In a recent study published in Mechanical Systems and Signal Processing, a team of researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have designed a low-cost apparatus capable of using a wind speeds as low as 6.5 feet per second (2 meters per second)—equivalent to a light breeze—to both harness energy and store electricity for later use. The apparatus can also generate electricity of 290 microwatts, which is enough to send data to a mobile computer or phone.
The researchers say the apparatus, which measures only 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters), holds the potential to succeed batteries powering light emitting diode (LED) lights, along with structural health monitoring systems, which are used to alert engineers on the structural health of skyscrapers and bridges.
"As a renewable and clean energy source, wind power generation has attracted extensive research attention,” said Dr. Yaowen Yang, a professor and structural engineer at NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a co-author on the study. “Our research aims to tackle the lack of a small-scale energy harvester for more targeted functions, such as to power smaller sensors and electronic devices. The device we developed also serves as a potential alternative to smaller lithium-ion batteries, as our wind harvester 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."
During lab tests, the apparatus could consistently power 40 LEDs at wind speeds of 13 feet per second (4 meters per second), while also triggering a sensor device, powering it to adequately send room temperature readings to a wireless mobile device.
"Wind energy is a source of renewable energy,” explains Dr. Yang. “It does not contaminate, it is inexhaustible and reduces the use of fossil fuels, which are the origin of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Our invention has been shown to effectively harness this sustainable source of energy to charge batteries and light LEDs, demonstrating its potential as an energy generator to power the next generation of electronics, which are smaller in size and require less power."
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