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 -
Geoengineering The Atmosphere For Climate Change
'...a uniform temperature for each degree of latitude the year round.' - John Jacob Astor IV, 1894.
Humans Use Mental Power For Turtle Slavery
Now we need to start looking for animals with fingers...
Solar-Powered Moisture Vaporator
'The atmosphere yielded its moisture with reluctance.' - George Lucas, 1976.
Smartflower Solar Panel Unfolds In Video
'...the slender stalks of a sunshade-photocell collector.' - David Brin, 1990.
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.
Bat Bot Robotic Flapping-Wing Drone
'The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread...'
NASA's Astronaut Rescue Ball
'Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward..'
ARM Wants To Build Brain Chips
'Slivers of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon...'
Sky Fence - A Drone-Proof Shield Created Over Prison
'There’s still a protective field over the whole thing. It volatilizes anything that tries to get through.'
Geoengineering The Atmosphere For Climate Change
'...a uniform temperature for each degree of latitude the year round.'
Archinaut Orbiting Robotic Factory
'mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'
Cryonic Preservation - The Last Perk You'll Ever Need
'Is there not also a law providing for voluntary suspension of animation?'
Computers Understand Humans By Watching And Modeling Them
Soon, your computer will be watching you... and judging you.
NASA Asks For Moon To Earth Delivery Ideas
'Authority's 3-g catapult was almost one hundred kilometers long...'
Musk Tunnels Wisely Restrict Drivers
Too many robots.
Robot Swarms Controlled With Augmented Reality
'You're not thinking in enough dimensions...'
MIT's C-LEARN Helps Robots Transfer Learning To Other Robots
'Talk Between Robots radio...'
Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.'
Rapid Automated Search For Habitable Planets Needed
'I was near enough it now to set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching it for a habitable planet.'
WatchSense Perfect For Fat-Fingered Smartwatch Owners
'Now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components...'
Digital Construction Platform Robot 3D Prints A Building
'It extrudes material like a spider.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories