Lancaster graduates win prestigious International James Dyson Award


15 November 2018 01:01
 Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani with their urban wind turbine design
Nicholas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani with their urban wind turbine design

Inspired by a NASA rover, two Lancaster University graduates have claimed the prestigious International James Dyson Award with their design for a wind turbine for urban areas.

Studying International Innovation MSc together at Lancaster University, Nicolas Orellana, from Chile, and Yaseen Noorani, from Kenya, set out to tackle the problem of generating energy from urban winds.

Traditional wind turbines are designed to only capture wind travelling in one direction. This makes them very inefficient in cities where buildings catapult winds into chaos – making winds unpredictable and multi-directional.

Using a simple geometric shape, the ‘O-Wind Turbine’ is designed to utilise the relatively untapped resource of urban winds, generating energy even on the windiest of days.

O-Wind Turbine is a 25cm sphere with geometric vents. It sits on a fixed axis and spins when wind hits it from any direction. When the wind energy turns the device, gears drive a generator which converts the energy into electricity.

This can be used as a direct source of power or can be fed back to the grid.

Mr Orellana first became interested in the challenge of multi-directional wind after studying NASA’s Mars Tumbleweed Rover – an inflatable ball designed to autonomously bounce across the surface of Mars.

By exploring the limitations of Tumbleweed, Mr Orellana’s three-dimensional wind turbine technology was born. Mr Orellana met Mr Noorani at Lancaster University and they soon identified how cities could use this technology to harness energy to produce electricity.

They hope O-Wind Turbines can be installed on large structures, such as the sides of buildings, or balconies, where wind speeds are at their highest.

Sir James Dyson said: “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.”

Nicolas Orellana said: “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 James Dyson Award has validated our concept.”

The students’ design process has been advised and supported by Professor Harry Hoster from Energy Lancaster. In addition they have used cutting-edge 3D printing facilities and wind tunnel testing at Lancaster’s Engineering Department and have also received support from Lancaster’s Enterprise Centre and Centre for Global Eco-Innovation.

Professor Hoster said: “When the two students first approached us about test facilities for a new wind turbine design, we first thought it would just be the 23rd variation of some plain vanilla system. When they humbly showed their video and their prototype, however, we were, excuse the pun, blown away.

“Only holding it in your hands and playing with it gives you a chance to understand what their new device actually does and how, if things go right, its ability to capture any random breezes will take urban energy harvesting to another level.”

Professor Claudio Paoloni, Head of the Engineering Department at Lancaster University, said: “I wish to congratulate Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani for their outstanding award. We are delighted to have been able to support the fabrication of a prototype for their innovative wind turbine concept with our state of the art facilities in additive manufacturing and expertise in renewable energy. 

“This fully represents the ethos of our growing Engineering Department, which includes within our aims, the ability to offer our students cutting-edge technologies in support of their creativity and enthusiasm.”

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