Mini windmill inspired by the wings of seagulls. Image: Martins Rodsa9 Shutterstock

Deakin University engineers designed a blade that improves the production capacity of small-scale wind turbines between 10 and 15%.

The efficient small wind turbine is directly inspired by nature. Again, it is biomimetics, which is used to solve the performance problems of renewable sources.

A team of engineers from the University of Deakin, Australia, sifted through Mother Nature’s evolutionary records for a structural solution that can increase the efficiency of mini-wind turbines.

Although a lot of progress has been made in terms of performance in large wind turbines, it is not enough to change the size to make it a small and efficient wind turbine. On the contrary, ad hoc solutions must be developed to achieve good results, even at smaller scales.

The engineers’ choice fell on the wings of the seagull, which became a biological model for a new blade design.

Blades designed for large turbines often do not have good aerodynamic efficiency when reduced. We were convinced that there was potential to improve the production capacity of the small wind turbine and we looked to the sky for ideas. Nature has its own way of finding perfect solutions.

Dr Jorg Schluter, professor of mechanical engineering at Deakin University.

Student Arun Joseph Thomas began testing the gull’s wing structure bio-inspired blades using new simulation and analysis software. Using wind data collected in the Australian city of Geelong, where the University is located, research has shown that the new design would provide 10 to 15% more power than a conventional wind turbine.

The curvature of gull wings has been optimized over millions of years to extract as much air as possible on such a small scale. Incorporating this way into the design of a wind turbine increases the production capacity of the wind turbine and suggests that there is greater business potential for small wind turbines.

Arun Joseph Thomas.

Small-scale wind turbines can operate as one-generation systems in small buildings and places just like the traditional water-pumped wind turbine. In addition, the small and efficient wind turbine also has the added advantage of being able to work with photovoltaic systems during the various seasonal changes to ensure more reliable production.

Dr Jorg Schluter

More information: www.deakin.edu.au