BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY


Charles Codding Jr. (left) and senior Jared Voldness with the first of two wind turbines featuring an especially powerful and low-cost generator for its size

Charles Codding Jr. (left) and senior Jared Voldness with the first of two wind turbines featuring an especially powerful and low-cost generator for its size

More efficient power-producing generator developed at BGSU

BGSU faculty and student researchers are building a better mousetrap—one that produces electricity.

Now they’re planning to pursue a patent and conduct more testing in hopes that their wind-turbine generator can be commercialized.

The generator is unique because, with fewer moving parts and less weight, it produces more power with smaller investment. For wind-turbine applications, the BGSU design allows for the possibility of multiple generators to be coupled, offering the advantage of harnessing the power from various size blades to meet various power needs. Controlled experiments have shown that for its size, the generator can produce roughly double the output of the common home-built generator of comparable size at less cost, according to Charles Codding Jr., technology systems. 

The first turbine designed in his fluid power class produced power when it was mounted on a ladder truck outside the Technology Building—an experiment that inspired an entirely new design. Codding, who has been a mentor to several undergraduate students with an interest in energy and power systems, worked to create the innovative design with Jared Voldness, a senior from Logan who is majoring in technology education. Voldness expressed interest in the project as independent study for his required research as a McNair Scholar.

“This latest design has required a lot of late nights and early mornings” over months of research and development, said Codding, noting that it started with that first turbine a year ago as an exercise in how to use off-the-shelf parts.

The next step is further testing outside to gather and analyze additional performance data. Codding would like to put the second turbine—built earlier this semester—either outside the building or at his house for testing. If that proves successful, he said, small turbines powered by the generator could conceivably be placed on top of every utility pole. And the generator can just as easily be turned by water power, he added.

“We did everything here,” Codding said about the project, explaining that he took a design from the Web—where many do-it-yourself wind turbines can be seen—and made the smaller, 2,000-watt generator for the same size blades. The diameter of the newer, and larger, turbine is 10 feet 6 inches, with a set of fiberglass blades purchased for $112. With regular maintenance, they should last five to 10 years, he estimated.

No more than $500 has been invested overall in assembled parts of the turbine, Codding said, pointing out that a traditional wind-turbine generator producing 2,000 watts might cost $10,000. He cautioned, however, that it’s difficult to compare the costs directly when the time involved is also considered.

Dr. Larry Hatch, technology education, has been pleased to see one of his students who is going into the teaching field have an opportunity to work on an important project with such encouraging results.

“The goal of developing technological literacy requires that our future teachers engage in design and problem solving in the contexts of energy, transportation, production and information,” Hatch said. “This project is exemplary of what we want technology education seniors to experience. Jared was up to the task with the help of Mr. Codding.”

The project had lagged for a time before Voldness, who is scheduled to graduate in May, took it on for the McNair Program, which aims to encourage students to pursue graduate studies.

Codding, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from BGSU in manufacturing technology and industrial technology, respectively, is also working with Voldness on intellectual property paperwork that could lead to a patent for the design.

Hatch believes that a patent holds great potential for commercialization, envisioning a potential startup company with a promising future. With such grass-roots efforts integral to America becoming energy independent, he said, “I’m excited to see the College of Technology making this kind of contribution to both education and to our country’s energy independence.”

March 23, 2009