Shawn Frayne is a 28-year-old inventor based in Mountain View,
California, winner of the Popular Mechanics 2007 Breakthrough Award,
who has devised a way to harness the potential of wind without the
need for conventional wind turbines.
As Frayne explains, conventional wind turbines don't scale down well
because there's too much friction in the gearbox and other components:
"With rotary power, there's nothing out there that generates under 50
The Windbelt gets around these problems by putting aside rotation
entirely. Instead, a method has been developed by which a taut,
vibrating membrane, coupled with a no-contact, direct-drive electrical
generator, can tap the energy of flowing air.
By studying the way vibrations caused by the wind (aeroelastic
flutter) led to the collapse in 1940 of Washington's Tacoma Bridge,
Frayne came up with the idea for the Windbelt, which is basically a
taut membrane fitted with a pair of magnets that oscillate between
The Windbelt is the world's first turbine-less wind generator -- a
completely new way to look at wind power which is changing the
landscape of the field.
Prototypes have been capable of generating 40 milliwatts in 10-mph
slivers of wind, making his device 10 to 30 times as efficient as the
best microturbines and enough to power LED lamps and radios.
The Windbelt technology was originally conceived in 2004, during a
trip to Petite Anse, Haiti. This fishing village near the coast was
not connected to an electrical grid, and the only lighting available
was diesel-powered or kerosene-based.
The Windbelt fulfilled its original design criteria while
demonstrating 10x the efficiency of the state-of-the-art in micro-
turbine technology on these scales.
Now, Humdinger is poised to take this technology and apply it to a
wide array of fields, from rural lighting to energy harvesting for
wireless sensors in 'smart buildings'.
Peter Haas, founder of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development
Group, which helps people in developing countries to get
environmentally sound access to clean water, sanitation and energy,
and has a whole section of their website dedicated to WindMills, sees
many advantages in Frayne's invention: "If Shawn's innovation breaks,
locals can fix it. If a solar panel breaks, the family is out a
"There's not a huge amount of innovation being done for people making
$ to $ per day," Haas added. "Shawn's work is definitely needed."
I look forward to it being scaled up.
Even though these micro-power markets are enormous, we often get the
question of whether the WindbeltTM can scale up and compete head-to-head
with kW or MW scale wind turbines. We are beginning to actively
investigate these larger energy domains, and look forward to being able
to report new findings here. We also are a company that believes the
proof is in the pudding, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to see
some of our experiments in windy locale near you as we explore the power
of this new approach to wind...
Gadget Inspector wrote:
Can you imagine what it must sound like??
Now imagine a whole field of them.
If you made one big enough it wouldn't make any sound. How you would adjust
the flutter speeed for different winds speeds I don't know :) Also i wonder
how much power was being added to the Tacoma Bridge bridge on each cycle.
The whole point is that you keep adding a little power each cycle. If you
start taking that back out again it will stop.