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Science Technology

Artificial Tornadoes 267

Posted by samzenpus
from the turn-on-the-weather-machine dept.
An anonymous reader writes "This inventor is working on a method of creating artificial tornadoes to generate electricity which he calls the "Atmospheric Vortex Engine". He is claiming that it is possible to create a man-made tornado and use wind turbines to capture the energy from the tornado. On the website there is some video footage of some experimental tornadoes that were generated in a prototype vortex tower in Utah. There seem to be several recent media references to his work including The Economist and The Guardian. Sounds like an interesting idea for a renewable energy source, but what happens if one of these tornadoes gets away?"
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Artificial Tornadoes

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  • by quanticle (843097) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:33PM (#14178864) Homepage

    Where is the energy for these tornadoes coming from? To be more specific, how much energy is needed to start up one of these things?

    • The big yellow ball in the center is the sun!
       
      That line always killed me, but yeah - this is a new approach to solar power.
      • Every kind of energy generation is a form of solar power, actually (except for fusion, but that's only because we'd be making our own sun).
        • Actually, no. Most are solar fusion power derived (including wind, biogenic coal, biogenic hydrocarbons). But tidal waves are caused by gravity, and nuclear power (be it fission, fusion or radioactive decay) are not solar fusion power derived.
          • Well, in the most completely true technical sense radioactive decay and fission are both ultimately products of fusion in suns other than ours. Without stars we would never have the heavy elements (technically, without nova we would never have them...but we wouldn't have nova without stars either...). So, ultimately tidal and fusion are your only non-solar power sources.
            • Well, we wouldn't have tides without the moon, and without a sun to capture/create the Earth the moon wouldn't have formed, so...

              Also, many stars had to explode to get us to where we are today, which includes having the ability to trap hydrogen on the denser planet, so it could also be argued that without the sun we wouldn't be able to perform fusion, either.

    • by TeacherOfHeroes (892498) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:39PM (#14178901)
      At the risk of getting a "you must be new here" comment, RTFA

      "Heating the air within the wall using a temporary heat source such as steam starts the vortex. The heat to sustain the vortex once established is provided in cooling tower bays located outside of the cylindrical wall and upstream of the deflectors. The continuous heat source for the peripheral heat exchanger can be waste industrial heat or warm seawater. "

      It looks like they're trying to recycle energy that has bled off as heat and move it back into a usable form.
    • Where is the energy for these tornadoes coming from?

      From the heat gradient between the atmosphere at different altitudes, and the buoyancy of hot air.

      -jcr

    • by DiGG3r (824623) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @04:15PM (#14180070)
      The proper placement of tin can single and double wides should act as a catalyst for the formation of tornandos.
    • by mesocyclone (80188) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @04:48PM (#14180272) Homepage Journal
      The more serious problem is how to get much energy out of it.

      First, a couple of concepts - CAPE and "cap."

      CAPE, Convective Available Potential Energy, is the amount of energy a parcel of atmosphere would release if lifted from a level near the ground to the tropopause. CAPE is a strong function of dew point and the temperature profile and moisture profile of the atmosphere (the dry and wet lines on a SKEW-T/LOG-P chart).

      "cap" - this is a thermal inversion (or at least a reversed slope temperature profile area) in the middle atmosphere which serves to trap rising air before it can release enough energy (through condensation) to produce a thunderstorm. A "capped" atmosphere is often clear or contains small convective towers ("turkey towers") which are unable to maintain convection.

      A parcel of air which cannot penetrate the cap will release little energy - only the kinetic energy it gains as it rises below the cap, and perhaps some condensation energy if it forms a cloud). A parcel that can pierce the cap will reach a region where the energy release is dramatically higher, and will typically accelerate up to near the tropopause, releasing energy the whole type.

        The conditions required for this device to produce much energy - high CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) - are not that common or reliable. Furthermore, high CAPE is often tied to enough wind to make the stability of the vortex very questionable. When it isn't (such as the US midwest during the summer "capped" time), the total time that adequate CAPE is present isn't that great, and the vortex would have to be tall enough to reach the convective cap (and contain enough lift to break through that cap) before it started to generate significant power.

