NTU researchers build mini wind harvester to produce electricity from a gentle breeze

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.


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