Flutter Power Allows Researchers to Make Electricity from Wind Gusts
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Italian researchers have developed a mechanical "wing" to capture wind energy better than a wind turbine would. The tiny device collects energy based on "aeroelastic fluttering," a principle behind everything from the wind-turned pages of a book to a high glider's ascent.
Professor Corrado Boragno at the University of Genoa and his team built the small, rectangular "wind wing," one only a few centimeters wide and deep and a fraction of a millimeter thick.
“Our idea is to produce … power for wireless sensor arrays and other tiny devices,” Boragno told InnovationNewsDaily, but he added that his team has not ruled out the possibility of a larger device.
The main advantage of the wind wing over traditional wind turbines, according to Boragno, is its simplicity. There are no rotating parts, no huge platforms, and no need for a constant source of wind; the device also works well in turbulent, or non-constant, air. However, Boragno notes that the wing's efficiency is most notable in smaller, lighter versions, and advantages in large wind wings have yet to be demonstrated.
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Fluttering is the result of fast wind moving over and below a relatively thin surface. This phenomenon can be seen dramatically in 1940 footage of the swaying of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington state before it collapsed. Rapid changes in air speed above or below the surface of the wing exert a lift force on it, causing it to flap.
But how does a wing flapping in the wind produce electricity? Boragno said a sporadic wind source can induce harmonic movement in the wing, giving rise to a periodic energy source.
Despite its name, the device does not resemble a wing from a bird or jet. It is a thin rectangular piece of material – like the top wing of an early-20th-century biplane. Both ends of the wing are tethered to solid pole supports. Coupling devices where the tethers connect convert mechanical energy into electrical energy.
The research was published June 21 in the journal Applied Physics Letters.