‘Ingenious’ city wind turbine scoops global James Dyson award

15 Nov 2018

From left: Yaseen Noorani and Nicolas Orellana from Lancaster University with their O-Wind Turbine design. Image: Cox Communications

A wind turbine small enough to fit on a city rooftop has scooped the grand prize at the international James Dyson Awards.

When we first think about a renewable energy wind turbine, we think of the huge structures that are increasingly dotting our landscapes. However, the overall winner of this year’s international James Dyson Award is aiming to shrink them down to where they could easily fit on a city rooftop.

Described by James Dyson himself as an “ingenious concept”, the O-Wind Turbine was designed by Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani of Lancaster University in the UK. Unlike a typical wind turbine that relies on wind travelling from one direction, this design can utilise wind from multiple angles.

The circular basis for the design makes use of a principle of fluid dynamics known as the Bernoulli’s principle where moving air has lower pressure than stationary air. The structure is lined with vents that have large entrances and smaller exits for air.

The vents are placed across the sphere making it receptive to wind from all directions, and the pressure difference causes the turbine to move. The turbine then rotates around the fixed axis regardless of wind direction, powering a generator that can produce electricity.

Inspired by previous NASA studies of multidirectional wind for its Mars tumbleweed rover, the pair of students win a prize worth £30,000. Speaking of their design, Dyson said, “[The O-Wind Turbine] 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 runners-up

Two runner-up prizes worth £5,000 each were also announced for the competition, the first of which was the Airchair concept designed by Aamer Siddiqui and Ali Asgar from the American University in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Their design aims to drastically improve the travelling experience of wheelchair users at airports.

Rather than needing airport staff and a specialised wheelchair, an Airchair user would be able to use one chair from the departure lounge to take-off as it would integrate with the aircraft seat.

The second runner-up was announced as a team from Delft Technical University in the Netherlands with its Excelscope 2.0 design.

With the simple touch of a smartphone, Excelscope 2.0 automates the analysis of blood samples, reducing the workload of medical staff. With 40pc of the world’s population living in malaria-risk areas, the device’s efficiency and accuracy of testing would help to avoid more than 1m deaths from malaria each year.

Sadly, from an Irish perspective, there were no award winners, but three inventors did make it to the final shortlist, including two projects from the Dublin Institute of Technology and one from the Carlow Institute of Technology.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic