Bladeless Wind Turbine – Inspired by Nikola Tesla

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May 18th, 2010

A research company in New Hampshire recently patented its bladeless wind turbine, which is based on a patent issued to Nikola Tesla in 1913. This wind turbine is christened as the Fuller Wind Turbine. This turbine is developed by Solar Aero. The specialty of Fuller Wind Turbine is it has only one rotating part, known as the turbine-driveshaft. The entire machinery is assembled inside a housing. Wind turbines are often disliked by environmentalists because they kill birds and bats and often generate noise for the residents living nearby.

The wind industry is trying to find a solution to the problem by working with environmental groups, federal regulators, and other interested parties. They are trying to develop methods of measuring and mitigating wind energy’s effect on birds. The Fuller Wind Turbine offers hope to bird lovers and environmentalists.

Fuller Wind Turbine has several advantages over the traditional ones having blades. Fuller Wind Turbine has a screened inlet and outlet. If you try to get a closer look at this wind turbine you can see the only movement visible is as it adjusts to track the wind. This wind turbine can be utilized by the military surveillance and radar installations because there are no moving blades to cause difficulties.

Another plus attached to this wind turbine is that it won’t cost a heaven when you get its power. According to manufacturers this turbine is expected to deliver power at a cost at par with the coal-fired power plants. If you want to probe deeper, its good news that total operating costs over the lifetime of the unit are expected to be about $0.12/kWh.

If we take the maintenance angle it won’t cause much headache because it’s a bladeless turbine. The turbine maintenance requirements are not colossal and it would result in lower lifetime operating costs. The turbine is mainly supported on magnetic bearings. Another advantage is all of the generating equipments are kept at ground level. This will lead towards easy maintenance of equipments. The company comes out with encouraging figures and proclaims “final costs will be about $1.50/watt rated output, or roughly 2/3 the cost of comparable bladed units.”

If we take a look at the Tesla turbine patented in 1913, it operates using the viscous flow of a fluid to move the turbine and as a result generates energy. The Tesla turbine has a set of smooth disks fitted with nozzles that send out a moving gas to the edge of the disk. The gases drag on the disk by following the principle of viscosity and the adhesion of the surface layer of the gas. As the gas slows and adds force to the disks, it twirls in to the center exhaust. Because the rotor has no projections, it is very strong and sturdy. One has to be careful about the disk space because disks in the turbine need to be closely spaced so that they can trap the viscous flow. The Tesla turbine has extremely thin disks to reduce turbulence at the edges and that makes them effective. In 1913, Tesla was unable to find metals of adequate quality to make this work effectively. But now almost a century later, those limitations have been surmounted.

Solar Aero’s current prototype is a modest trailer-mounted unit. But inventor says that their other models “should be capable of 10kW output with no problem.” If this technology takes off smoothly it would remove many hurdles attached with conventional wind turbines and more environment friendly.

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