Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

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 |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Engineering ")

Augmented Reality Palm Keyboard
'Three rows of four colored dots appeared on the heel of my left hand.'- John Varley, 1992.

Taihang Solar Farm Accurately Pictured In 1911
'The entire expanse, twenty kilometers square, was covered ... the photo-electric elements which transformed the solar heat direct into electric energy.' - Hugo Gernsback, 1911.

Amazon Automatic Packaging Catches Up With Gernsback's 1911 Book
'The automatic packing machine could pack anything from a small package a few inches square up to a box two feet high by three feet long.' - Hugo Gernsback, 1911.

Seriously, Was Our Universe Created In A Lab?
'It is an instrument with which I am going to create a microcosm.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1935.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

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.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Swedes Get 'Chipped' With Vaccine Passports
'Employees above a certain level were implanted with advanced microprocessors...'

Gentle Monster Robot Head
'The robot knelt before the head, lifted it slowly, and with... its strong hands placed it on its shoulders...'

SpinLaunch SubOrbital Accelerator
'But it had slid, not rolled, down upon these angry fly-wheels, and in an instant, with all our friends, it had been hurled into the sky!'

Augmented Reality Palm Keyboard
'Three rows of four colored dots appeared on the heel of my left hand.'

Omni Hoverboard Envy Of Green Goblin
'I brought it back to the ship, charged it up, reprogrammed the inertia chips and voila!'

Jetson ONE Speeds Through The Forest
'Over there! Two more of them!'

Facebook's Algorithmic News Feed Knows Better Than You Do
'Their playmates were not “real,” but they were a lot realer than, say, a Betsy-Wetsy doll.'

Tselina Spacecraft Platform Destroyed In Russian Anti-Satellite Test
'pirate three-vee satellites sanded out of orbit...'

Burro Robot Follows You And Gets Smarter
'Oh, there you are! the balloon piped at the amorphous mass of living tissue...'

Tiangong Space Station! Exercise Like It's 1953
'He couldn't imitate actual gravity, of course...'

Facebook Unexpectedly Turns Away From Sfnal Face Recognition
'... the imprint of her image on the telephoto cell.'

Taihang Solar Farm Accurately Pictured In 1911
'The entire expanse, twenty kilometers square, was covered ... the photo-electric elements which transformed the solar heat direct into electric energy.'

Galaxy Z Fold 3 Perfect For William Gibson's 'Control-Face'
'Chia recognized the square as the control-face of the computer she'd seen in his room.'

Amazon Automatic Packaging Catches Up With Gernsback's 1911 Book
'The automatic packing machine could pack anything from a small package a few inches square up to a box two feet high by three feet long.'

Your Car Will Be Watching You!
'Mr. Garden, you are in no condition to drive...'

Orbital Reef: Bezos' High Orbit Archipelago
'Tessier-Ashpool ascended to high orbit's archipelago to find the ecliptic sparsely marked with military stations and the first automated factories of the cartels.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.