      Atmospheric dynamics can also produce significant lift, but those conditions almost always have wind associated with them.

      Tornados are usually short vortices - perhaps a few hundred to a couple thousand meters high - coupled to larger, more stable, and much lower speed vortices (mesocyclones) that are quite a bit deeper. Even so, tornados are notoriously unstable and most last no more than a few minutes (in 11 years of serious, science based tornado chasing, I have seen *one* that lasted more than 15 minutes and it was a mile in diameter and weak - F1). (I won't bother to discuss landspouts or waterspouts here).

      In contrast, this man-made vortex will have to reach high enough into the atmosphere to penetrate the cap, which is much harder to achieve (read: takes more energy) and hard to maintain. A tornado doesn't have this problem, as it has a very large area of rising air (hundreds to thousands of square kilometers) which can pierce the cap, and once it is pierced in just one spot, a very large thunderstorm (normally a supercell) then develops and puts a geographically large hole in the cap, and generates lots of energy, a tiny bit of which actually goes into the tornado. Most supercells, in spite of their high energy release and their rotation do not produce tornados, to the frustration of weather forecasters and storm chasers.

      One could perhaps put one of these vortex-based power systems in an area prone to dust devils, which use a different mechanism to generate lift - solar heating in the presence of a super-adiabatic lapse rate. But dust devils are much weaker, because they do not rely on the energy released by condensing moisture, and use energy from a much smaller layer of atmosphere.

      Ultimately, this scheme seems to be an over-complex, inefficient and unreliable solar power machine. Other forms of harvesting solar power are probably much better in those areas, and yet only windmills seem to be close to cost efficient.

      As a harvester of excess industrial heat... forget it. There are MUCH simpler and more efficient ways of doing that, and they are already in use in cogeneration facilities.
  • by martinultima (832468) <martinultima@gmail.com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:33PM (#14178867) Homepage Journal
    Maybe we should sell this to FEMA and put them in charge of creating all natural disasters in the United States. (You know, they could change their name to the Federal Emergency Making Agency...) That way we'd have hurricanes that could destroy the world, but it would take six to eight weeks before anything actually happened, giving us plenty of time to actually prepare for the disaster when it finally did arrive.
    • by yog (19073)
      If they could mount this thing on a trailer and deploy it rapidly to trouble spots around the globe, they could really blow away mischief makers. Imagine for example unleashing a few mini-tornatos on a terrorist training camp or on advancing enemy soldiers.

      The U.S. Army could also position them offshore of an annoying country like Venezuela, issue an ultimatum that their leader submit to fair elections, and then just release hundreds of these things onto their coastline. The havoc wreaked will be tremendo
      • If they could mount this thing on a trailer and deploy it rapidly to trouble spots around the globe, they could really blow away mischief makers. Imagine for example unleashing a few mini-tornatos on a terrorist training camp or on advancing enemy soldiers.

        We've got a far more advanced, well developed, already deployed technology to do the same thing - the Air Force. Besides, no whooshy-sounding tornado will match the psychological effect of these. [usatoday.com]
    • Actually, the brilliance of this idea is that, if it works, it will drain excess energy from seawater, and thus reduce the number of hurricanes that are produced. We'll effectively be using the entire ocean as a solar collector.
  • I hope it's a roaring success.
    • by madaxe42 (690151) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @01:33PM (#14179227) Homepage
      Nah, this sucks. What kind of total airhead comes up with this kind of thing? I think he's full of hot air. Anyhow, his entire paper is just twisted facts. Wait until the media frenzy blows over, and you'll see that this is just another investment siphon.
  • by PlayfullyClever (934896) <playfull@playfullyclever.com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:34PM (#14178875) Homepage Journal
    Wind, Hydro, Nuclear... great for electricity but does nothing about Gas and Oil.

    Until electric cars become efficient enough to run all day on a single charge with half a day of stored energy still available, petrol is the energy source we need to replace.

    I'm betting on Biodiesel. It's still more expensive to refine than crude oil but that gap is closing fast. With current subsidies you can actually buy biodiesel for cheaper than Gasoline...
    • I dunno; stick one of these turbines on top of a car and not only would you have a tornado-powered car, you could use it to suck up the traffic in front of you!
    • Well if generating electrical power becomes trivial enough it would probably be easy to mass produce hydrogen via electolysis to be used to vehicle fuel.
    • by maswan (106561) <`wm.wm.nawsam' `ta' `2todhsals'> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:55PM (#14178986) Homepage
      And every time someone comes up with the idea of electric cars, I usually see here the argument that there is no point, because "electricty is made by burning oil anyway"...

      The fact that fossil fuels are being burnt to generate electricity should give you a hint that better ways to generate electricity is really needed.

      Well, that or people getting happy about having a nuclear power plant in their back yard.
      • by FLEB (312391) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @01:08PM (#14179066) Homepage Journal
        Well, that or people getting happy about having a nuclear power plant in their back yard.

        If better safety controls and protocols were applied, I would be. Maybe I just don't know enough about it, but I think a lot of the problem with nuclear power is the same sort of mistaken impression as flying-vs-driving, or microwaves-vs-stovetop. With nuclear, the damage in the case of a failure can be much more catastrophic, and the risk factors are strange and scary, but the net ecological damage versus something like coal or fossil fuels is actually less, provided nothing goes Chernobyl or TMI. Of course there is the risk of a Chernobyl or TMI, but if people could actually work on the problem, solutions could be found. Me? I'd rather have nuclear now than wind, water, or solar that's always just over the horizon.
        • by mesocyclone (80188) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @04:18PM (#14180090) Homepage Journal
          TMI did almost zero environmental damage. The only real damage was to the stockholders and ratepayers, because a very expensive plant had to be shut down.

          Chernobyl likewise did very little environmental damage, in spite of its release of a huge amount of radiation. The exclusion zone around Chernobyl is full of healthy wildlife (and not 6 foot tall mice or anything), and in spite of all the hype, the total number of deaths attributable to Chernobyl is under 50, including the firefighters (the number of excess cases of childhood thyroid cancer is over 1000, but that disease is very rarely fatal). However, I wouldn't want a Chernobyl style power plant in my backyard, especially run by a soviet style bureacracy (or for that matter, the typical power plant bureaucracy, although I guess they have gotten better at running reactors in the US after a few widely publicized mistakes).

          Since TMI, even though the US stopped building new reactors at that time (due to the ridiculous hype from the main stream media and envirowackos), the amount of nuclear electricity produced in the US has grown significantly.

          At the same time, many other countries produce vast amounts of electricity from nukes (I think it is around 70% in France, but I'm too lazy to Google it).

          Furthermore, "inherently safe" reactor designs exist (in reality, NOTHING is completely safe), and the biggest danger of nuclear reactors is action by terrorists (and we could, if we were serious about it, mitigate that danger dramatically).

          Nukes aren't the solution to the entire energy "problem" (but they work a lot better than Kyoto, a total non-solution to the speculative anthropogenic global warming hypothesis). If one could make good enough batteries (and people have been trying very hard for 100 years), they could supplant hydrocarbons through the use of electric cars (at a significant energy loss), but today the battery of an electric car is still nowhere close to adequate for most needs.

          • Pebble-Bed Reactors (Score:4, Informative)

            by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @08:17PM (#14181356) Journal
            I was going to agree with you that pebble-bed reactors are "inherently safe" but I did a little googling and I think more research is in order.

            Wikipedia's entry [wikipedia.org] leaves out a lot of information.

            This site [tmia.com] (called "Three Mile Island Alert") provides 6 numbered points and then goes on to explain in detail how each point is a safety issue.
            1. It has no containment building.
            2. It uses flammable graphite as a moderator.
            3. It produces more high level nuclear wastes than current nuclear reactor designs.
            4. It relies heavily on nearly perfect fuel pebbles.
            5. It relies heavily upon fuel handling as the pebbles are cycled through the reactor.
            6. There's already been an accident at a pebble bed reactor in Germany due to fuel handling problems.


