Spherical wind turbine wins UK Dyson innovation award

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani from Lancaster University won the award for the O-Wind Turbine that can work with the unpredictable and multi-directional airflows in towns and cities.

A design for a new type of power plug using an inductive connection was the runner up.

Nicolas Orellana first became interested in the challenge of multidirectional wind after studying NASA’s Mars Tumbleweed rover. Six feet in diameter, this inflatable ball was designed to autonomously bounce and roll like tumbleweed, across Mars’ surface to measure atmospheric conditions and geographical location. Like conventional wind turbines, it was powered by unidirectional wind blows which severely impaired the rover’s mobility when faced with obstructions, often throwing it off course and resulting, ultimately, in the failure of the project.

O-Wind Turbine is a 25cm sphere with geometric vents; it sits on a fixed axis and spins when wind hits it from any direction. When wind energy turns the device, gears drive a generator which converts the power of the wind into electricity. This can either be used as a direct source of power, or it can be fed into the electricity grid. The aim is for O-Wind Turbine to be installed to large structures such as the side of a building, or balcony, where wind speeds are at their highest. 

“We hope that O-Wind Turbine will improve the usability and affordability of turbines for people across the world,” said Nicolas Orellana. “Cities are windy places but we are currently not harnessing this resource. Our belief is that making it easier to generate green energy, people will be encouraged to play a bigger role in conserving our planet. Winning the James Dyson Award has validated our concept, and given us the confidence to approach investors to secure the capital we need to continue turn our idea into a reality.” 

“I was captivated by the simplicity of the design, relative to the enormous ambition of competing in the renewable energy sector,” said the chair of the judging panel, Sir Kenneth Grange. “Developing ways to embed sustainability into society is an important challenge which will puzzle engineers for centuries, and these innovators show promise as early pioneers. Whilst the project is still at the beginning of a long and gruelling journey of iterations and frustrations, the James Dyson Award exists to reward young engineers with vision. For this reason we felt O-Wind Turbine was worthy of holding the accolade of JDA UK National Winner 2018, and receiving £2,000 investment to kick start their product development.”

The James Dyson Foundation that sponsors the award is backed by digital motor developer Dyson. Engineers from the company will now whittle down winners and runners up from 27 countries to a shortlist of just 20, which will be announced on 21st September. 

The UK runner up, called Mi Plug, was designed by Will De Brett of Northumbria University. Using magnetic induction Mi Plug is designed to be stackable, safe, and easy to use. Also benefiting from its plastic construction, Mi Plug is waterproof and has the potential to be used underwater.

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