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IMPLUX: Omni-directional, vertical axis wind turbine for urban environments

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May 12, 2011

How the IMPLUX might look atop a building

How the IMPLUX might look atop a building

Image Gallery (5 images)

When most people think of wind power they think of large-scale wind farms with fields of huge three-bladed horizontal axis turbines. With such farms requiring lots of room they are generally unsuitable for placement in or even near large cities. Smaller turbines tailored for urban environments such as AeroVironment's Architectural Wind System, the Honeywell Wind Turbine and the Windspire represent a growing sector though, and the latest to catch our eye is the IMPLUX - a vertical axis turbine designed to harness the power of the wind blowing from all directions.

The key to the IMPLUX, which was designed by inventor Varan Sureshan, is the omni-directional shroud that forms the outer covering of the turbine and directs the wind from all directions up through the unit to turn an aerofoil propeller rotor like that used on horizontal axis wind turbines. The shroud, which wouldn't look out of place in The Jetsons, consists of a series of fixed horizontal blades that are shaped to capture the wind and accelerate it up into the central chamber to turn the turbine rotor.

To stop the wind simply blowing straight through the shroud, the horizontal blades are angled to direct the wind upwards. Sureshan says the wind entering the bottom-most opening, which has the highest focusing ability, forms a "fluid dynamic gate" - essentially an air curtain - that blocks the wind entering on one side from escaping out the other, instead forcing it up a past the rotor.

Image from computational fluid dynamic analysis showing air flow through the IMPLUX

Sureshan says his invention is capable of generating the same amount or more electricity than a standard horizontal wind turbine with the same sized rotor, but with reduced noise, maintenance and the ability to harness the power of wind that is continuously and rapidly changing direction and speed. This makes it suitable for the swirling wind patterns usually found on the tops of high-rise buildings within cities.

And because the unit is fixed to the building and the rotor is spinning on a vertical axis, Sureshan says the amount of imbalance forces are almost nil, resulting in very little vibration and noise being transferred to the building on which it is located.

Sureshan says the bigger the IMPLUX is, the more efficient it is and he has modeled the design up to a 30 kW unit that measures about 15 m (49 ft) in diameter using computational fluid dynamic (CFD) analyses. However, a unit of such size would be impractical for most buildings, so to test the technology a prototype unit measuring roughly 4 m (13 ft) in diameter and 4 m high with a rotor of about 2 m (6.5 ft) in diameter has been built that is expected to produce up to a maximum of 2 kW. The prototype is set to be placed atop a high-rise building in a city environment for real world testing in June.

If the tests go as expected, Sureshan says he plans to produce units that are slightly smaller to give the device the best chance of meeting as many council planning permission regulations for placement on existing buildings as possible. These will measure around 3 m x 3 m (9.8 x 9.8 ft) and are expected to produce around 1.5 kW.

Sureshan has been awarded patents for the IMPLUX design and has founded a company, Katru Eco-Energy, to bring the IMPLUX to market. The company is aiming for a mid-2012 date for the first IMPLUX units to roll off the production line with an expected price tag in the area of US$10,000.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
12 Comments

OMG it looks so stupid.. Is it a Rolls Royce?? Who puts a hood ornament on a building?? Besides Rolls Royce who puts a hood ornament on a car?? lol Oh and there is no way they are making a omni directional 30k windmill for 10k.. sorry not going to happen, maybe 100k..

Michael Mantion
13th May, 2011 @ 05:50 am PDT

OK read it again, in the end it is a 3m 1500watt for 10k.. I was going to say.. Yes that I believe and now it is significantly over priced..

Michael Mantion
13th May, 2011 @ 05:53 am PDT

Brilliant, overpriced idea.

F M
13th May, 2011 @ 08:16 am PDT

Despite their efforts to counter noise, I find it difficult to believe there won't be a "rumble" resonating through the structure of the building. Nevertheless, very glad to see somebody is putting more effort into shrouded horizontal wind turbines. Perhaps we should be installing them in redundant factory chimneys and cooling towers. Still, no doubt wind power is a passing fad and will eventually be supplanted by more exotic power sources. We can but hope.

Mike Hallett
13th May, 2011 @ 08:18 am PDT

According to an earlier article listed below, the Windspire vertical axis turbine is already on sale at $5,000 for 1.2 kW. It's not clear to me that this new idea is any advance.

David Evans
13th May, 2011 @ 11:08 am PDT

It looks good, except that I worry about what happens if you suffer blade damage.

Slowburn
14th May, 2011 @ 06:41 am PDT

While the post claims that large size units are more efficient (as one would expect), the numbers don't add up to that conclusion. a 15m diameter unit gives up to 30kW, while a 4m unit gives 2kW and a 3m 1.5 kW. thats frontal surface area (the only quantity of relevance to wind power) ratios of 25:1.78:1 with power ratios of 20:1.33:1. arguably the 3m diameter one is most efficient. However, it becomes much worse when you take into account the actual size of the structure, which scale to the third power and leads to a relative size ratio of 1:2.37:125. Hence the 15m only has 1/6th the efficiency per volume occupied of the 3m unit.

I have assumed the 15m diameter one has, like the two smaller ones, a height equal to the diameter. reducing the height to 2.4m (impossible with this design) would give parity with efficiency per volume.

In short, the numbers are probably wrong, and the design suffers from the major flaw that the material volume required scales with the swept volume of the unit. as long as efficiency scales with the frontal surface area, you're cost-power output ratio will always get worse with size.

Facebook User
14th May, 2011 @ 10:04 pm PDT

More info here from The New Inventors website http://www.abc.net.au/tv/newinventors/txt/s3203927.htm

Nicholas Searle
15th May, 2011 @ 06:40 pm PDT

We've seen so many designs like this, bladed turbines with augmenter of one design or another, they either never get built or the company doesn't last long. In short, it's a bad idea, all that extra material has to be paid for.

This is a great example of why common sense needs o be taught along with design in technical design classes...

Mr T
15th May, 2011 @ 06:46 pm PDT

1.2kw for $5,000 or 30 kw for $10,000 - that sounds like a big advance and improvement?

Also, I find it completely plausible that a small 9 foot device wouldn't "resonate a rumble throughout a building. There are large heating and cooling systems running on the tops of buildings that don't seem to rumble the building. I work in a 4 story building with 2 such units taller than me and I don't feel or hear anything.

David Storfer
16th May, 2011 @ 07:06 pm PDT

Vertical Axis Wind Turbines are more stable especially the small ones and can be mounted on rooftops in developing countries.

JA
27th June, 2011 @ 07:23 am PDT

maybe an 'umbrella' turbine on top of a pyramid in the desert- omni-directional....(greenhouse the sunny sides and it could be solar to boot...)

Kwazai
8th April, 2013 @ 10:30 am PDT
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