30 Jan Vortex Bladeless biography & current stage
The idea behind the technology //
Vortex Bladeless is a tech startup. We are developing an environmentally friendly wind generator which needs no blades nor rotation. It is a new technology designed for modular on-site energy generation and low-consumption systems off-grid, specially thought to work along with other Vortex units or regular solar panels.
Our vortex wind turbine is not actually a turbine since it does not rotate. It is based on the phenomenon of aeroelastic resonance, harnessing energy from the wind on the emission of Von Karman’s vortexes, a process called vortex shedding or vortex street. This way the device oscillates with a silent movement which makes it perfect to be placed anywhere without lubricants nor disturbing wildlife.
All physical principles of current wind machines are applied to Vortex as well, it is just a different and innovative way of harness energy from wind.
Current status 2019
At the current year, and after facing all the milestones of trying to bring a new kind of wind generator to the market, Vortex decided to focus in the end-consumer market. We are developing our first commercial product, Vortex Tacoma of 2,75 m high, for end-customers. Vortex Tacoma prototypes are in the certification stage and being tested in Spain with our program H2020 by European Commission which is about to finish.
We expect (and desire) to reach the European market in 2020 with a first series, however, before this, we need to certify and find a way to manufacture Vortex devices efficiently with industrial methods. Of course, that manufacture stage cannot be fully reached until the certification is done, European laws are very strict, so we need to be sure that the materials and geometry chosen are the best ones to introduce to the market a finished and polished product. To reach further markets will need more time due to logistics.
Vortex Tacoma is designed as a “small wind” generator for residential/rural purposes, entering in the market from below, the best and only option for us as a startup company. We may launch Vortex Nano as well, the device we use for quick testings, a wind-powered USB charging station of less than 1m high, like a wind power bank with batteries inside.
Once industrialised and built with precision, Vortex Tacoma units are estimated to have a nominal power of around 100w, Vortex Nano around 2W, and both working on a nice lock-in range, which is calibratable. With current designs, it is possible to reach more power but reducing the lock-in range, which is, roughly speaking, the range of wind speeds in which an aerogenerator is able to work. Our goal with bladeless aerogenerators is to make them a true equivalent in wind power of solar panels.
We want to generate as much energy as possible but for a longer period of time as well, since wind can blow 24/7 but not always at the same velocity. The goal here is to combine these two tasks and optimize both at its maximum. Vortex’s team is formed by 9 people at the moment, working restlessly to bring the best product to the market in the near future. Find a FAQs here.
The Bladeless turbines
Vortex is a vertical, slender and cylinder-shaped wind generator. It is composed of a fixed part where the device is attached to a basement, and a flexible part which, acting as a cantilever, interacts freely with the fluid in an oscillation movement.
It could be divided into two parts; mast and base. Curiously, one of the hardest parts is to industrialize the manufacturing of the mast while keeping its characteristics. At the moment some methods are feasible but we are still testing alternatives to optimise it.
Due to its brilliant design, it has no gears or moving parts in contact, so it needs no oils nor lubricants. The device’s operation couldn’t be easier, almost plug-and-go, it barely requires maintenance and operative costs. All these features make it perfect for distributed energy.
The alternator transforms mechanical energy into electricity. It counts with neodymium magnets and its stator is located inside of the mobile part of the device.
While converting mechanical energy into electricity, the alternator cushions the induced oscillation movement and simultaneously it is able to modify the natural oscillation frequency of the bladeless turbine’s structure, therefore the lock-in range is increased while maintaining the resonance frequency in higher wind speeds, we call this tuning system. Unlike regular wind turbines, this phenomenon is able to modify the apparent elasticity constant of the structure which depends on the oscillation amplitude, allowing it to grow as long as the wind speed grows.
In spite of its simplicity, 6 families of registered patents protect the design and technology worldwide. Find more on our technology page.
Our story, becoming a tech startup //
As every project of this kind, the first steps are hard for entrepreneurs. A tech startup is even more complicated since you need to develop before manufacture, and efficiently manufacture before selling. Of course with the certification passed, no errors from industrialisation processes, proper quality control and post-buy services.
There are still many things to do and many goals to achieve before Vortex Bladeless become a full member of the Wind Industry. Our coCEO Raul reminds in this article the steps that brought us here.
With their own resources, the project started in Deutecno in 2010, our first tech startup where we were developing electronic noses. When the Vortex’s idea was born, we built a humble wind tunnel and started testing. Our concept proof was a simple water bottle fixed to a stick, oscillating by the force of the wind. We found proof that there was an energy conversion there to take advantage of.
We realized soon all the funding we would need to launch this idea. Deutecno Noses was sold and a few months later we built a more elaborated technological demonstration which impressed the Entrepreneurs Fund’s judges of the Repsol Foundation. In early 2014, thanks to the Neotec funds of CDTI and a group of Business Angels which are still with us, Vortex Bladeless SL tech startup is founded and the technology principles were validated in the lab and real environment tests in their early stage.
In early 2015, to start a true development and afford the supplying of computational resources, simulation software, machines and tools, and materials for the early prototypes, the company decided to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign meant for investigation purposes, which attracted the interest of worldwide media.
To catch the imagination of the scientific community and new strategic partners, in 2015 Vortex goes to Boston, USA, to introduce our idea to MIT and let the project be known worldwide, becoming trending topic in renewable energies for months.
On the other hand, NGOs and other environmental entities like Birdlife have shown great interest in this solution and they have offered their collaboration too, since Vortex may have a lower impact on nature and fauna in the case of bigger devices are built in the future.
In June 2016, the European Union’s Commission (EASME) included the Vortex project inside its Horizon 2020 programme. Since then, we have worked restlessly to optimize the technology. The goals projected in 2015 were maybe too ambitious for a startup so we decided that Vortex Tacoma will be the biggest device would develop by now.
Along 2017 and 2018 our special collaboration with the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), the company Altair, the Microgravity Institute of the Universidad Politécnica of Madrid, and many other tech centers, has been key to success in the different milestones we were facing; having the opportunity to contrast high level computational and experimental results before reaching a functional product.
At the moment, in 2019, we started the certification and industrialisation of the manufacture processes. An objective will be to find nice supply agreements and industrial partners so Vortex aerogenerators can be mass produced, we want to change the landscape!
Future of wind power tech?
If solar energy is the king of renewable energies, no doubt wind energy is the queen. Vortex wind generators are more similar in features and cost-effectiveness over time to solar panels than to regular wind turbines. We have been working very hard for years. It was not easy to find out the best ingredients and the best way to cook this special recipe, although we are very close to reaching our goal and dream.
Vortex’s team is working restlessly to optimise the last steps and get the homologation for selling. For the milestone of efficiently assembly bladeless turbines here in Spain we are looking for industrial partners in Europe that can provide materials and manufactured pieces.
Meanwhile, the company wants to launch a beta testing campaign where participants will be able to ex-factory purchase one of the first Vortex wind generators of the world, the Vortex Nano, a small but completely functional tech demonstration, able to feed a USB device like a wind-powered power bank. Of course, feedbacks will be collected in order to improve our final product, Vortex Tacoma, available as soon as possible.
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