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Fuller Wind Turbine Uses Rotating Disks

Credits: ©2010 SolarAero

By Karen Sprey / GizMag - A wind turbine that uses boundary layers instead of blades to generate power has been patented by Solar Aero, a New Hampshire based not-for-profit scientific research organization. (Full patent is linked below.) Modeled on the 1913 Tesla steam turbine, the Fuller turbine is virtually silent and completely enclosed, which avoids many of the drawbacks of bladed turbines such as noise, radar interference, visual pollution and wildlife injuries. Solar Aero's Howard Fuller says the principal of operation is roughly the same as for the Tesla steam turbine. "Closely-spaced discs trap the motive fluid molecules (in this case air) in a laminar flow adjacent to the disc surface. This provides aerodynamic drag, which imparts force to the disc surface. By using multiple discs, the turbine then provides considerable torque to accelerate the rotation of the central driveshaft, which is directly coupled to an alternator, typically located at the base of a tower, or alternatively co-located on a rooftop."


Bladeless Wind Turbine Outside

Solar Aero’s current prototype of the Bladeless Wind Turbine is a modest trailer-mounted unit. But inventor Howard Fuller says that their other models “should be capable of 10kW output with no problem.” ©2010 SolarAero

The turbine is likely to have a cut-in speed of about 3.5 knots and optimum speed is about 20 knots. Near transparency to radar microwave transmissions can be achieved with proper construction materials and techniques.

Although currently only in pre-prototype stage, it is anticipated that units would be available in different sizes. The smallest unit would be likely to produce about 5kW at 15 knots.

Solar Aero expects costs to be comparable to coal-fired power generation - around $0.05/kWh. When used in conjunction with a suitable storage device, this should provide reliable, inexpensive power in either residential or commercial applications.

Maintenance costs should be less than for bladed turbines. As the up-tower turbine is supported solely on zero-maintenance magnetic bearings, there will be no friction to impede acceleration and no routine lubrication required.

Solar Aero is currently completing a full scale prototype. The design will be available for worldwide production licensing following testing.


The Following Article is from PhysOrg.org
Bladeless wind turbine inspired by Tesla
May 7, 2010 by Lisa Zyga
A bladeless wind turbine whose only rotating component is a turbine/driveshaft could generate power at a cost comparable to coal-fired power plants, according to its developers at Solar Aero. The New Hampshire-based company recently announced its patent on the Fuller wind turbine, which is an improvement on a patent issued to Nikola Tesla in 1913.

The bladeless wind turbine is completely enclosed in a relatively small compact unit. Instead of using wind-powered blades to rotate a shaft and generator, the Tesla-inspired design consists of an array of closely spaced, parallel, thin metal disks separated by spacers. When air flows in the spaces between the disks, the spacers are arranged in such a way as to provide inward momentum to the air, causing the disks to move. The disks are connected to a shaft by spokes, so that the rotating disks cause the shaft to rotate as well. As explained in the patent held by Howard Fuller, the turbine design “provides maximum efficiency in converting wind energy to mechanical power.”

“The turbine of the present invention has the advantage that it is efficient over a wider range of fluid flow rates, as compared with turbines of the prior art, due to the airfoil-shaped spacers,” the patent explains. “This feature makes the present turbine especially useful for generating power from wind, which is inherently random and variable.”

What this efficiency translates to, according to a recent article at EcoGeek, are final costs of about $1.50/watt rated output, which is roughly 2/3 the cost of comparable bladed units. Further, “total operating costs over the lifetime of the unit” are estimated at about $0.12/kWh, which is comparable to current retail electrical rates. The number of disks determines the amount of power that can be produced, and a unit the size of the one pictured should be capable of generating 10kW of power, according to the company.

One major advantage of not having blades is reduced maintenance costs. For instance, the turbines can be mounted on towers or poles, while generator equipment can be located at the tower base, eliminating the need for climbing the tower for routine maintenance. Also, the turbines only need to be mounted high enough to clear nearby obstacles to wind flow. Since there are no external blades that require ground clearance, the tower can likely be shorter than those used for turbines with blades.

Further, the screen-enclosed turbine prevents injuries to birds and bats, avoids the visual pollution of spinning blades, and proper construction can make the turbine nearly transparent to radar microwave emissions, such as those from nearby defense facilities. Due to its reduced maintenance costs and limited infrastructure requirements, the turbine could even be located on urban rooftops.

Besides wind, the turbine’s design also makes it adaptable for geothermal applications, in which a heated fluid is used to drive the turbine. Since the turbine works even with relatively cool fluid, the invention could be particularly useful for situations where the geothermal source does not provide enough heat to produce the “superheated” steam needed to drive a conventional steam engine.


The Following Article Is from Business Green.com
"Bladeless" wind turbine firm aims to win over Nimbys
Startup argues quiet and enclosed new design will appeal
to those who traditionally object to wind turbines

By Jessica Shankleman, BusinessGreen, 07 May 2010

A "bladeless" wind turbine that has been designed to pacify protestors who dislike the visual and noise impact of traditional three-blade turbines could soon be launched.

US startup Solar Aero Research claims its soon-to-be-released Fuller Wind Turbine circumvents many of the objections to the traditional three-bladed wind turbine by reducing noise levels and avoiding any form of radar interference or injuries to wildlife.

"As we see more and more of the population rising in opposition to the windmills due to noise and wildlife injury concerns, we see more opportunities for our system, so we are... redoubling our efforts to make people aware that there is an alternative," chief executive Howard Fuller told BusinessGreen.com.

The completely enclosed device secured a patent last month and after six years of development Solar Aero is now looking to start manufacturing from next year and is in talks to find licensees around the world which can produce the units.

Fuller said that the company ultimately planned to target both the micro-generation and the utility-scale wind farm market.

"Our initial market will be residential and small business firms that can effectively use a 10kW baseline unit that can be deployed either on or off-grid, " he explained. "Beyond that, we plan to eventually enter the utility-scale market."

He also argued that the system would represent a low-cost alternative to traditional three-blade wind turbines.

At current estimates, the machine is slated to cost about $0.055 per kWh, approximately the same as for coal-fired generation, while Fuller insisted the enclosed design means it will require low levels of maintenance meaning full life-cycle costs will be a third lower than for conventional wind turbines.

However, Fuller admitted that the company is likely to need to additional funding to get the product to market.

"Our only hurdle has been one of funding," he said.

"Most of the government grants available have been for erection of bladed turbines, as opposed to research into alternatives. Grant-giving governmental entities are not, in our experience, the most innovative organisations on the planet. About all we can do is work around that problem as best we can."

Solar Aero Research is one of a number of firms working on new wind turbine designs that promise to improve efficiency and reduce costs compared with traditional three blade turbines.

For example, California-based Nordic Windpower is one of a number of firms currently working on an innovative twin-blade turbine design, while in the UK a major government-backed research project is working on a vertical axis design for offshore wind farms.

Relevant books:
Aerodynamics of Wind Turbines

Nikola Tesla Treasury

My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla

Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla

Tesla: Man Out of Time

Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla


  Bladeless Wind Turbine US Patent (115 kb)


SolarAero Research