            It's short, direct and informative. I recommend you give it a look. Wired's article on this reactor design mentioned almost no risks :o\
      • If it would curb the use of fossil fuels, I'd take a reactor in my backyard. Hell, I'll take two. Unfortunately, I am in the minority of people that don't shit their pants whenever they hear the word "nuclear".
    • While it would probably be more efficient to use direct solar light instead, in theory one could create an artificially lighted algae farm that could be used to produce biodiesel. Almost surely, it would be better to simply collect solar energy directly from an algae farm though.
    • Don't undersetimate the value of producing electricity -- coal fired plants create tons of emissions every day. The plant that supplies electricity in my area unloads 2 trains worth of coal EVERY day. Additionally, in 2001, all coal plants in NC released 2956 lbs of mercury [cleanenergy.org] in 2001. See the same site for some of the other pollutants released by coal burning plants.
    • No they don't. They simply need to have the 300 mile range that all cars already have. Then you can find fast recharge stations easier ( yes this can work Ford proved it that you can recharge an electric car in 20 minutes. )

      To hell with 1/2 a day charge capacity. I want 300 mile capacity. Then I only need to charge my personal vehicle once a week (or better yet why cant I have inductive charging when I pull in the garage so the car is topped off all the time?

      The hard part is convincing the typical americ
    • "Until electric cars become efficient enough to run all day on a single charge with half a day of stored energy still available ..."

      Why? What gasoline-powered car can run all day and still have a half tank left?

    • The trouble with biodiesel (especially in the U.S.) is that it's usually grown in the Great Plains, and the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies a big chunk of the Plains, is running out of water for irrigation. 1 [iastate.edu] 2 [usgs.gov].

      That we get 80% of our total energy from dinosaurs [doe.gov] is my biggest concern. True, energy from dinosaurs is inexpensive, and the inefficiencies in storing large amounts of electrical energy in a portable fashion present challenges, but these are challenges we must meet while we curtail our energy con
  • Cereal Box? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Blakey Rat (99501) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:36PM (#14178893)
    Yeah, I got one of these out of a Frosted Flakes box when I was a kid. It's a little plastic widget and you screw it in-between two 2-liter soda bottles, and when you flip them over, instant tornado! I don't know how you get power from it...
  • Sounds like an interesting idea for a renewable energy source, but what happens if one of these tornadoes gets away?

    They would dissipate quickly, not having the proper weather conditions to support a tornado. It's not like these things pop up sporadically, even after living in Oklahoma for 21 years I've never actually seen one.
  • Vortexes (Score:5, Informative)

    by azav (469988) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:39PM (#14178907) Homepage Journal
    What is most interesting is that vortexes are not really understood in common culture and just how inportant thy are in terms of power to many daily facts of life.

    DaVinci studied cadavers and found out that it is the vortexes in blood flow through the years that close the heart valves as blood flows through.

    Bumblebees can fly due to the uplifting forces of vortexes on their wind edges.

    A pulverizer driven by vortex power was mentioned here on /. many years ago that was able to take mostly anything 'cept fat and turn it into dust.

    One of the common effects in nature that has great potential and is right before our eyes is being ignored by most - possibly because they are poorly understood.

    This article is an example of someone paying attention to the vortex and finding out what could be done with it for mankind.

    Sure sounds like something REALLY interesting to learn about.

    and then...
    PROFIT!
    • Re:Vortexes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Council (514577) <rmunroe@ g m a i l.com> on Sunday December 04, 2005 @02:09PM (#14179402) Homepage
      As a physics major, this is one of my favorite passages in any book:
      There was no room for dust devils in the laws of physics, at least in the rigid form in which they were usually taught. There is a kind of unspoken collusion going on in mainstream science education: you get your competent but bored, insecure and hence stodgy teacher talking to an audience divided between engineering students, who going to be responsible for making bridges that won't fall down or airplanes that won't suddenly plunge vertically into the ground at six hundred miles an hour, and who by definition get sweaty palms and vindictive attitudes when their teacher suddenly veers off track and begins raving about wild and completely nonintuitive phenomena; and physics students, who derive much of their self-esteem from knowing that they are smarter and morally purer than the engineering students, and who by definition don't want to hear about anything that makes no fucking sense. This collusion results in the professor saying: (something along the lines of) dust is heavier than air, therefore it falls until it hits ground. That's all there is to know about dust. The engineers love it because they like their issues dead and crucified like butterflies under glass. The physicists love it because they want to think they understand everything. No one asks difficult questions. And outside the windows, the dust devils continue to gambol across the campus.
      -- Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:39PM (#14178909)
    ... obligatory demanding of ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

    Seriously, what evil overlord would miss such an opportunity?
  • by heatdeath (217147) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:39PM (#14178911)
    "What happens if one of these tornados gets away?"

    This question is about as ignorant as "what happens if a nuclear reactor blows up?" A vortex created and sustained by the energy from the tower wouldn't be able to escape - if it did, it would have no energy source to sustain itself.
    • by modecx (130548) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:55PM (#14178984)
      Oh sure, you can say that all naively--until the tornados from various towers, fed up with their oppression, form a union and combine into one giant-ass tornado that's hell-bent on giving you the Judy Garland treatment!

      Fear the artificial vortices!
    • Exactly, that's also why a matches stop burning immediately when you no longer rub them.
    • Duh! It finds the nearest trailer park!
  • by Bananatree3 (872975) * on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:44PM (#14178934)
    This sounds somewhat similar to the 1km high Solar Tower in Australia [peswiki.com] Both use convection to power turbines. This one though uses man-made vorteces while the Austrailian Solar Tower uses hot rising air.
  • by wisdom_brewing (557753) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:45PM (#14178937) Homepage
    Simple, you film a new reality show about the runaways, the sequels write themselves...
  • by Main Gauche (881147) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:45PM (#14178940)
    "what happens if one of these tornadoes gets away?"

    I don't know, but I'm sure Jerry Bruckheimer will tell us, one of these years.

  • ... but what happens if one of these tornadoes gets away?

    I would be more worried by a cold fusion reactor running out of control than the salt flats being redistributed throughout Utah.
  • by Comatose51 (687974) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:48PM (#14178953) Homepage
    Blizzard Entertainment has launched their torpedo and commenced a submarine patent attack on the man trying to create artificial tornadoes. Blizzard claims prior art on the idea of man-made weather phenomenons, citing the "Blizzard" spell found in hit titles such as "WarCraft", "WarCraft II", and "WarCraft III". From the depth of their lair, they pulled out a letter from the US patent office granting them rights to all ideas concerning the control of weather by man. In a Double Whammy ruling, Blizzard was also granted rights over all forms of "death and decay" techniques by an evil entity. Talks between Blizzard and Microsoft is currently underway on how Microsoft can license such technology.
  • by Talinom (243100) * on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:56PM (#14178993) Homepage Journal
    I mean really people. The proof is right here [usatoday.com]!!!

    If a weatherman from Pocatello, ID can figure it out surely you can too! Now we know the technology exists to have a tornado take out anyone, anywhere at anytime.
  • by Alsee (515537) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @12:57PM (#14179003) Homepage
    Ok, I Read TFA.

    The theory behiond it was actually better than I expected. He's not trying to violate the second law of thermodynamics or anything. He's trying to use the tornado as dynamic heat chimney (an imaginary pipe carrying air up into the high cold atmosphere). Once he gets the tornado going he wants the warm air at the ground to naturally rise inside the chimney, then to harness this natural flow to extract energy.

    I'd put the odds of him actually getting the functional vortex established at all at maybe 10%, getting it reasonably stable and self sustaining at maybe 1%, harnessing appreciable power out of it at maybe 0.1%, and harnessing useful cost effectie power at maybe 0.01%.

    Of course I'm probably being way too generous and wildly overestimating those figures, chuckle.

    In otherwords I would not advise buying stock in this crackpot scheme. It is an interesting concept and interesting physics though.

    -
    • Ok, I didn't RTFA.

      But if this guy really deserves any credit, you are hugely superestimating your probabilities. Creating a tornado is an incredbly hard task, nobody seems to have even invented a way to do that already without spending a significative fraction of all the energy that mankind produce. But if he can understand the tornadoes well (note that everybody else think that we need much faster computers and better math to do that) he may be able to do that. It may be something that someone can create

    • The theory behiond it was actually better than I expected. He's not trying to violate the second law of thermodynamics or anything. He's trying to use the tornado as dynamic heat chimney (an imaginary pipe carrying air up into the high cold atmosphere). Once he gets the tornado going he wants the warm air at the ground to naturally rise inside the chimney, then to harness this natural flow to extract energy.

      I read TFA also, and was similarly impressed - but what I didnt see mentioned, and what struck me a

    • As far as I see it, his biggest problem is going to be building a 6KM tall tower that can withstand the vortex forces that he hopes to unleash and harness. Engineering difficulties pretty much increase geometrically with height, and I think that the tallest existing towers are only a couple of KM high -- and latices at that.

      I'm guessing that his tropospheric tower to increase a power plant's output by 20% would probably cost significantly more to build than the power plant itself.

      That having been said,

  • by FerretFrottage (714136) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @01:00PM (#14179022)
    Just create a mobile home park within about a mile and you'll know exactly where a runaway tornado will go. Set up a net there, catch it and return it to its turbine cage. Maybe give the tornade a three strikes rule and after its third runaway, just turn it back to slow moving air, or threaten to send it to the jet stream in Canada because we know how much tornados hate the cold.

  • by the_povinator (936048) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @01:01PM (#14179027) Homepage
    The vortex can be sustained by either a specific heat source, like seawater or an area covered by greenhouses [as in the Australian solar tower/solar chimney], or if the atmosphere is sufficiently humid it can be sustained by the inherent instability of the atmosphere. However this instability is not generally always present. This instability is called the CAPE (convective atmospheric potential energy). It is the energy source that feeds thunderstorms. The reason the atmosphere can store energy is that the bottom layer of the atmosphere tends to be heated by the sun. If the air is damp but not at 100% humidity you can get a situation where the air column is stable, but as soon as it is perturbed enough for some of the air to start releasing moisture (when it reaches 100% humidity) the situtation becomes unstable. This is because the air that rises high enough to release moisture, starts getting warmed up when the moisture precipitates and then rises even higher. Theoretically, this could be exploited by a vortex. The vortex is performing the same function as a very tall tower, but hopefully more cheaply. It's like a siphon that siphons gasoline out of your tank. The vortex has lower pressure at the center, much like a siphon. However, it is far from clear whether this idea could be made practical. There are issues like how stable the vortex would be in wind, etc.
    • AFAIK the Australian suntower doesn't "create a vortex" -its a giant, force fed chimney. Convection caused by air heated at the base of the tower pushes huge amounts of air up through a tower filled with turbines.

      Steve
  • People of Green Pastures Trailer Park, I will unleash the fury of my tornado machine unless you hand over all your commemorative Nascar plates and pro wrestling magazines!
  • Have they learned nothing from the Electric Twister Acid Test [earthprime.com]??
  • Some interesting photo's and video's
    http://atmosphericvortextower.com/ [atmospheri...xtower.com]
  • It doesn't sound like an interesting renewable energy source. To anyone who understands basic physics, it sounds like a fictional perpetual-motion machine. The energy to create the tornado has to move all that air in circles, then less gets captured by the turbines, wasting energy, not generating any.

    Synthetic tornadoes are useful if they're actually like natural tornadoes. Especially if we can develop machines to safely capture energy from the natural ones. But people who think we can "create" energy by tr
    • Re:Spin Cycle (Score:3, Insightful)

      by putko (753330)
      There's energy coming in the system though, right? The sun heats the air on the bottom.

      It is a bit like the guy who wanted to run a tube from the ocean floor to the surface, and use the temperature differential to do work.

      The thing can be terribly inefficient (in terms of wasting the solar energy) -- the thing that matters is just the price of the kWHs that come out of it.
      • That's mostly true. But what also matters is the price of the joules captured by other technologies, given the same energy and dollar investment (among other resources). Like other solar tech, such as biofuels.
    • They're not trying for perpetual motion, they're just looking for another way to convert heat into electricity.

      There aren't many energy production mechanisms (in popular use) that produce electricity directly. Most produce heat, which must be converted into electricity.

