Instructables
Picture of Inexpensive Mini Turbine

Knowing a teacher or two and with Momma Cat's bean counting problem, we thought we better come up with an extremely inexpensive turbine. This way the bean counter and teacher in all of us can be happy :-)

Why build one of these mini turbines? Well they are inexpensive ;-) There is the wow factor. There is the educational benefits. The greatest benefit though is getting someone interested in green energy. Just look how easy it is to generate power. Yeah it is a very small amount of power but to most people electricity is not something easily understood. Get people interested in this easy to build, inexpensive turbine and perhaps they will be inspired to learn more. Have to light a match to get a fire.

These are so easy to make we had Cool Cat (8 year old) build it. That's his hand in the video. Couldn't get him to keep his hands off it lol. We hope that you enjoy this instructable and please check out our other instructables at - http://www.instructables.com/member/Cats+Science+Club/ and don't forget to follow us!

Cat's Science Club

catsscienceclub.com

 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
IMG_1862.JPG

What you will need are easily found at a hardware store.

Okay, we know what some of you are thinking, why a solar path light? Well we had bought around 20 at a dollar store. There are some cool instructables on here that show what can be done with the solar panels. We just need the tube off it. So take the tube off and save the rest of the solar light for your next instructable.

Materials

Electrical Tape

Motor- Pull out of old VCR or DVD player or buy off e-bay

Solar Path Light - Just need the pole off it.

Red LED

Wood or Plastic - To make the tail. We used a shim but you could use just about anything.

3/4" PVC Pipe Fitting Tee

3/4 to 1/2 Bushings (2)

Hot Glue

Super Glue

Wire

Drill - Not Shown

Blades - Not Shown - Your own design or use ours

Cost

Your cost maybe different depending on what materials you have available. We had things like the glue, wire, shim (many other things will work), wire, and electrical tape ($2). The red LED is under $.10 (Amazon or eBay). The motor can be free if you find an old VCR or DVD. The bushings cost $.37 each and so did the 3/4" PVC Tee (PVC parts less than $1.20). Solar path light from dollar store, only a $1, but you could try some thinner PVC or strong tube that will fit through the PVC Tee. We spent under $5 for all the parts we didn't have. The cheapest turbine we could find on Amazon was just over $11 but the mini turbines go up in price to $60 plus.

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Very cool, I like whats being done here.

alcurb2 months ago

Nice project. With a little imagination, it can be scaled up. All you would need is to design the project around a larger motor, maybe with larger PVC pipes?

Having mentioned motors, I think one should test the motor first with a voltmeter before using it as a generator. It's sometimes not immediately obvious whether motor is 'brushless' or not. I've read that brushless motors cannot be used as generators, that is, they won't generate electricity.

Fikjast Scott2 months ago

wow, this is a nice project. thanks for sharing

Cats Science Club (author)  Fikjast Scott2 months ago

We bought them from Amazon for $9.99 however they are out of stock every time we try to order more, but make your own. It takes time but it will be free. We currently are experimenting with plastic spoons :)

Nice write-up.

Say where did you get the propellers and how much where they?

J-Ri2 months ago

Very cool project!

One thing I would add is to make sure that the motor selected is rated at well above the desired output voltage and rated close to the speed it will be turning.

Raphango2 months ago

Great!

Did you measure the voltage and amperage?

A sugestion for a next project is to embed a rechargeable battery and show the kids a practical use of the stored energy!

;)

Cats Science Club (author)  Raphango2 months ago

This is our Simple-Backyard-Wind-Turbin that we put through a hole in a table that an umbrella would go through. Don't know why lol. We have it connected to a charge controller and then to 2 AA batteries and an LED. There was enough power to light up and LED and charge up the batteries. Sorry the picture cuts some details out. We may have a video on it if you are interested in seeing it.

IMG_1529.JPG

I know _I_ am interested a video (and details)! Where did you get the charge controller and how long did it take to charge the 2 batteries?

Thanks!

Cats Science Club (author)  rickatt2 months ago

Here is the link to the video of us charging 2 AA batteries on the beach with Fat Cat's simple explanation. http://youtu.be/PTqz2YLYR9k

Cats Science Club (author)  rickatt2 months ago

The charge controller can be bought from browndoggadgets.com We used the lithium battery charge control but they may have a better one for this type of use.

Agreed, that's a project I'd love to see! Together, they could be a great project to bring camping with a bunch of kids: build them the first day, run them to charge some batteries for a while (a day? Less, or more?), then put the batteries in flashlights for the kids to use so they can get a visceral feel for how much energy it really generated.

Grab the battery right out of that solar light. You can charge those from this with a little mod.

Cats Science Club (author)  kodiaktau2 months ago

Great idea!

Cats Science Club (author)  kodiaktau2 months ago

Like this?

IMG_1877.JPG
That's the spirit! =D
Cats Science Club (author)  Raphango2 months ago

We measured the voltage up to 16 volts. It ranged from 7 to 16 volts. Amps, I believe, was 7 to 21 milli amps.

Good! If you plug some of these in series you could probably run an arduino board! (Obviously, using some stabilizing circuit).
wdsims632 months ago

So, this is pretty cool, but I'm wondering why you used the tee in the direction that you did?

