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Directory:Rick Dickson:Wind Tree
You know how leaves flutter in the wind? What if there were a device that could harness the energy of hundreds of leaves via the piezoelectric technology that converts movement or pressure into electricity? A "tree" made of such leaves could be installed in urban settings to generate electricity, without upsetting the neighbors or violating community aesthetic codes.
Richard Dickson is developing such a system and has filed a patent on the same. His passive wind harvesting technology that uses *PVDF and piezoelectric ceramics materials woven into textile-like material to form artificial leaves for a bio-mimicking "tree".
- * PVDF = polyvinyl material that generates piezoelectricity...originally developed for NASA.
This PESWiki page is the first website coverage.
Mr. Dickson is currently developing a prototype of both the "Wind Tree" and "Kelp Tree".
How it Works
This is a unique passive wind power harvesting scheme. Each artificial PVDF/ceramic textile "leaf" on the wind tree only generates small voltages, but together in series, thousands of such leaves on a single tree can produce significant power.
This illustration of the "Wind Tree" is greatly simplified. In reality it would be very tall (perhaps 75 feet or more) with thousands of leaves on the artificial branches. The core trunk would be made of hollow iron pipe, or perhaps heavy duty PVC pipe. In any case, the branches and trunk could be covered with faux plastic tree bark to make the tree look more aesthetic.
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The leaf node generates electricity two ways: (1) from the AFC woven textile leaf itself as wind bends it and (2) at the leaf node on the artificial branch, there is a curved PVDF piezoelectric actuator. This actuator generates electricity as well when the knobbed Teflon bearing, attached to the end of the leaf, impacts it in response to wind.
The electrical output of piezoelectric materials has been increasing in recent years with advances in materials science. The AFCs are the latest advance. It is possible future piezoelectric materials will produce even greater amounts of electricity.
- Advanced Fiber Composite (AFC) Actuators (pdf) - Document about existing, plausible piezoelectric technology specifications.
Advantages over conventional wind turbine generators include lower wind velocities to activate, can be sited in residential areas, thus reducing line loss and distance to the power grid or homes, lack of a noisy wind turbine blade, lower maintenance costs and aesthetics (it looks like a tree).
The advantages of piezoelectricity include: (1) clean, (2) very low maintenance, not a mechanical generator system, (3) simplicity of design, since the materials themselves generate electricity, (4) long lasting (doesn't wear out like solar cells), and (5) many applications from textiles to electronic actuators.
The life cycle costs of the "Wind Tree" are lower than conventional wind turbines over time due to non-mechanical design (no parts to wear out, etc.)
All these advantages have the potential of opening up major new areas for wind power production.
Wind trees could be purchased by homeowners and installed in their backyards (anchored with cement block in ground) as well. Once piezoelectrics are advanced further, one could imagine "Wind Tree" forests, "planted" on commercial plantations to harvest wind, while also performing many of the functions of a real forest as well. Thus, "Wind Tree" technology is environmentally friendly, more so than conventional wind turbines, which are unsightly, noisy, and kill migrating birds.
The technology could also be applied to designing underwater artificial "Kelp" type forests anchored to the sea bed in a frame. The individual artificial kelp leaves could be made out of AFCs with PVDF actuators in the nodes. This would be an underwater variant of the Wind Tree design. Tidal motion and wave action near the surface would provide the motive force to activate the AFC textiles and generate electricity. The artificial "Kelp" would be planted close to shore in shallow waters, so that both tidal and wave energy could be harnessed to generate piezoelectricity.
The "Kelp Tree" variant has many advantages over wave and tidal powe generators, including simplicity of construction: basically just a sea bed frame to anchor the artificial kelp leaves and the leaves themselves plus associated wiring; lower maintenance costs than mechanical generator systems (seawater is extremely corrosive), and can be sited closer to shore. Finally, the "Kelp Tree" forest concept is environmentally friendly, and performs many of the functions of a real kelp tree forest, including sheltering marine life. There are no environmental disadvantages to this concept.
Finally, the "Kelp Tree" forest would produce more power than the "Wind Tree" concept, because the artificial AFC kelp leaves would be individually much longer (perhaps twenty to forty feet each), and wave and tidal action are more reliable motive forces than wind.
The "wind tree" life cycle cost is cheaper than a conventional wind turbine, mainly due to lower maintenance costs and reduced power distribution costs (sited closer to the grid). However, the initial cost of each unit is higher than a conventional wind turbine; but because it is a non-mechanical system and can be sited closer to the power grid, the long term costs of operation are expected to be lower.
The "kelp tree" life cycle costs are similarly cheaper than mechanical wave power or tidal power renewable energy systems due to lower maintenance costs (corrosive impact of seawater is minimized on this type of passive power harvesting system and since the kelp forest can be sited close in shore, it is cheaper to service it), and ease of setup (basically just a seabed anchoring frame, artificial kelp leaves with buoyancy bladders, and associated insulated wiring).
"I have some drawings and calculations, which I can email to you later this weekend. Currently, I am working on a small demonstration prototype (very reduced scale). When it is completed and tested, I will forward photos and test data results." -- Rick Dickson (Sept. 14, 2007)
Dickson has filed for a US provisional patent in July of 2007.
Company: Power Recovery Systems LLC
Dickson has a small Oregon based R&D firm, Power Recovery Systems, LLC, which serves as the corporate umbrella for his renewable energy inventions.
Inventor: Rick Dickson
Other inventions by Rick Dickson
- Piezoelectric Generator - Richard Dickson proposes using the piezoelectric effect for generating electricity, where pressure turns into electricity, from environments such as wave action or roadway impact. The question is one of cost and feasibility, not whether or not it would work.
- Dickson 'Hydrosphere' for harnessing deep water pressure - Invention by Richard Dickson is a new type of enclosed hydroelectric dam that works off pressure differentials in sea or deep lake water at great depths. Dickson claims it can generate up to 500 Megawatts of continuous, non-polluting, renewable energy out of sight in oceans or deep lakes. Skeptics say there is not a means of cycling the input energy, and it cannot serve as a primary energy generator.
- Featured in the Oregonian (Portland, Oregon, USA newspaper) in Aug 07.
See Discussion page
- News:Wind | 2010 | 2009 | 2008
- PowerPedia:Wind power | PowerPedia:Wind Turbine
- Directory:Wind:Past Developments
- Directory:Wind:Offshore | PowerPedia:Offshore Wind Power Drawbacks
- Directory:Wind Farms | PowerPedia:Windfarms
- Directory:High-Efficiency Horizontal Axis Wind Turbines
- Directory:Home Generation:Wind Turbine
- Directory:Vertical Axis Wind Turbines
- Directory:High Altitude Wind Power
- Directory:Wind Augmentation
- Directory:Power Via Atmospheric Pressure Differences
- Directory:Humdinger Windbelt
- Directory:Wind Power in the United Kingdom