Vortex Engine - Tame Tornadoes May Generate Power
Tornadoes are wild, destructive natural phenomena - right? Not necessarily, according to engineer Louis Michaud, who believes that he has found a way to create "tame" tornadoes that could be used to generate electricity.
(Louis Michaud and a small-scale whirlwind)
Michaud has spent forty years studying tornadoes and is convinced that it is possible to create small tornadoes on demand using a "vortex engine," a device he has patented in both the U.S. and Canada. A full scale vortex engine would produce a funnel cloud that would stretch several kilometers into the atmosphere. The artificial tornado would be powered at the base by waste heat (ideally from a power-generating facility).
(Vortex engine base plan)
The waste heat from the plant would be carried to a nearby vortex engine facility by hot water. A small amount of electricity would be used to blow dry air across the hot water pipes. The heated air would rise with a spinning motion, gathering energy as it rises, creating a vortex. As it gathers momentum, it begins to pull air in through the fans, which would now function as turbines that generate electricity.
As long as waste heat is supplied at the base, the vortex will keep spinning, and power will be generated.
According to Michaud, a commercial plant between 200 meters and 400 meters in diameter could generate 200 megawatts of power; it would cost about $60 million to construct. However, about $20 million of that cost would be offset because the generating plant would not require a cooling tower.
Michaud's vortex engine has received a fair amount of support from the scientific community. The University of Western Ontario's wind-tunnel laboratory, through a seed investment from OCE's Centre for Energy, is studying the dynamics of a one-metre version of Michaud's vortex engine.
Professor Nilton Renno, of the department of atmospheric, ocean and spaces sciences at the University of Michigan, has spent his career studying tornados and water spouts. He says there's no reason why Michaud's vortex engine wouldn't work.
(Natural tornado seen in the wild)
Michaud has formed a private corporation, AVEtec, to seek for investor funding. Top atmospheric scientists from the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and MIT have joined the AVEtec advisory board.
The idea has applications beyond replacement of cooling towers. Vortex engines located in the ocean on the equator could use warm tropical water to provide an endless source of energy.
Besides energy harvesting, vortex engines would propel hot air high into the atmosphere where it could radiate more easily back into space. In other words, they would act like air conditioners to counter global warming.
Science fiction writers Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth write about the unexpected uses of tornado force winds in their 1952 classic The Space Merchants. In the story, savvy marketers try to make life on planet Venus more palatable for settlers by harvesting the strong Venusian winds with Hilsch vortex tubes:
And Development had not developed but found a remarkable little thing called a high-speed Hilsch Tube. Using no power, it could refrigerate the pioneers' homes by using the hot tornadoes of Venus.
(Read more about Hilsch vortex tubes)
Consider these other "forecasts" by sf writers:
- Weather as Art
Writer John Varley thought about how we might become weather artists; it turns out there are real weather artists who try to make what beauty they can from nature's worst storms.
- Chinese Government To Control Olympic Weather
Who knew that China spends $100 million per year on weather-modification programs?
Via The Star; thanks to reader Your Obedient Serpent for the tip on this story.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/24/2007)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
Low Cost Spray-On Solar Cells
'It turns sunlight into electricity... you spray it on.'- Larry Niven, 1995.
Wristify, Your Personal Cooling and Heating Device
'By law [a mandatory cooling unit] had to be strapped to every commuter's back...'- Philip K. Dick
Solar Roadways Could Power USA - Times 3
This would be great if it works - the roads might be better maintained as well.
Spaser-Based Circuits Could Be Printed On Clothing
'Alex rolled his wrist over to check the watch imprinted on his sleeve.'- Niven and Barnes, 1981.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
New Material Is One Molecule Thick
'Hasan always pitched a Gauzy - a one-molecule-layer tent...'
Robot Swarm Obeys Commands
'What is the nature of this cloud? What is your opinion?'
AliveCor App Detects Heart Arrhythmias, Has FDA Approval
Works on humans and puppeteers.
Laws Of Robotics Rewritten for Health Care
A lot has happened in health care robotics since 1942...
Origami Robot Finally Self-Assembles, Walks On Its Own
Now shipping flat, but better than Ikea, because self-assembling.
A.L.O. Robot Butler Serves You At Aloft Hotel
'Her idea of what a butler-valet combo should look like...'
Mometum Machines Burgerbot
'One of these gorgeous eating places where we were served entirely by mechanical apparatus...'
Google Lobbies For Autonomous Motorcycles
'He had never ridden any motorized device that lacked onboard steering and balance systems.'
No Cages In Future Zoos Is Zootopia?
'The park... twisted through specimens from every inhabited planet of the known universe.'
Navdy HeadUp Display (HUD) For Your Car
'All displays are thrown on a mirror in front of you...'
Computer 'Aesop' Writes Fables With A Moral
'I handed Tony the master tape and he played it into the IBM'
Artificial Wombs - Ectogenesis Technology - Is On The Way
'Magnificent, aren't they? (Lama Su, in Star Wars II)
Robotic Exoskeleton For Shipyard Workers
'Earth's scientists solved the problem... devising rigid metallic clothing not unlike armor...'
Timeful Appointment App Learns, Optimizes Your Routines
'The [Daily Schedule program] suited its tone to his movements and the combined analysis of his psychophysical condition.'
3D Printing Your Science-Fictional Metals
I love science-fictional materials!
Bespoke Clothing In 30 Minutes
'He sat himself down in a sales cubicle and dialed the code number for kilts.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories