Alexander Gorlov's helical turbine is leading the way in hydroelectric energy. The device's innovative design and inherent flexibility enables the turbine to generate energy almost anywhere and offers improved efficiency over its predecessors.
Inventor: Alexander Gorlov, USA
Invention: Helical turbine for power and propulsion systems
Sector: Renewable energy
Company: Northeastern University
Renewable energy sources have become increasingly important as concerns about fossil fuels and the global energy crisis have mounted. Hydroelectric power has emerged as one such alternative power source on the market.
Although hydroelectricity offers renewable and carbon-free energy, its traditional dependence on dams results in significant drawbacks to this energy solution. Dams disturb ecosystems on a large-scale, and their construction causes major displacements of communities.
Gorlov's Helical Turbine represents an alternative approach to hydroelectric power. The turbine harnesses the kinetic energy of moving water. Instead of relying on dams, Gorlov's invention is a free-standing underwater turbine. It is also virtually disruption-free. As the device generates electricity underwater, it cannot be seen or heard.
Earlier models of free-standing turbines have entered the market, but Gorlov's Helical Turbine offers a more efficient solution due to its vertical structure. Its predecessors featured a horizontal structure. The switch to a vertical design improves the stability of the turbine and increases the energy extracted from the water stream from 20% to 35%.
Gorlov modified the blades of his turbine by twisting them like strands of DNA. This adjustment causes the turbine to spin faster and boosts efficiency.
Gorlov's Helical Turbine is modular and flexible for varying environments and conditions. The device operates in both slow and fast-moving water. The turbine requires only one metre of water to function.
Due to its versatility and simple design, the turbine can be implemented in developing countries and remote areas that lack access to power grids.
Gorlov's Helical Turbine offers a more cost-effective renewable energy source. One of the smaller models measuring only 36 inches by 40 inches can be installed for half the price of a solar panel. The turbine is also significantly less expensive than diesel generators.
The helical turbine is currently being used to generate enough power for about 500 homes on the Korean Island of Jindo.
Alexander Gorlov is a mechanical engineering professor at Northeastern University. In 2001, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers awarded him with the Thomas A. Edison Patent Award for his turbine's potential "to alleviate the world-wide crisis in energy."