      The majority of energy production systems use heat convection to operate some type of electro-magnetic generator. There is always a loss in efficiency in this process. What's potentially novel about this idea is that it may turn out to be a g
    • The movements of air around the planet, and the rising of air due to insolation, are "nearly" perpetual motion for our petty human purposes. You are usually not such a defender of conventional viewpoints! Motion that is perpetual over the remainder of the solar system's useable lifespan is perfectly in accord with basic physics.

      One interesting concept engendered by an "artifical tornado" is the idea of a solar tower (such as was successfully built in Spain and are currently being built in Australia) with
      • Well, it looks like the device is just described in perpetual motion terms - the energy input comes from the Sun (as usual). It's a fancy convection system, which is getting press (and grants from the locals) because tornadoes are the local specialty in the region. So I'll stand by my comments that this research is really interesting as R&D in harnessing natural tornadoes. Because the inefficiencies, especially construction/maintenance/recycling of the towers, seems noncompetitive with other solar techn
  • "This is Scorpio. I have the doomsday device."
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is another company that is doing almost the same thing (VDS: Vortex Dehydration Systems, LLC).

    There is not too much info on their website: http://vortexdehydration.com [vortexdehydration.com]

    But the following two articles provide a good summary:
    http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4723367/ [msn.com]
    http://www.zpenergy.com/modules.php?name=News&file =article&sid=1312 [zpenergy.com]

    • "There is another company that is doing almost the same thing"

      That's like saying that auto makers and aircraft manufacturers are "doing almost the same thing" because they both use combustion engines! The invention in the links you provide has pretty much nothing to do with this slashdot article other than it has swirling air. A pulverizer is a long way from a power plant...
  • by mcknut (759166)
    Michael Crichton is hard at work on his next book..... a Tornadoe gets out of a ultra-secret lab and a scientist, a child, and a surprisingly militarily trained caretaker have to track it down and stop it.
  • TOMADOES? (Score:2, Funny)

    by RequiemX (926964)
    The way the title kerned-out on this horrible school LCD, I thought it read "Tomadoes". I was like, WTF are tomadoes?
  • Where does this thing run on?

    "surround the construct by 10-20m of black concrete or gravel". Right! It is a solar energy collector. And a bad one at that.

    A normal solar collector will work whenever there is sun. This thing will only work if there is sun AND the atmosphere is unstable. In that case it might be able to "amplify" the solar energy by about a factor of two. If it becomes more than a factor of two, then "shutting down the base" which the inventor claims to shut the thing down, won't be effective
  • So as a non-scientist...I have to wonder what the efficiency of this thing is. I mean, it seems to me like he would need to put a lot of energy in to maintain a stable vortex, so I'm wondering how efficient this would be compared to extracting energy from other sources.

  • Already done in 1999 in Mystery Men [imdb.com]!
  • He's using heat to create a vortex, perhaps creating a permanent storm and using it to power windmills around the periphery would be better. Storms sustain themselves due to both the shadow they create and the moisture release. The moisture release would be problematic as it isn't always available, so, we'd want to go with the calmer version that just works via shadow.

    What if we put large reflective films in an elliptical orbit that causes one of the reflectors to stay precisely between the sun and a spo

  • From TFA:

    The quantity of mechanical energy which could be produced in the atmosphere is 6000 times greater than the mechanical energy produced by humans.

    Well, yes, but is that either surprising or remotely useful? I mean, the sun produces millions of times more energy than we could ever possibly use (at source), but harnessing that energy is the tricky bit. The oceans contain massive amounts of water, but that is unlikely to prevent global water shortages in some of our lifetimes. And if we extracted al

  • The vortex system described is nothing more than a very inefficient solar power collector.

    What a joke. Invest your money in researching higher efficiency solar cells. There's no need for this Rube Goldburg contraption that sits between the solar power and the generation of the electricity.

    The effort required to get a stable vortex going will prevent any profitability. How much energy will have to be added to the system to start it, and to ensure that the heat supply at the bottom is strong enough and conti
  • Pretty easy... it'd suck!
  • by bloggins02 (468782) on Sunday December 04, 2005 @06:04PM (#14180690)
    ...to just install wind turbines in trailer parks?

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated. -- Poul Anderson

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