Spinning top joins the generation game

A highly unusual generator that creates tornadoes and uses them to generate electricity could make valuable use of waste heat from power plants, according to its inventor.


A highly unusual generator that creates tornadoes and uses them to generate electricity could make valuable use of waste heat from power plants, according to its inventor.


The atmospheric vortex engine (AVE), developed by Canadian engineer Louis Michaud, uses the principle of convection to create a vortex of spinning air within a large cylindrical wall which acts as a chimney.


Michaud claimed that by injecting steam though a series of inlets at the base of the chimney it is possible to start a vortex that can then be sustained either by waste industrial heat or warm humid air.


The violent action of this vortex causes air to be sucked through these inlets, which can then be used to turn a set of turbines and generate electricity.


Michaud estimates a 200m-diameter AVE would produce around 200MW, the equivalent of meeting the electricity needs of a 25,000-home city.


Michaud has built a prototype system in Utah consisting of a tower that is 30m in diameter and 15m tall. In initial tests he claimed to have produced vortices more than 1m across.


The next stage of the research is to modify the cooling tower of an existing power station so it uses a spinning vortex rather than the usual large fans to generate the necessary airflow.


Michaud claimed that as the chimney has an open top, the vortex could theoretically stretch several kilometres up into the air.


However, to put air traffic controllers’ minds at rest, the intensity and height can be controlled by a series of dampers that restrict the airflow through the turbines.