Wind turbines with flexible blades found to be more efficient

A small team of researchers with Sorbonne Université and École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers-ParisTech has found that using flexible blades on a wind turbine can dramatically increase its efficiency. In their paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A, the team describes their approach and the results they obtained through physical testing of their idea.

After many years of research, modern wind turbines have become an effective source of alternative energy—but only under the right conditions. Big turbines used by utilities must reside in locations that offer a steady stream of the right wind speeds—too fast, and there could be damage or high maintenance costs; too slow, and the turbine blades will not turn. Now, it appears that there might be an alternative solution—using flexible blades that optimize the torque applied to the generator.
The idea for flexible blades came to the researchers after noting that most insects have flexible wings, which prior research has suggested provides creatures such as the dragonfly more power without expending more energy, by contrast with inflexible wings. That led them to create wind turbine blades that were flexible, contrary to the industry standard hard blades. After coming up with a suitable design, the researchers tested their ideas by applying them to actual wind turbines. In their tests, some of the turbines ran with the standard hard blades, some ran with very flexible blades, and some ran with blades that were approximately in the middle—not hard, but not as floppy as the other blades. They then tested each of the turbines for efficiency.
The researchers report that the hard-bladed turbines performed as expected, but the floppy blades did not work well at all—they were less efficient than the hard blades. But the middle option proved to be approximately 35 percent more efficient than the standard hard-blade turbine. They also found that the turbines worked over a wider range of wind conditions than standard turbines—they would turn under lower wind conditions and were not as susceptible to wear and tear under high wind conditions.
The researchers suggest the use of flexible blades on wind turbines offers the advantage of increased versatility and efficiency. More research is required to discover optimal flexibility and to determine if such blades are commercially viable.

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Lithium-ion battery inventor introduces new technology for fast-charging #noncombustible batteries

A team of engineers led by 94-year-old John Goodenough, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells that could lead to safer, faster-charging, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for handheld mobile devices, electric cars and stationary energy storage.

The researchers demonstrated that their new battery cells have at least three times as much energy density as today’s lithium-ion batteries. A battery cell’s energy density gives an electric vehicle its driving range, so a higher energy density means that a car can drive more miles between charges. The UT Austin battery formulation also allows for a greater number of charging and discharging cycles, which equates to longer-lasting batteries, as well as a faster rate of recharge (minutes rather than hours).

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Automate Your Garden with FarmBot

FarmBot is bringing technology to the rescue with a scalable, hackable, robotic farming solution you can install yourself and expand as you need.

FarmBot Genesis, the first FarmBot from the San Luis Obispo based developer, is available to purchase as a kit and the next batch is expected to ship in February of 2017. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to do a lot of shopping and cutting pieces on your own, the materials list and CAD models are available to download free from the FarmBot website.  The software is open source. The cost to purchase a FarmBot Genesis kit is $3,200.

3D-printable attachments, which are also included in the purchased kit, do the work and keep your hands from getting dirty. These include a Seed Injector, Water Nozzle, Soil Sensor and Weed Suppressor. If you can dream up another attachment to make your gardening easier, simply 3D print your design to fit FarmBot’s Universal Tool Adapter.

Programming Data Collection

Planning your farm and programming the sequences of actions that will keep your veggies healthy is easy with a graphical drag and drop interface for your phone, tablet or computer. A camera attachment helps you monitor the growth of your plants and detects weeds. The soil sensor measures moisture to maintain ideal growing conditions and the system responds to each individual plant’s needs.

FarmBot Size and Specifications

The basic Farmbot Genesis design enables you to set up a garden plot of anywhere from one to four and a half square meters with a maximum plant height of one meter. However, by adding longer rails and making the necessary modifications, the designers believe that the Genesis design can scale to around fifty square meters and a one and a half meter plant height. Moving beyond the backyard garden, multiple Genesis units built out to their maximum size could help power a commercial growing operation.

The materials used to build the FarmBot Genesis are easily acquired. According to the FarmBot website:

Genesis is a small scale FarmBot primarily constructed from V-Slot aluminum extrusions and aluminum plates and brackets. Genesis is driven by NEMA 17 stepper motors, an Arduino MEGA with a RAMPS shield, and a Raspberry Pi 3 computer. These electronics were chosen for their great availability, support, and usage in the DIY 3D printer world.


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