If we look around the Earth, we can see that Mother Nature has provided us with many stored energy resources that can potentially be used to power our world, such as the latent heat of water vapor or the heat content of tropical ocean water.
Canadian engineer Louis Michaud has been working on one of the Earth’s natural disasters, tornadoes, as a source of power. In 2009, Michaud founded the company AVEtec and performed a successful test of an atmospheric vortex engine (AVE) that can harness the physics of tornadoes and their upward heat flow to produce cheap and clean energy.
Michaud’s visions of manipulating Mother Nature are not necessarily new. For years, people such as Nikola Tesla and companies such as Lockheed Martin have pursued ways to extract heat from the ocean in order to generate electricity.
Prototype model of the AVE. (Image via vortexengine.ca)
Now, after years of struggling to be viewed as a serious company, AVEtec has just received $300,000 in funding from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, to improve on the initial concept and build a working engine to prove the viability of using this technology to produce electricity with virtually no carbon foot print.
“The power in a tornado is undisputed,” said Louis Michaud. “My work has established the principles by which we can control and exploit that power to provide clean energy on an unprecedented scale.”
How the atmospheric vortex engine works
A tornado contains serious amounts of energy, but usually that kind of energy is difficult to harness due to the raging and threatening nature of this work of nature. Michaud built on this idea, though, and instead of creating technology that vents waste heat into cooling towers, warm or humid air enters a circular station where it takes the form of a rising vortex (just like a controlled tornado). The temperature difference between this heated air and the atmosphere above it is what supports the vortex and drives multiple turbines. The vortex can be shut down at any time by turning off the source of warm air.
How the AVE works. (Image via vortexengine.ca)
AVE power generation does not produce carbon emissions and does not need to store energy. AVEtec projects that the cost of the energy it generates could be as low as $0.03 per kilowatt hour. An AVE power station could have a diameter of 100 meters and generate 200 megawatts of electrical power, the same order of magnitude as conventional coal power stations.
AVEtec’s next step is to use the funding wisely and create a working prototype with Lambton College in Ontario that will be 26 ft in diameter and will generate a 1-ft tornado that will power a turbine.
For those worried that a man-made tornado might get out of hand and escape, wreaking havoc, Michaud reassures us that can’t happen because all you need to do in order to stop the whole process is turn off the fan that feeds the vortex the warm air.
Michaud was featured in “Mad Like Tesla: Underdog Inventors and their Relentless Pursuit of Clean Energy” by Tyler Hamilton. To read most of the chapter on the Atmospheric Vortex Engine, visit http://vortexengine.ca/covers/Tesla_Excerpt.pdf ■
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