Wind technology design innovation would eliminate blades

Wind technology design innovation would eliminate blades

Summary: A Tunisian company called Saphon Energy says it has designed a turbine using Zero-Blade Technology inspired by a sailboat that is more efficient and safer for wildlife.

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

Those of us who love the idea that wind-generated power could help reduce some of the world's fossil-fuels addiction are conflicted by stories of possible health side effects (headaches and worse) as well as the negative impact that some wind farms have had on bats and birds. Not to mention the noise and the aesthetics.

But what if you could make a wind turbine with no blades at all?

Yes, I know I just wrote about the world's longest blade which is fascinating in and of itself, well I just read this item over at TreeHugger detailing a scheme by a company called Saphon Energy to redesign the turbine layout to eliminate blades. Not only will this help with some of the noise concerns and danger to wildlife, but it will help turbines be more efficient, according to the company.

On its Web site, Saphon says the concept was inspired by sailboat designs. The company writes:

"The blades are replaced by a sail-shaped body, while both hub and gearbox are removed. Instead of spinning the blades' rotor, the wind is being harnessed by a sail, which follows a non-rotational back and forth motion. Such movement follows a knot path and allows the conversion of the majority of the kinetic energy into mechanical energy (using pistons). The same is then converted to a hydraulic pressure that could either be stored (in hydraulic accumulator) or instantly converted to electricity via a hydraulic motor and a generator. Thanks to the aerodynamic shape of the Saphonian, the drag force becomes the driving force of the system while the lift force becomes almost nil."

The design would allow turbines to overcome Betz' law, which limits how much kinetic energy a wind turbine can capture. Right now, most turbines can capture about 30 percent to 40 percent, but Saphon Energy believes its design will capture at least twice that amount, resulting in a more efficient turbine.

So, let's be clear. This is a theory that the company has prototyped (now in its second generation). But the company needs a manufacturing partner to take things farther. We've got at least two years to wait before this technology is maybe, possibly a reality.

The video below details more about the theory behind the Zero Blade Technology. Now, we'll need to keep an eye on the company to see if its idea works:



Topic: Emerging Tech

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Cheaper and double the efficiency?

    If this is for real, hooray.
  • Theyre certainlly uglier which might be a problem for John Kerry who

    already wants other people to have to be near them but doesn't want any anywhere near his houses. I like the 45% cheaper to manufacture although I don't believe it. But the main problem with existing ones isn't the blades, it's that they take more energy to manufacture and erect than they produce in their life span.
    Johnny Vegas
  • Is that an "April's Fool" day video?

    The video talks pretty ... but shows NOTHING.
    Makes claims .... but shows NOTHING.

    How is the device going to capture wind power?? By having wind push?? (that is what it claims on the website). Yeah right!! Like that is going to produce better efficiency than rotating blades.

    While blades can generate electricity with low strength wind (most common wind), this will require a hell of a lot more wind to actually generate power (if any). So the claim that it can be 40+% more efficient sound like BS.
    • Love logic.

      So you clime that website prove nothing, and then you jump against this idea, while also showing no proof. Great.
      • I'm not the one who need to show proof

        They claim a lot, but show NOTHING. Not one single explanation, just some BS words.

        Could it be legit?? Sure, if they can prove the claims ... even if it is not as high as efficient as they claim. But so far, this sounds more like a tech scam than a real product.
        • Well I do agree that burden of proof is on their part.

          But you are trying to prove that such design would not work:
          "like that is going to produce better efficiency than rotating blades."
          " a lot more wind to actually generate power (if any)."

          Since those are your claims, then burden of proof is on you.
          • Maybe because I'm an engineer ...

            ... who understands the basic concepts used. I also understand the difference between push and spin ... something you apparently don't.

            They have to show PROOF of at least a concept. So far, they are just throwing around a lot of numbers (that sound too good to be true) with nothing to back them up.
        • understanding the saphon generator

          I would say that if you have a clue as to how a speaker takes alternating electricity to push the vibrate the speaker skin that you can hear then you should be able to take wind which fluctuates to vibrate the skin which in turn is coupled with levers to push pistons and create hydraulic fluid to run a hydraulic generator then you understand this technology.
  • Vid

    Useless video.
    Shows nothing at all.
    Just some blah blah blah.
    Their site is useless also.
    • Blame patent system.

      If they showed anything, then they would not be able to collect their patents. So you will not see anything at all for some time.

      Also those mentioned prototypes may be not so nice looking, or made just for testing.

      And the 3rd point. This video may be pure PR to get media coverage to get more attention from manufacturers. (So you seeing anything specific there at all, may have not been on the list of priorities at all).
      • The patent is already filed

        Nothing is stopping them from disclosure - they had to disclose in order to file the patent. Unfortunately, what they patented doesn't appear to have much to do with the hype they are putting out. The patent describes a wind generator with blades which pumps hydraulic fluid instead of turning a generator. Wheee....
        • spark555

          They may have new patents pending before full disclosure is permitted.
  • So why can't they give details on the invention?

    Supposedly they've cracked the Betz barrier, and come up with a device which is twice as efficient as the well proven three bladed windmill...

    So why the heck can't they give any meaningful details about what they actually have developed? If it's on the second generation prototype, why is it we only have some weird hand-wave about it being like a sailboat which pumps left and right and makes hydraulic pressure? Um.... the picture doesn't reflect that design. They've got a big disk with no apparent moving parts.

    I smell a fraud.

    Anyone who had a meaningful invention here at the second stage of prototyping would be able to explain SOMETHING about what they are doing.

    This? Vaporware.
    • Patent system.

      Can not patent anything publicly disclosed.
      • They already filed the patent

        Two issues with your angle:

        1. They have already filed their patent (and it doesn't appear to resemble the hype they are putting out).

        2. Under the US patent system, you can make public disclosure and still have an entire YEAR to file patents on it.

        Care to address either of these small flaws in your reasoning?
  • WO/2012/039688 patent uses blades

    Go read the patent. It has nothing to do with the weird picture they are showing. It's a bladed, perfectly Betz limited windmill that happens to pump hydraulic fluid. That isn't ground breaking.

    Hello supposed inventors: PROVE ME WRONG. State what the HECK you are doing that's new?

    Give specifics. If you dare.
    • Love logic.

      Prove that patent you have found have anything to do with mentioned in the news device.
      • What part of the following don't you understand???

        From the WIPO patent itself:

        "equipped with a series of BLADES arranged all around it. The wheel (F) TURNS in a pivoting connection about a fixed axle"
        • This one:

          Why do you claim that patent you have found have anything to do with "blade-less" design mentioned in the article.

          Lets assume that this company have device covered in this patent ready for production. What that change?

          Cann't they have one without blades. One that is not covered by this patent.

          I do not understand why you jump to the conclusion that patent you have found describe device mentioned in the article. Why you insist on this company having only one invention, and only one research....
          • Maybe because it is the only RELATED patent

            .. under the company name.