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Francis Moon, a mechanical engineering professor at Cornell University, has designed a novel type of wind energy generator that vibrates in the wind rather than cutting the breeze like a turbine. Dubbed Vibro-Wind, the design consists of a series of pads attached to piezoelectric cells that generate current when the pads flutter in the wind. This low-impact design could revolutionize localized renewable energy while providing a safer alternative to bird and bat-unfriendly turbines.

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Each of the Vibro-Wind’s individual pads generates just a trickle of energy, but when framed in an array they’re capable of producing a significant amount of usable electricity. Professor Moon created a panel of 25 pads to start, but the concept could be easily scaled to virtually any application. They can be easily attached to the facades of large buildings (where there is a constant breeze) or to any outdoor surface. And because turbulence does not negatively affect the amount of energy produced, the oscillating wind panels can be placed in all kinds of places you would never dream of putting a traditional airfoil-based wind generator.

Whereas traditional wind turbines have raised concerns about noise and are disruptive to bats and birds, the Vibro-Wind offers a low-impact, nearly silent alternative. While it won’t replace traditional wind turbines, the technology could broaden the applications of wind energy to places we never thought possible.

Via New York Times and Kottke