Wouldn't it work better to use the tee with the through opening aligned horizontally and put the tail coming out of the back of the tee? That would require you to only need 1 bushing then, and would probably rotate a bit better.

I would also like to see some turbine designs like you mentioned. Maybe another instructable for that? ;)

Cats Science Club (author)  wdsims632 months ago

Which turbine designs are you referring to?

Yes the Tee facing the way you mention seems to make more sense. We tried it out, but for us, there was more friction so less of a swing around into the wind.

ty for the instructable.

i bought a bunch of little personal fans from the dollar store.
The little fan has the motor and a fan already attached to it so i thought it would save me some work.

Problem is, i tested it in front of a pretty powerful fan and i only get half a volt out of every motor.
But the fan is spinning pretty fast.

you think a bigger motor and a bigger fan is the solution?

Can you give me more detail about the motor that you were using?


Thank you!

Did you try turning the blades around? We turned the blades around on the propellers and found a huge difference. Scoop side facing the wind coming in.

It may be just that the motors in a DVD player or VCR are more powerful. Go to ebay and look for VCR/DVD motor can get them new for about $2 and maybe another $2 for shipping plus a month of waiting. We are currently looking to sell the motor on our site but only have 5 motors we are not playing with to sell. Best to go garage sale shopping lol

dirizary2 months ago

I think making and attaching the blades is the most daunting part, for me.

Cats Science Club (author)  dirizary2 months ago

Agreed!

shawnlambert2 months ago

How many volts does it produce?

Cats Science Club (author)  shawnlambert2 months ago

0 to 16 volts depending on the blades and the wind. We calculate it will produce 1 watt. We are not electricians or engineers and most of what we know is from people on istructables and /or trial and error. If anyone one has calculated volts, amps, watts differently please let us know.

charris82 months ago

Could it recharge a AAA battery?

Cats Science Club (author)  charris82 months ago

Yes, if you have the wind it will charge the batteries. Remember to use a blocking diode to prevent the batteries discharging to the motor. We were charging two AA batteries on the beach but used a charge control.

loachridge2 months ago

First of all; Favorited

Second, the follow up configuration from Raphango is more traditional, NICE!

I have a suggestion for those with a heat gun or who like working with PVC. Use the heat gun on the back end of the pipe to flatten it. Lower your material cost and resistance by making the tail out of the same material. No heat gun, a hair dryer will work if you have the patience.

dirizary2 months ago

I think making and attaching the blades is the most daunting part, for me.

pehughes2 months ago

Hi Cats Science Club,

This is great. We made two, but augmented with 2 recharge AA cells and a Solar Cell. We mounted it to a vane, it reserves charge pretty well. It lights up our drive(LED) for most of the night.

Thank you, Starman

Cats Science Club (author)  pehughes2 months ago
Oh please show a picture.
Wroger-Wroger2 months ago

I don't know - I find the fun / cheap / novelty / educational aspect of these types of bottom dollar projects to be their own worst enemy - in a big picture kind of way.

The reason they are "epic fails" of a minor magnitude, is because they do not integrate into anything else.

Like, "The fan spins in a wind and the LED lights up." well so what?

You need to make something practical that performs a useful function. Like if you can pull say 1W @ 12V on an average day, you can run a small ventilation fan, for the basement or; say at least 1 - 5W @ 15V DC - you can charge up batteries to run a small radio set;

Or an aerator pump for a fish pond / aquaculture set up.

Or a fan / water pump for a solar heater / cooler etc...

Because essentially - there is not much difference between a go no where toy, and a practical and useful device. The practical power source, requires further engagement and use.

Can you use this to recharge the solar lights you took off? First I thought that was what you were going to do. Replacing the wind turbine for the solar panel would let you have a portable battery charger that would work both day and night - where ever the wind blows.

Cats Science Club (author)  Money_Illusion2 months ago

That is a great idea! That might be coming in another instructable.

thomasbleser12 months ago

It took me a while to figure out what was going on here. "Turbine" suggests conversion from one form of energy to another, but "wind generator" might have been a little more to the point. Electric motors can only work backwards as generators if and when there is at least some permanent magnetism in the field, and the amount of power a motor can generate is contingent on the strength of this field. The recycled motor from the old VCR or DVD player might therefore be tinkered with to increase the output power to useful dimensions by (a) attaching permanent magnets to the field, playing close attention to the alignment of north/south:plus/minus polarities and (b) by winding the output wires to form a feedback field coil before outputting it to the rest of the circuit. (Its nice to know that a lot of these motors fit snugly into 3/4" PVC plumbing). Keep thinking along these lines, you never know when a solar flare will take out your power grid permanently, making it necessary to jerry-rig some other power supply to keep your freezer running and, in turn, to keep you from starving to death..

This is a DC motor. it already has permanent magnets inside. Adding another one will not work due to the shielding the can provides.

ManuelF12 months ago

Is there additional steps for the multi-parallel setup to get about 20watts?

ManuelF1 ManuelF12 months ago

I mean 20 volts.

Cats Science Club (author)  ManuelF12 months ago

We do not have the answer for you but hopefully one of the wonderful people on here will.

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