Instructables
Picture of Pringles Wind Turbine (Pleech) - Version One
The Pringles Wind Turbine (a.k.a. Power Leech or Pleech) is an attempt to turn simple items found at the hardware store and elsewhere into a working low-voltage power supply. The Pleech is designed to take wind or other air currents (such as from A/C ducts, dryer vents, etc.) and convert that energy into electrical energy using magnets and copper coils.

It was created as part of my final project for the Design and Technology Major Studio class at Parsons The New School for Design.
 
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Step 1: Collect Materials

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You will need:
Pringles Can
Two CDs
Paper towel holder (preferably metal)
12 Aluminum bobbins (NOT steel)
Magnet Wire (lots of it, the thinner the gauge the better -- try for 36 gauge)
8 strong magnets (rare earth preferred)
a wine cork
hot glue
and these electronics:
  • 6 schottky diodes (1N5822)
  • Large capacitor, pref, super cap
  • wire
  • solder

Step 2: Cut the Pringles Can

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You'll need to cut the can into two halves lengthwise. Be sure to mark it carefully. Uneven halves will create an unbalanced turbine. Metal snips help -- easier than scissors, less ragged than a saw.

Step 3: Mark out the CDs

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In order to make sure all the different parts of the turbine get put into the right place, it helps to write guides onto the CDs with a sharpie. Lucky for you, though, that you can also use the templates I made after my build was done. Just check out those PDF files. They have all you need to know for placing the can halves, magnets, coils, electronics, and they include a helpful wiring guide.

If you choose to mark you own guides, I found the transparent "CD" that comes with some CD-R spindles was helpful to use as a template.

Step 4: Cut, Sand, and Fit the Cork Into the CDs

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The wine cork forms the very simple axle of the turbine. I prefer this over the dowel from my first version because:
a) you can make them as snug as you need to
b) you don't hurt the turbine's efficiency by running a dowel through the middle of it (which, according to some of my research, knocks it down by something like eight percent)

You can take an ordinary wine cork and cut it in half, then work the pieces over with a saw and some sandpaper until they fit just right into the CDs' holes.

Be sure not to over cut. Cutting away the outside of the cork is a great way to save time from sanding, but don't over do it. Better too snug than too loose. When you get close to the right diameter for the cork pieces to fit into the holes of the CDs, test and sand and test again.

Once the corks are the right size, pierce them with small nails. These will form a "needle bearing" on which the entire contraption will spin. Try as hard as you can to get the nails to be perpendicular to the CD and as close as possible to the dead center or it. Otherwise, you'll get wobble.

Step 5: Attach the Magnets

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The best thing you can do here is to look at the diagram in the PDF from a few steps back. Basically, you need to attach the magnets (glue, tape, epoxy, whatever works) to the CDs in such a way that the poles alternate. A magnet that faces north follows one facing south follow one facing north, etc. If you're confused, do check the diagram. Marking the poles with a Sharpie also really helps.

Step 6: Glue Can to CDs

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Now you can glue the can halves to the top and base CDs. Make sure each half stays vertical--use a square if you need to. You want the turbine to be as upright as possible. It's not hard to do, but it takes a little patience and a fair amount of hot glue.

Also, try to follow those templates. The Savonius turbine requires that the two halves sort of over lap. This lets the air push on both "buckets" at once. Clever, huh?

Step 7: Tap in Dimples into the Paper-Towel Holder

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This is the other half of the "needle bearing" I wrote about. You'd need to make this deep enough so that the turbine stays in place but not so deep or so narrow that friction becomes a real problem. Some suggestions:
- with a hammer, tap each end with a small blunt nail followed by a phillips head screwdriver
- don't make a hole, just a deep dent
- test the mechanical action with your turbine frequently
- add WD40
- adjust the height of the nails if there's not enough or too much pressure on the turbine (i.e. it keeps falling out or it's stuck and really slow)

Once satisfied, glue down the corks to the CD

Step 8: Wind the Coils

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This part is crucial. The amount of power you generate pretty much depends on two things: the speed of the wind, and number of coils. Other factors play in, but these are the big ones. You have not control over the wind, though, so make this step count. I highly recommend using thinner gauge wire than I did. I used 28, and got decent results, but I think 36 gauge will blow the doors off of my current set up. It's all about the number of wraps. The 36 gauge stuff is harder to find, so you can make do with thicker stuff--just be aware of the cost of doing so.

