April 19, 2016
As the world looks for new ways to diversify its energy supply and find renewable resources to power the earth’s growing energy consumption needs, new research from the University of Notre Dame has identified a potential way to make an existing renewable resource – wind energy – more efficient in power production.
Notre Dame White Field
Thomas Corke, the Clark Chair Professor in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and founding director of the Notre Dame Institute for Flow Physics and Control (FlowPAC), along with a team of collaborative researchers, developed a new plasma actuator that can be used to make a more capable design for wind turbine airflow and control than previous systems. When applied to wind turbines, this actuator could increase the amount of energy that can be produced by up to 10 percent and significantly reduce the wind loads on the rotor blades, improving their longevity.
The University of Notre Dame has recently licensed the plasma actuators, along with a set of improvements in flow control, as part of a patent portfolio. The portfolio includes active devices that reduce turbulent air and improve a turbine’s ability to capture energy from wind.
The active devices utilize the actuator to affect wind as it moves over a wind turbine’s blade, thus modifying airflow to obtain flow improvement. The effect is a “virtual shaping” of the rotor blade. The advancement is cost-effective, as Aquanis, LLC – the company who has acquired the patent – predicts that the technology can be easily incorporated in new blade design and potentially adapted to existing turbines and that use of the device can pay for itself in less than two years.
University of Notre Dame faculty who contributed to the development of these licensed technologies include Eric Jumper, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering as well as the director of the Aero-Optics group; Robert Nelson, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering; and Flint Thomas, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering. Other contributing researchers include Carl Enloe and Thomas McLaughlin from the United States Air Force, as well as Alan Cain and Mehul Patel with the Innovative Technologies Applications Company.
When speaking about his team’s work, Corke said, “I, along with an impressive group of Notre Dame engineers and other researchers, conducted research analyzing wind turbines and how deficiencies – in terms of potential generated power – could be resolved,” said Corke, “The patent portfolio is a package of inventions that were developed to overcome these shortcomings in several ways and improve our ability to harness wind energy.”
“At FlowPAC, we try to enhance and develop the performance of various technologies,” said Corke. “So whether we are working with an aircraft in relation to drag, jet engines in relation to stall, or wind turbines in relation to energy extraction, we work together to identify the limitations and how we can improve them through flow control.”
The flow control patent portfolio that was licensed by Tech Transfer at the University of Notre Dame was ceremonially signed over to Aquanis, LLC on April 12, 2016. Neal Fine, the Chief Executive Officer of Aquanis, joined Corke at the signing. To learn more about the flow control research conducted at Notre Dame, click here.
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The University of Notre Dame du Lac (or simply Notre Dame /ˌnoʊtərˈdeɪm/ NOH-tər-DAYM) is a Catholic research university located near South Bend, Indiana, in the United States. In French, Notre Dame du Lac means “Our Lady of the Lake” and refers to the university’s patron saint, the Virgin Mary.
The school was founded by Father Edward Sorin, CSC, who was also its first president. Today, many Holy Cross priests continue to work for the university, including as its president. It was established as an all-male institution on November 26, 1842, on land donated by the Bishop of Vincennes. The university first enrolled women undergraduates in 1972. As of 2013 about 48 percent of the student body was female. Notre Dame’s Catholic character is reflected in its explicit commitment to the Catholic faith, numerous ministries funded by the school, and the architecture around campus. The university is consistently ranked one of the top universities in the United States and as a major global university.
The university today is organized into five colleges and one professional school, and its graduate program has 15 master’s and 26 doctoral degree programs. Over 80% of the university’s 8,000 undergraduates live on campus in one of 29 single-sex residence halls, each of which fields teams for more than a dozen intramural sports, and the university counts approximately 120,000 alumni.
The university is globally recognized for its Notre Dame School of Architecture, a faculty that teaches (pre-modernist) traditional and classical architecture and urban planning (e.g. following the principles of New Urbanism and New Classical Architecture). It also awards the renowned annual Driehaus Architecture Prize.