This is very cool.
Working in Haiti, Shawn Frayne, a 28-year-old inventor based in Mountain View, Calif., saw the need for small-scale wind power to juice LED lamps and radios in the homes of the poor. Conventional wind turbines donâ€™t scale down wellâ€”thereâ€™s too much friction in the gearbox and other components. â€œWith rotary power, thereâ€™s nothing out there that generates under 50 watts,â€ Frayne says. So he took a new tack, studying the way vibrations caused by the wind led to the collapse in 1940 of Washingtonâ€™s Tacoma Narrows Bridge (aka Galloping Gertie).
Frayneâ€™s device, which he calls a Windbelt, is a taut membrane fitted with a pair of magnets that oscillate between metal coils. Prototypes have generated 40 milliwatts in 10-mph slivers of wind, making his device 10 to 30 times as efficient as the best microturbines. Frayne envisions the Windbelt costing a few dollars and replacing kerosene lamps in Haitian homes. â€œKerosene is smoky and itâ€™s a fire hazard,â€ says 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. â€œIf Shawnâ€™s innovation breaks, locals can fix it. If a solar panel breaks, the family is out a panel.â€
Newsreel about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse.