Altenera TechnologyÂ (Altenera), a Maryland company, was recently chosen asÂ one of justÂ eight finalists to present at the Future Energy Pitching session of theÂ ARPA-E Innovation Summit last month.Â Altenera achieved this honor due to itsÂ Oscillating Reed Wind Harvester technology.Â Â
The companyÂ callsÂ its technology BreezBeeÂ®, which uses vibrating reeds to harvest energy from the wind under â€œvirtually all wind conditions.â€
The BreezBeeÂ® technology is covered by U.S. Patent No. 8,258,644 (â€˜644 patent) entitled â€œApparatus for harvesting energy from flow-induced oscillations and method for the same.â€Â The â€˜644 patent describes â€œa device and method for harvesting electrical power from kinetic energy of a flowâ€ where â€œthe external gas or liquid flow causes a vibration of the assembly . . . producing electricity in proximity of a magnetic field.â€
The â€˜644 patent can be better explained with reference to Figure 1(a), reproduced here from the patent. Â As the fluid (7) flows over the elastic element (3), the integrated conductive element (8) moves back and forth in the (9) direction with reference to the magnetic field (8) created by the magnetic field source (6), producing electricity.Â
The magnetic field should be â€œfully or substantially perpendicularâ€ to the conductive element. Â The shape, form, and materials of the vibrating assembly can vary based on the application, and â€œare defined by the maximum conversion efficiency for a particular application.â€
The BreezBeeÂ® represents a functional application of the â€˜644 patent.Â The LEGO-like hexagonal modules shown hereÂ allow for easy combination into arrays of various sizes, making them â€œeasily customizable for any situation.â€ Â
The â€˜644 patent discloses a number of such situations: (1) attached to flying vehicles to capture high altitude flows; (2) used in confined flow passages such as pipes or HVAC ducts; (3) used as a flow sensor while simultaneously providing the power to transmit gathered flow information; and (4) implementation as roof panels, providing a more cost-effective alternative to solar cells.Â Â
Further, because this technology has no moving parts, it is â€œa virtually maintenance-free source of electrical power.â€Â
While one blog has noted that the details on some of the specifics were limited during the presentation to investors, the modularity, low-maintenance, and customization makes the BreezBeeÂ® an attractive alternative to turbine power.Â
And if the noiselessness claim (see ieee blog above) made by Alteneraâ€™s CBDO, Chase McCarthy, is accurate, BreezBeeÂ® would have a notable advantage over turbine power by side-stepping the noise pollution problem that has plagued turbine power.
*Cliff Brazil is a contributor to Green Patent Blog.Â Cliff is currently in his second year at the University of Kansas School of Law in Lawrence, Kansas.Â He received his undergraduate degree in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado.