3D Printed Turbo Pump Hopes To Propel Rockets To The Sky

There are plenty of rocket experimenters toying with various liquid-fueled contraptions at the moment, and [Sciencish] is one of them. He grew tired of using air-pressurized fuel delivery systems in his experiments due to safety reasons, and decided to create something approximating more grown up rocket designs. The result was a 3D-printed turbopump for fuel delivery.

The design is not dissimilar from a turbocharger in a car. On one side, a turbine wheel is turned by compressed air supplied from a tank or compressor. This turbine wheel is affixed to the same axle as an impeller which draws up fuel and pumps it out, ideally into a rocket’s combustion chamber. It’s all made out of resin-printed parts, which made creating the fine geometry of the turbine and impeller a cinch.

Running on compressed air at 80 psi, the turbopump is able to deliver 1.36L of water or rubbing alcohol fuel a minute. However, unfortunately, this first pass design can only deliver 20 psi of fuel pressure, which [Sciencish] suspects will not be enough to counteract combustion chamber pressures in his rocket design. More work is required to up this figure. Paired with a nozzle and ignition source, though, and it does make for some great flames.

Overall though, the safety benefit of this turbopump comes from the fact that the fuel is kept separate from the oxidizer until it reaches the combustion chamber. This comes with far less chance of fire or explosion versus a system that stores fuel pressurized by air.

While the design isn’t yet up to scratch for rocket use, it nonetheless works, and we suspect with some improvement to tolerances and fin design that the project should move along at a quick pace.

If solid rockets are more your thing though, we’ve featured plenty of those too. Video after the break.

Continue reading “3D Printed Turbo Pump Hopes To Propel Rockets To The Sky”

Can We Repurpose Old Wind Turbine Blades?

Wind turbines are a fantastic, cheap, renewable source of energy. However, nothing lasts forever, and over time, the blades of wind turbines fatigue and must be replaced. This then raises the question of what to do with these giant waste blades. Thankfully, a variety of projects are exploring just those possibilities.

A Difficult Recycling Problem

Around 85% of a modern wind turbine is recyclable. The problem is that wind turbine blades currently aren’t. The blades last around 20 to 25 years, and are typically made of fiberglass or carbon fiber. Consisting of high-strength fibers set in a resin matrix, these composite materials are incredibly difficult to recycle, as we’ve discussed previously. Unlike metals or plastics, they can’t just be melted down to be recast as fresh material. Couple this with the fact that wind turbine blades are huge, often spanning up to 300 feet long, and the problem gets harder. They’re difficult and expensive to transport and tough to chop up as well.

Continue reading “Can We Repurpose Old Wind Turbine Blades?”

Full Size 3D-Printed Wind Turbine

Wind energy isn’t quite as common of an alternative energy source as solar, at least for small installations. It’s usually much easier just to throw a few panels and a battery together than it is to have a working turbine with many moving parts that need to be maintained when only a small amount of power is needed. However, if you find yourself where the wind blows but the sun don’t shine, there are a few new tools available to help create the most efficient wind turbine possible, provided you have a 3D printer.

[Jan] created this turbine with the help of QBlade, a piece of software that helps design turbine blades. It doesn’t have any support for 3D printing though, such as separating the blades into segments, infill, and attachment points, so [Jan] built YBlade to help take care of all of this and made the software available on the project’s GitHub page. The blades are only part of this story, though. [Jan] goes on to build a complete full-scale wind turbine that can generate nearly a kilowatt of power at peak production, although it does not currently have a generator attached and all of the energy gets converted to heat.

While we hope that future versions include a generator and perhaps even pitched blades to control rotor speed, [Jan] plans to focus his efforts into improving the blade design via the 3D printer. He is using an SLA printer for these builds, but presumably any type of printer would be up to the task of building a turbine like this. If you need inspiration for building a generator, take a look at this build which attempted to adapt a ceiling fan motor into a wind turbine generator.

 

Typhoon-Tough Turbines Withstand Wild Winds

It’s really beginning to feel as though the problem of climate change is a huge boulder rolling down a steep hill, and we have the Sisyphean task of trying to reverse it. While we definitely need to switch as much of the planet over to clean, green energy as soon as possible, the deployment should be strategic. You know, solar panels in sunny places, and wind turbines in windy places. And for the most part, we’re already doing that.

A test unit in Okinawa, Japan. Image via Challenergy

In the meantime, there are also natural disasters to deal with, some of which are worsened by climate change. Eastern and Southeast Asian countries are frequently under the threat of typhoons that bring strong, turbulent winds with them. Once the storms pass, they leave large swaths of lengthy power outages in their wake.

Studies have shown that these storms are gaining strength over the years, leading to more frequent disruption of existing power systems in those areas. Wind power is the ideal solution where storms have come through and knocked out traditional power delivery all over a region. As long as the turbines themselves can stand up to the challenge, they can be used to power micro-grids when other delivery is knocked out.

Bring On the Typhoons?

Unfortunately, the conventional three-bladed wind turbines you see dotting the plains can’t stand up to the awesome power of typhoons. But vertical axis wind turbines can. Though they have been around for many years, they may have finally found their niche.

A Japanese startup called Challenergy wants to face the challenge of typhoons head on. They’ve built a vertical axis wind turbine that’s built to not only to withstand typhoon-level winds, it’s designed to make the most of them. Instead of horizontally-situated blades arranged like spokes or flower petals, these turbines have vertical cylinders that collect wind by harnessing the Magnus effect.

Continue reading “Typhoon-Tough Turbines Withstand Wild Winds”

Making A Modern Version Of A Steam Engine From Antiquity

Imagine traveling back in time about 2,200 years, to when nothing moves faster than the speed at which muscle or wind can move it. Think about how mind-shattering it would have been to see something like Hero’s Engine, the first known example of a steam turbine. To see a sphere whizzing about trailing plumes of steam while flames licked around it would likely have been a nearly mystical experience.

Of course we can’t go back in time like that, but seeing a modern replica of Hero’s Engine built and tested probably isn’t too far from such an experience. The engine, also known as an aeolopile, was made by the crew over at [Make It Extreme], whose metalworking videos are always a treat to watch. The rotor of the engine, which is fabricated from a pair of hemispherical bowls welded together, is supported by pipes penetrating the lid of a large kettle. [Make It Extreme] took great pains to make the engine safe, with relief valves and a pressure gauge that the original couldn’t have included. The aeolopile has a great look and bears a strong resemblance to descriptions of the device that may or may not have actually been invented by Greek mathemetician [Heron of Alexandria], and as the video below shows, when it spins up it puts on a great show.

One can’t help but wonder how something like this was invented without someone — anyone — taking the next logical step. That it was treated only as a curiosity and didn’t kick off the industrial revolution two millennia early boggles the mind. And while we’ve seen far, far simpler versions of Hero’s Engine before, this one really takes the cake on metalworking prowess.

Continue reading “Making A Modern Version Of A Steam Engine From Antiquity”

Liquid Air Energy Storage: A Power Grid Battery Using Regular Old Ambient Air

When you think of renewable energy, what comes to mind? We’d venture to guess that wind and solar are probably near the top of the list. And yes, wind and solar are great as long as the winds are favorable and the sun is shining. But what about all those short and bleak winter days? Rainy days? Night time?

Render of a Highview LAES plant. The air is cleaned, liquefied in the tower, and stored in the white tanks. The blue tanks hold waste cold which is reused in the liquefaction process. Image via Highview Power

Unfavorable conditions mean that storage is an important part of any viable solution that uses renewable energy. Either the energy itself has to be stored, or else the means to produce the energy on demand must be stored.

One possible answer has been right under our noses all along — air. Regular old ambient air can be cooled and compressed into a liquid, stored in tanks, and then reheated to its gaseous state to do work.

This technology is called Cryogenic Energy Storage (CES) or Liquid Air Energy storage (LAES). It’s a fairly new energy scheme that was first developed a decade ago by UK inventor Peter Dearman as a car engine. More recently, the technology has been re-imagined as power grid storage.

UK utility Highview Power have adopted the technology and are putting it to the test all over the world. They have just begun construction on the world’s largest liquid air battery plant, which will use off-peak energy to charge an ambient air liquifier, and then store the liquid air, re-gasifying it as needed to generate power via a turbine. The turbine will only be used to generate electricity during peak usage. By itself, the LAES process is not terribly efficient, but the system offsets this by capturing waste heat and cold from the process and reusing it. The biggest upside is that the only exhaust is plain, breathable air.

Continue reading “Liquid Air Energy Storage: A Power Grid Battery Using Regular Old Ambient Air”

Model Hydroelectric Plant Is An Illuminating Educational Tool

There’s more than one way to light up a strip of LEDs. Have you tried building your own hydroelectric power plant to do it? Well, now you can. Replicating [Matic Markovi─Ź]’s entry into the 2020 Hackaday Prize is bound to teach you something, if not many things, about the way hydroelectric power is generated and the way the variables play into it.

In [Matic]’s model, water from an adjustable-height reservoir flows into a 3D-printed Pelton turbine. The water jet hits the turbine’s cupped fins at a 90┬░ angle, causing the assembly to spin around rapidly. This mechanical energy charges a brushless DC motor that’s connected to an Arduino Nano, which rectifies the AC from the generator and uses it to light up an RGB strip like an equalizer display that represents the power being generated.

This is easily one of the coolest educational displays we’ve ever seen. The reservoir can move up and down over a 55 cm (21.6″) range with the flick of a three-way toggle, which makes it easy to see that the higher the reservoir, the more power is generated. [Matic] has the STLs and INOs in the usual places if you want to make your own. Flow past the break for a demonstration, followed by an exploded render that gets put back together by invisible hands.

Your hydroelectric setup doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to work. One man’s trash can be another man’s off-grid phone charger.

Continue reading “Model Hydroelectric Plant Is An Illuminating Educational Tool”