Dyson has given the James Dyson Award for 2018 to a pair of students from Lancaster University for their O-Wind Turbine, which harnesses inner-city wind to create electricity.
You can see how a wind-related device is right in Dyson's wheelhouse, with their biggest inventions including things that suck (vacuums), things that blow (fans) and things that leave your hands looking like Skeletor's while still being slightly damp (Airblade).
The turbine allows wind energy to be harnessed in cities, which is important because the taller our buildings go, the more wind is produced, but we haven't been able to harness it for energy because it blows in all sorts of random directions and existing turbines can only handle uni-directional wind.
The design was inspired by the Mars Tumbleweed rover – specifically by how it failed:
"Six feet in diameter, this inflatable ball was designed to autonomously bounce and roll like tumbleweed, across Mars’ surface to measure atmospheric conditions and geographical location.
Like conventional wind turbines, it was powered by unidirectional wind blows which severely impaired the rover’s mobility when faced with obstructions, often throwing it off course and resulting, ultimately, in the failure of the project.
By exploring the limitations of the Tumbleweed, Nicolas’s three-dimensional wind turbine technology was born. Nicolas and his fellow student Yaseen Noorani soon identified how cities could use this technology to harness energy to produce electricity."
The resulting design for the O-Wind Turbine is a 25cm sphere on a fixed axis, which has strategically-placed vents that allow it to spin when the wind blows it from any direction: both horizontal and vertical, unlike existing turbines. That movement drives the attached generator, which produces electricity. From there, the electricity can either plug directly into something, or feed back into the grid.
Homeowners high up in tower blocks could hang an O-Wind Turbine outside their window and benefit from free electricity generated by its movement. Which is pretty cool.
Here it is in action:
Here's inventor Nicolas Orellana on his creation:
"We hope that O-Wind Turbine will improve the usability and affordability of turbines for people across the world. Cities are windy places but we are currently not harnessing this resource. Our belief is that making it easier to generate green energy, people will be encouraged to play a bigger own role in conserving our planet.
Winning the international James Dyson Award has validated our concept. The attention we’ve received so far has been humbling and given us the confidence to see the development of this concept as a future career. Already we are in discussions with investors and we hope to secure a deal in the coming months."
And here's James Dyson on why this design won:
"'Design something that solves a problem' is an intentionally broad brief. It invites talented, young inventors to do more than just identify real problems. It empowers them to use their ingenuity to develop inventive solutions.
O-Wind Turbine does exactly that. It takes the enormous challenge of producing renewable energy and using geometry it can harness energy in places where we’ve scarcely been looking – cities. It’s an ingenious concept."
The two inventors win a £30,000 cash prize and a further £5,000 for their uni department.
The prize will be open again next year, so get thinking if you've got a world-changing idea that could net you some cash.