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Flow concept turns wind into light with novel bamboo turbine


May 3, 2012

The Flow vertical turbine concept features bamboo blades with an LED at each tip to provide light whenever the wind blows

The Flow vertical turbine concept features bamboo blades with an LED at each tip to provide light whenever the wind blows

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Grid-powered street lighting is something that many of us take for granted, but there are parts of the world where electricity is a scarce resource and when the sun goes down, local pedestrian traffic in areas where public lighting is not abundant can all-but cease due to safety concerns. In searching for an inexpensive off-grid solution for places like the Colombian city of Cartagena, designer Alberto Vasquez looked to the wind for help. His Flow concept makes use of readily-available bamboo for the construction of a vertical wind turbine in a similar vein to the Power Flowers concept, but with LED light modules at the end of each blade. As the wind catches the blades, the LEDs light up the walkway beneath.

Vasquez – who has also designed a cardboard desklamp and a walking light as well as my personal favorite, a cigarette packet shaped like a coffin – says that although Colombian coastal walkways can be bustling by day, they're virtually abandoned at night due to sparse public lighting. He says that the year-round winds in places Cartagena could be put to good use. Colombia is also said to have the second highest woody bamboo diversity in Latin America, boasting some 70 species.

The Flow concept has been designed to address a specific problem in a specific region, but may well be a good fit for eco-parks, energy-efficient business developments or a university campus looking to cut energy costs. It features bamboo blades that spiral around a vertical axis, which Vasquez says can hold the wind from every direction. A low-energy LED module sits at either end of each bamboo wind blade, lighting up as the structure spins in the wind and appearing to give off rows of unbroken bands of light – at least, that's the theory.

Flow hasn't actually made it beyond the scale model stage as yet, so there's no way of knowing whether the current design will capture enough wind to generate sufficient light for it to be of practical use. Such questions will doubtless be answered when the designer begins prototyping shortly in collaboration with the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest, Hungary, but perhaps the design would benefit from having a PV panel installed atop the structure to capture the sun's rays during the day and guarantee light provision in the event of low wind.

Such additions, however, would likely push production costs up and put Flow beyond the reach of the folks it was designed to help, and also add complication to street lighting meant to be assembled by an unskilled local workforce.

Source: Alberto Vasquez

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

Seems way to complicated to be worth it over solar, would not put out enough light to light up an area, and even if it did would create a bad disco effect. But he did make a nice model, though it would not turn in t wind because of the weight. Still it is a gismo.

The Hoff

If it's meant to provide street lighting, why do the lights basically run horizontally, instead of pointing groundwards.

Good idea tho'.

Mr Stiffy

Oh, please. Cartagena is older than New York City. The solution to unlit streets is free markets and the rule of law, not some new gizmo. Let's see the bamboo subways and streetcars.

Jan Vones

What generates the electricity in the full-scale turbine? And don't say batteries.

Captain Obvious

free markets ...


Pretty, elegant, inexpensive and entirely useless. Lights like this would only be powerful enough to make you aware that they were there in the dark. More on the level of art than practical lighting solution. I'd love to have a bunch of them scattered around my neighborhood, just for the aesthetic effect.

Timothy Neill

Anyone wanting these, go check out Firewinder: Demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgRY6R4FolU Webshop: http://www.peershardy.com/peers-hardy-group/firewinder/

Maya Deva Kniese
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