EPFL carrying out research into vertical rotors

05 April 2024 09:45

Greater Geneva Bern

Lausanne - Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) are working on the development of vertical rotors. The aim here is to develop rotor blades for wind turbines that offer optimal use of renewable energy but at the same time are protected from the damage caused by high winds. Learning algorithms are being used to support the research work.

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) are working on the development of optimal rotor blades for vertical-axis wind turbines. As detailed in a press release, learning algorithms are being used to achieve this. A research group headed up by Sébastien Le Fouest from the School of Engineering Unsteady Flow Diagnostics Lab (UNFOLD) is using these algorithms to research the different wind forces that act on the rotor blades. In comparison with the conventionally used rotor blades, vertical-axis wind turbines have the advantage of being more space-saving, quieter and safer for nearby wildlife. The disadvantage, however, is that strong gusts of wind cause a stall in the flow, which can potentially lead to the destruction of the wind turbine. The research group has now carried out an extensive series of tests in which they have examined varying blade angles, rotor speeds and wind strengths. The results of more than 3,500 experimental iterations were then evaluated using a computer and a learning algorithm to determine the most efficient profiles of new types of turbines. Using this method, the researchers successfully identified two viable profile series.

“Dynamic stall – the same phenomenon that destroys wind turbines – at a smaller scale can actually propel the blade forward. Here, we really use dynamic stall to our advantage by redirecting the blade pitch forward to produce power”, as Sébastien Le Fouest, responsible for leading the study at UNFOLD, explains in the press release. “Most wind turbines angle the force generated by the blades upwards, which does not help the rotation. Changing that angle not only forms a smaller vortex - it simultaneously pushes it away at precisely the right time, which results in a second region of power production downwind”, he adds. ce/eb

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