SINGAPORE – Forget giant wind turbines, or the need for gusty winds. Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have found a way to harness power from a gentle breeze, allowing built-up urban areas where wind speeds are lower to tap this form of clean and sustainable energy.
The small-scale wind harvester can be used to power low-energy electronics, such as lights or commercial sensors, by picking up vibrations from the wind or on the surface of buildings.
Unlike a giant wind turbine, the device is the size of a water bottle and made of copper, aluminium and other parts worth around $10.
It can serve as a cheap and environmentally friendly power source for sensors that are increasingly common in the expanding Internet of Things sector, said the scientists in a presentation to the media on Oct 6.
Like a wind turbine, the harvester converts kinetic energy from the wind into electricity, and it can be easily attached to, say, a building or a bridge.
Gentle vibrations are picked up by the harvester, which produces electrical charges on sheets housed within.
Early prototypes are able to produce 3 volts and generate 290 microwatts of electricity from wind speeds as low as 2m per second – the average wind condition in Singapore.
Based on the early tests, this amount of power enables a temperature sensor to send data readings to a computer.
Professor Yang Yaowen from NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who led the project, said: “Our research aims to tackle the lack of a small-scale energy harvester for more targeted functions, such as to power smaller sensors and electronic devices.”
With a typical day’s worth of wind, the device can theoretically generate enough energy to power such sensors on intermittent mode for more than a week, or an LED array for 24 hours, said Dr Hu Guobiao, one of the researchers.