When the term “wind turbine” comes to mind, you usually think of hulking goliaths that dominate the landscape. And in fact, as I wrote about last November, there is a dramatic trend toward large wine turbines that generate more electricity. At the same time though, turbines with seven-feet-long blades are popping up on the tops of office and apartment buildings in Michigan, and elsewhere. Tom Huff, an urban developer, put one of the mini turbines on top of a 10-story building he was renovating in Kalamazoo, MI. The turbine needs winds of at least 8 mph to generate electricity, and under optimal conditions, could generate 2,000 kilowatt-hours a year. Huff figure he will recover the cost of the turbine in five years with the help of a significant federal tax credit. The average installed cost of the Swift Turbine is $10,000 to $12,000.
Huff’s turbine was manufactured in nearby Grand Rapids by Cascade Engineering, which invested in a business that developed the turbine called Renewable Devices Swift Turbines Ltd. of Edinburgh, Scotland. Cascade made the investment after discovering it could reduce the cost by injection molding a rotor, which previously had been manufactured with a labor intensive process using expensive carbon fiber. Cascade now makes the rotors and distributes the turbines.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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