Here's how to go about it.
- use a dowel for the big spool of wire
- put bobbin on an awl, then insert the awl into variable speed drill
- leave 10 - 15 cm hanging when you start. You'll need these to make connections later.
- wind the first wrap slowly or by hand. If you're using thin stuff, do it by hand.
- you can increase speed thereafter. Again, be gentle if you have the thin wire.
- go back and forth, try not to cross, be neat.
- if using thin wire, be careful:
  • in case of breakage, use a lighter to burn off the enamel that insulates the wire
  • tie the pieces back together tightly
  • it doesn't hurt to check the repaired connection with multimeter
- once finished, tape down the coil.
- leave 10 - 15 cm on the outside, too
- burn off about 1 - 2 cm worth of the enamel and the end of each coil with a lighter (just be careful with thin stuff, since it will burn up really quickly--a quick pass with the flame should suffice). Use fine sandpaper to take off anything that stays on.

Step 9: Label the Coils

Picture of Label the Coils
I know, this seems kind of dumb to get its own step, but it's reaaaaalllllly important. The next few steps devolve into tangles and chaos pretty quickly, so it pays to be organized here. You're going to make three groups of four: A (red), B (blue), and C (green). Using Avery circle labels can help a lot. I found the combo of letters and color made life easier.

Follow the template if you're confused about this step.

P.S. (ignore the odd ordering of the "B" group in the photo. Just number them B1 through B4. I had the order the way you see it there because of a different--and less efficient--wiring method I had tried earlier. More on that later).

Step 10: Solder the Coils Together

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Follow the wiring diagram. Seriously. Don't even read another word of this, because it will only be confusing.

Well, actually, here are some useful tips:
- solder flux helps a lot. You can use a lot less solder and with a lot less hassle.
- follow the diagram (bears repeating)
- do one group at a time. Start with A1 to A2, A2 to A3, A3 to A4, then go to the B group
- test the layout using the pattern provided.
- solder a thicker wire lead to the "1" end of each group. This will lead to the rectifier. More on that soon.

Step 11: Make a Base for the Coils

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I made my prototype out of foam core, but this will depend a lot on the size of your coils, the size of your magnets and the shape of the frame. Plus, if you're planning on keeping this outside instead of hooked up to an AC vent of whatever, keep weather proofing in mind (and while you're at it, give the Pringles can a good going over with Scotch Gard--I haven't tried it, but let me know what works for outdoor versions you make).

The most important thing is to try to get the coils to be as close to the magnets without collisions. If you can position the coils on the base so they sit just 1 mm below the spinning magnets (watch out for wobble) then you're in good shape. Also, try to make the base as stable as possible. At higher RPMs, the turbine can really start to rattle a bit, so keeping things together in those conditions is crucial.

Step 12: Layout coils

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Once again, follow the template. This is by far the most confusing part, and I think the template should really help. Lay down one group (e.g. "A"), then another, then another.

Check that the current all flows one way. That is, if you imagine an electron running through the coils, it always enters the coil from one particular side and exits from another. Just don't cross the wires over, and you should be fine. The arrows on template should help you think about how the electrons should be running through the coil wraps.

Now glue those coils down. Glue 'em down good.

Once that's set, solder the remaining three ends together (the ones not soldered to thick wire that should be sticking out of the "4" coils). This is the neutral point. In our circuit, you won't need to access this junction again, so you can tape it down or otherwise hide it under the coils' base, along with excess lengths of the other connections. In fact, the more you can do to tidy up stray wires, the better. A malfunctioning turbine that comes out of its divots has a nasty tendency to grab exposed wire and tear it up. Fun to watch, but hell to repair.

What you should have left are the three thicker wires connected to the "1" coils on each of the groups. This will lead into the AC to DC conversion circuit.

Step 13: A Brief Explanation

Okay, so I haven't really gone over much in the way of what has been wired up here. What you have now is a Y circuit for a 3-phase alternating current generator. Instead of how we usually think of AC, like one big sine wave, this contraption has three waves working at three different phases at the same time.

The benefit of doing it this way is that we can jam in some more coils than we would if we just did a simpler version that produced a simple AC wave. Also, this method allows us to get about 1.7 times more voltage out of the generator than the coil groups would produce on their own. That's the magic of this "Y" configuration: it gets us more voltage for low RPM generators, which is definitely what we have here.

There is another configuration worth mentioning (and it's the reason my "B" looked out of order in the photos). The "Delta" configuration gives us the same voltage as the individual coil groups but about 1.7 times the current. So, if you really needed more current, and you could get the turbine spinning fast enough to take care of your voltage needs, that might be the way to go. It wasn't for me, but feel free to research it for your own stuff and let me know how it works for you.

Step 14: Circuitry

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The rectifier circuit template in the PDF should be able to fit right over a standard project board (the ones that require soldering.) This should make a nice, neat converter for AC to DC that you can tuck away wherever you need to.

That being said, start with a solderless bread board.

Either way, the big schottky diodes will need headers or wire soldered to them to fit in. They have leads that are too wide to go in. Regular diodes will fit fine, but they have a higher voltage drop. If you use the diodes I mentioned in the parts list, you lose less voltage with these big guys. Since every volt counts here, I'd highly recommend you deal with the added trouble of the oversize diodes.

