The University of Notre Dame plans to install two wind turbines on campus.
Each unit will stand 54-feet tall with rotors that are 30-feet in diameter.
Both wind turbines will be built on White Field on the north side of campus, probably in June.
In this case, the university is less interested in generating electricity and more interested in generating information.
The wind turbines will be used to field test a device developed and patented by Notre Dame that could improve the efficiency of the rest of the world’s wind turbines.
“That’s the intention is to develop it as an after market device for existing wind turbines,” said Professor Thomas C. Corke, Ph.D.
In computer simulations, the Plasma Actuator has improved the efficiency of wind turbines by about 20-percent.
“So this is, in essence, is a way to validate this in a full scale demonstration,” said Corke.
The Plasma Actuator that Notre Dame has developed looks like a brown strip of duct tape. It is actually a high tech combination of Kapton and copper that is attached to the full length of the rotor of a wind turbine. “And we apply voltage across these electrodes and what it does is it causes the air over the surface to ionize,” said Corke.
While most wind turbine blades just sit there waiting for a stiff breeze, it’s hoped that the actuator will create a truly ‘smart’ blade.
“This is the difference between passive and active so this is an active approach which will, based on the wind speed, will adjust the aerodynamics of the rotor to extract the maximum amount of energy,” said Corke.
The device essentially moves the air where it’s needed most to maximize energy production.
It’s almost as if the rotor was changing shape to respond to the changing wind conditions.
“You know, around this area the wind speed is never constant, it’s never from the same direction,” Corke said. “And so by just adjusting the voltages to these plasma actuators we can virtually change the shape of the wind turbine rotor and so we can make it act as if it’s curved more or curved less.”
The actuator has been patented and licensed in the hopes that it will eventually be sold on the open market.