Off-the-grid heater legacy lives on

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Quigley_Sharps, Oct 30, 2006.

  1. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - Although Oregon State University professor Alan Wallace died last spring, his vision for a wind-powered water heating system is being realized by students who considered him a mentor and pioneer in sustainable energy.

    "It's nice that even after he passed, his work is continued," said Paul Vigansky, a senior majoring in electrical engineering and co-team leader on the water heater project.

    "I'm hoping to bring this technology out into the world, to allow his legacy to live on," he said.

    Vigansky and fellow team leader Jacques Chiron worked with three other OSU students with an interest in power systems, in addition to faculty advisers, to develop a prototype of Wallace's idea for their senior project.

    This year, a new group of students is continuing where they left off.

    Vigansky and Shamus Gamache, another member of the original team, hope their design eventually can be patented and used for residential and commercial heating, particularly in developing countries.

    On a recent afternoon Gamache and Vigansky presented their model to Ron Adams, dean of the College of Engineering, and David Vant Hof, sustainability policy adviser to Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

    Their water heater is fairly simple, the students said.

    The prototype is about three-quarters the size of a telephone booth, topped with a Savonius wind turbine made from a 35-gallon steel drum.

    To heat the water tank of a conventional home, the turbine would need to be about three times larger, Gamache and Vigansky said. They estimated the cost at about $2,000.

    Unlike conventional methods of heating water, which require electricity or natural gas, this technology is completely sustainable.

    The turbine is connected to one end of a vertical shaft. At the other end are 22 powerful magnets.

    When wind hits the turbine, the shaft spins, rotating the magnets. This change in magnetic field creates energy.

    A copper plate below the magnets acts as a conductor. As the plate warms, water from a storage tank is pumped through copper coils attached to the plate, and heats.

    The turbine also could be placed in a stream, and the water current would cause the shaft to rotate, the students said.

    Once the water is hot, the turbine could be used to generate electricity, or the hot water could provide passive heating such as radiant heat for a home.

    The device hasn't been tested in the field yet, but during lab tests it was able to heat water to 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The primary concern, Vigansky said, is not letting the magnets overheat. Once the magnetic array passes 175 degrees, the magnetic field is lost.

    To protect against this, the team installed a safeguard that monitors the magnets' temperature. Once they reach about 120 degrees, the copper plate automatically moves away from the magnets.

    The group still needs to determine exactly how much wind is needed to make the turbine spin, and how long it would take for the energy savings to make up for the cost of the water heater.

    Both Vigansky and Gamache have been approached by homeowners, primarily in rural and coastal areas, volunteering to try the project. Due to liability and legality issues, that wasn't possible, but the interest was encouraging.

    "It's a great project. It was a lot of fun to work on. I can see it working in Oregon and Alaska and all over the world," Gamache said.
  2. Infidel

    Infidel Guest

    Thanks. What a great idea
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