that can harness wind energy as gentle as a gentle breeze and store it as electricity.

When exposed to wind speeds as low as two meters per second (m/s), the device can produce a voltage of three volts and generate electrical power of up to 290 microwatts, which is enough to power a commercial sensor and also to send the data to a mobile phone or a computer.

The lightweight, durable device, called a wind turbine, also diverts any unused electricity to a battery, where it can be stored to power devices in the absence of wind. The scientists say their invention has the potential to replace batteries in powering light-emitting diode (LED) lights and structural health monitoring sensors. These are used on urban structures, such as bridges and skyscrapers, to monitor their structural health, alerting engineers to problems such as instabilities or physical damage. For more information, see the IDTechEx report on Redesigned Electronics 2020-2040

Measuring just 15 centimeters by 20 centimeters, the device can easily be mounted on the sides of buildings and would be ideal for urban environments, such as the suburbs of Singapore, where average wind speeds are below 2.5 m/s , apart from thunderstorms.

Professor Yang Yaowen, a structural engineer from NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), who led the project, said: “As a renewable and clean source of energy, wind power generation has attracted the attention of many researchers. Our research aims to address the lack of a small-scale energy harvester for more targeted functions, such as powering sensors and smaller electronic devices.The device we developed also serves as a potential alternative to smaller lithium-ion batteries, as our wind turbine is self-sufficient and would only require occasional maintenance, and does not use heavy metals, which, if not disposed of properly, could cause environmental problems.”

The innovation has sparked industry interest. The NTU research team is also working to commercialize their invention.

The device was developed to harness wind power efficiently at low cost and with low wear. Its body is made of epoxy fiber, a very resistant polymer, with the main attachment that interacts with the wind and is made of inexpensive materials, such as copper, aluminum foil and polytetrafluoroethylene, a durable polymer that is also

known as Teflon.

Due to the dynamic design of its structure, when the harvester is exposed to the wind, it begins to vibrate, causing its deck to approach and move away from the stopper. This causes charges to form on the film and an electric current to form as they flow from the aluminum foil to the copper film. In laboratory tests, the harvester developed by NTU could power 40 LEDs constantly at a wind speed of 4 m/s. It could also trigger a sensor and power it enough to wirelessly send ambient temperature information to a mobile phone. This demonstrated that the harvester could not only generate electricity to constantly power a device, but could store enough excess charge to keep the device powered for an extended period in the absence of wind.

Professor Yang added: “Wind energy is a renewable source of energy. It does not contaminate, it is inexhaustible and reduces the use of fossil fuels, which are the source of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. It has Our invention has been demonstrated to effectively harness this sustainable source of energy to charge batteries and power LEDs, demonstrating its potential as an energy generator to power the next generation of electronic devices, which are smaller in size and require less of energy.

The NTU team will conduct further research to further improve the energy storage functions of their device, as well as experiment with different materials to improve its power output. The research team is also in the process of filing a patent with NTUitive, NTU’s innovation and enterprise company.

Source: Nanyang Technological University