The energy released by a large hurricane can exceed the energy consumption of the human race for a whole year, and even an average tornado has a power similar to that of a large power station. Louis Michaud, a Canadian engineer, believes he has devised a way to harness that energy by generating artificial whirlwinds that can be controlled.
His Atmospheric Vortex Engine would be produced inside a cylindrical wall. Warm air at ground level enters via tangential inlets around the base of the wall. Steam is injected to get the vortex started. Once established, the heat content of the air at ground level is enough to keep the vortex going. As the air rises, it expands and cools, and water vapour condenses, releasing even more heat. This is, in fact, what powers a hurricane, which can be thought of as a heat engine that takes in warm, humid air at its base, releases cold, watery air about 12 kilometres up, and liberates a vast amount of energy in the process.
Michaud’s vortex would reach a similar height to that of a hurricane, but its base would remain stationary. The intensity of the vortex would be controlled and there would be turbines at the base of the vortex to harness its energy as air rushes through the inlets. Mr Michaud estimates that an atmospheric vortex engine with a diameter of 200 metres would produce around 200 megawatts of power.
So much for the theory. Now Michaud must demonstrate that its system works in practice.
Via The Economist.