Dean Kamen patents light-up, mobile, inflatable wind turbines

Dean Kamen, noted brilliant and sometimes crazy inventor, has patented a new design for inflatable wind turbines which can double as illuminated advertising billboards. I guess free wind energy is just not quite good enough.

The reason that putting LEDs on an object that spins rapidly is a clever idea is that you can take advantage of what's called persistence of vision. This is a phenomenon which causes your eye to see single images that persist for less than about a twenty-fifth of a second as one continuous image, which is what makes toys like these possible. The upshot is that discrete arrays of LEDs blinking on and off in precise patterns can be used to create images and text, as long as your wind turbine is spinning fast enough, and by linking entire arrays of wind turbines together, you can create one giant and wicked trippy display system.

The other interesting bit about these as-yet conceptual wind turbines is that they're inflatable, with a structure made out of plastic fabric. Since there are no blades or tower or anything they're very light and easy to move around, meaning that they can be put on roofs that would otherwise be unable to support the weight of a wind turbine, or easily carried on trucks to wherever the next hurricane or tornado is supposed to occur. Here's how the inflatable turbine is supposed to look:

inflatable-wind-turbine.jpg

This is just a patent, mind you, and there's been no talk of production. But it's a great idea with a nice aesthetic touch, and if inflatable turbines like these could be produced in quantity for a low enough cost, they could bring free power to just about anywhere. Anywhere with wind, that is.

USPTO, via Engadget

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