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Harness Tornado's for Electrical Power?

  1. Dec 15, 2005 #1
    Harness Tornado's for Electrical Power??

    http://www.unpluggedliving.com/tornado-power/
    http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=4455446
    http://vortexengine.ca/
    http://vortexengine.ca/VSC/AVE_WEB.pdf

    I heard about this idea on some TV show a while back, and found this site on the internet. The basics of it are that this canadian engineer thinks he can set up a good sized stationary tornado in an enclosed 100 m or so tall cylinder and install turbines at the bottom of the cylinder where air will be drawn in to supply the tornado convection.

    Does anyone out there know of this project? Is this guy nuts or is this a possible thing to do?

    I just found it really interesting to look at and think about. I hope this idea turns out to be a flop, or us power workers might have to apply for a job at McDonalds! :frown:
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 16, 2005 #2

    matthyaouw

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    I have my doubts as to whether a vortex could be made to be self sustaining once an external energy source is removed... It doesn't say in the video clips whether heat is still being applied while the vortex is in motion although it's a tad suspiscious that there are no shots in the larger chamber after the fire has been extinguished.
     
  4. Dec 16, 2005 #3
    Sounds a little bit perpetume mobile like. Where is the energy coming from? The heat of the sun? So how many watts is available in the first place? and how about the energy around the gadget that has the same tendency but counteracting? After all you have to get a potential difference to get a current going.
     
  5. Dec 16, 2005 #4
    Sounds possible, the third link gives some explaination to matthyaouw question about where the addional heat could come from.
     
  6. Dec 16, 2005 #5
    Andre
    Thats what I thought, although the whole thing is way above my head. I dont know much about what drives tornadoes, but the whole things seems odd. I guess using the outflow water of power plants is a reasonable amount of free energy to add in, but the whole idea of this massive vortex just self sustaining forever has just got to be too good to be true. Has a self sustaining tornado ever been established on any scale?

    That said, this will be one rich dude if he is right. I'm busy working on a model to harness the energy from my flushing toilet to power my electric toothbrush to make my millions.
     
  7. Dec 16, 2005 #6

    matthyaouw

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    I'm not sure that too much of a comparison can be drawn between his vortex idea and actual tornadoes. In actual tornadoes, the vorticity is produced quite high up in the associated storm system, where as here it seems to be purely because of the angle of the air inlets at the base.

    One thing I am wondering is- if a self sustaining vortex does form, I'd think that it would no longer be dependant on the apperatus it formed in, and drift wherever the wind may take it.

    Interesting... How do you intend to overcome the problem of the turbine becoming clogged with, er, debris...? :yuck:
     
  8. Dec 17, 2005 #7

    russ_watters

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    I wouldn't call this a perpetual motion machine, but there are some issues with it. This seems to me like a variation on the Solar Tower idea that a company is developing (my opinion of the company aside....) to build in Australia. The concept is simply stack effect: warm air rises and if you confine it, it accelerates up a stack. Making it spin would be a simple matter of steering the air as it comes in, but the thing is, a rising column of air has the same energy content whether it is spinning or not. And if anything, the spinning causes more friction loss inside the tower.
     
  9. Dec 18, 2005 #8
    There is a big difference between the two. The solar tower is drawing energy from a circular greenhouse of some 150 square kilometers of solar heating of 350 megawatt each. The static tornado doesn't seem to have that hence the impression of perpetume mobile idea's.
     
  10. Dec 18, 2005 #9
    If there's a gradient somewhere in the atmosphere that tends to move air, and you put a large load (tornado/turbine) in it's path, wouldn't the air tend to avoid it and take the path of least resistance? I don't see how it's possible to get any significant amount of power out of this, or any variation thereof, without very large structures.
     
  11. Dec 18, 2005 #10

    russ_watters

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    From the first link:
    So to me it just looks like the Solar Tower just traps and funnels in more air. Same idea, just better...
    What path of least resistance? The air is confined in the tower and the only way out is up. Yes, the energy contained is not very dense, which is why the tower in the link I posted was originally envisioned to be 1km high.

    Really, these devices harness the same energy of a standard wind turbine (wind is caused by hot air rising), they just capture more of it to funnel to smaller turbines.

    I do think both ideas are valid, just not viable. Unless - and this could be - the guy proposing the confined tornados is suggesting that the tornado somehow amplifies the thermal energy. And his numbers are bogus - a 200m diameter tower producing 200MW? Not a chance.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2005
  12. Dec 18, 2005 #11

    matthyaouw

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    The more I read about this idea the less I like it. The website talks about a vortex extending the whole height of the troposphere, and even mentions formation of an eyewall, yet with the horizontal dimensions of a small tornado. And this is to form purely because of the angle the air enters a small column and a temporary heat source... I'm not sure what is supposed to keep the air spinning once it leaves the column. Wouldn't it just disperse? I think this guy needs to read up on his atmospheric processes a little...
     
  13. Dec 19, 2005 #12

    Mk

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    So I'm looking at the "solar tower." Is it possible? Is it a good idea? Will they build it? Fascinating!
     
  14. Dec 19, 2005 #13
    Comming to think of it, perhaps they should make it a wet solar tower.
    Have sea water reservoirs below the outer greenhouses to evaporate. This carries latent heat. Much of the water will consense against the glass roof but this can be collected and provides a clean fresh water source.

    But most of the air reaching the tower will still be near saturation and condensation will start soon during the rising and hence adiabatic cooling in the tower. The latent heat returns and it reduces the adiabatic lapse rate cooling by half, keeping the convection going at a stronger rate.
    Moreover, as a bonus you get also a nice permanent rain shower in the tower solving another problem.

    Got the phone number of the patent office? :tongue2:
     
  15. Dec 19, 2005 #14

    russ_watters

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    Yes.
    No. The biggest problem is actually building a 1km tower. The world's tallest structure is 600m, and these things don't scale linearly.
    My money says no. They've already cut their size/capacity goal quite a bit.
     
  16. Dec 21, 2005 #15

    Mk

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    Thanks, that's exactly what I was looking for. :biggrin:
     
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