When you put the circuit together, follow the rectifier diagram, watching the diode bands and capacitor polarity. Switching things the wrong way will make the circuit not work (or worse.) Attach a multimeter to leads off both ends of the cap and be ready to watch the voltage (start in millivolts for a reading, then work up as you spin it faster).

Attach coil leads by color per the diagram--they go between two diodes. The template should make this pretty clear.

Step 15: Test!

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No time like the present. Blow on it, put it in the wind, attach magnets to the vertical piece of the frame and tack it up on a AC vent, hit with a Shop Vac blower (I've done this--it holds up just fine).

Some tips:
*apply more WD-40 if needed (note: a helpful commenter let me know that WD-40 is not a lubricant, but a solvent that has similiar properties--until it dries up. Use light weight oil instead, 5 to 10 weight)
*blowing on it will get you about .5 V DC with my set up. Hopefully you will get a lot more (it's those thin wire wraps that will do it for you)
*I had 1.12 volts with it sitting on a fairly gentle AC vent
*with the Shop Vac, it gets up to 6 V at least before it starts to rattle like crazy and pop out of the dimples. You will probably get even better results.

Step 16: Conclusion and a Plea For Help

That's it! You have a crazy renewable energy source of perhaps dubious usefulness. BUT there is a lot more that can be done. I'd like to throw out a few suggestions to the crowd for thing to try:

  • double up the magnets and coils. Put one set on the bottom and one on the top. Wire the DC output of each in serial and double the voltage. Hopefully.
  • bigger, badder coils. Really see if you can up those wraps to a crazy degree. I think that's the key.
  • take a look at the mintyboost USB charger (http://www.instructables.com/id/EGBQJPLCB2EP287KTZ/). I've spoken with the inventor herself, and she says that the circuit that drives it can work with input voltages between 1.5 and 4.5 volts, with the most efficiency in the middle of that range. It produces steady 5V power off of two AA batteries (which are only 2.4 to 3.0 volts). If you have this project with that one, do you get a wind-powered iPod charger? Try it and let me know.
  • try a different bearing. My big thing is to use as simple and readily available parts as I possibly could, so I swore off fancier parts. You have no such limitation. I have it on good authority that skateboard bearings would be great for this. Or some other kind of bushing. Let me know what you come up with (especially if it's hacky, cheap, and better than what I've done.)
  • Small lazy susans are available at art and sculpture supply stores that might also make good bearings.
  • Made a bunch of these turbines? What happens when you wire them together in series? Can you make a "Pleech" farm?
  • There's another more efficient Vertical Axis Wind Turbine design called the Darrieus Turbine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darrieus_wind_turbine). It uses lift instead of drag. If you have an easy way to modify this turbine into one of those, drop a comment down here.

What I'd really love is for this to be the first (well, second) version in a long series of continually improving small turbines, the goal of which would be to power small devices (phones, sensors, art projects installed on public buildings, etc.) So, what did I do wrong? And what could be done a whole lot better? If you have answers, let us know. Hopefully, we can "crowd source" a way to make a pretty decent, and fairly cheap, wind powered generator.
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Skateboard bearings would work nicely, but I think you'd do a fair bit better hitting up an Ace hardware and picking through the multitude of bearings they it have for sale. Personally, I think you'd do very nicely with a set of cartridge bearings - think of the front wheel on a tricycle. It would be nice and cheap, and if you want to go cheaper, visit a small engine repair shop and I guarantee they will have a plethora just lying around and in equipment deemed not worth the trouble to repair. I got a set that way just last week from two destroyed weed whacker motors. They're smooth as silk
jgobaira9 months ago
Pardon, but I'm doing a science fair project on VAWT's and I was wondering exactly how it rotates the coil or magnets around eachother... as I am building my own model oit of a coke bottle, with a slightly different design.

Thanks,
Jen
nerdyH3 years ago
A solvent like wd-40 might be good for flushing away metal dust (say, from aluminum nails). But, I wonder if needle bearings like a little bit of grease, the way so many other types of bearings do?
chadeau nerdyH1 year ago
Oil and/or grease is the lifeblood of bearings.Ensure you have an enclosed bearing to omit dust and debris,flush clean with alcohol or other degreaser,then relube.But please,do NOT use WD-40 as a lubricant:WD-40 = 'Water Displacement (formula #) 40.WD WILL dry out,evaporate,leaving your bearings with no lube...My prefer on grease is any automotive wheel bearing grease,usually @ $5.00 per tub (not tube :) ) because of the environ it is designed to work in.For oils I like the Tri-Flo brand for bicycles (many specific formulas available) with the 'all-around' formula as a favorite.Tri-Flo will not only flush debris as a cleaner,but will stick well.Be sure to re-apply after exposure to water.
And then there are dry-film lubes...
...and Yes,needle bearings like grease.All ball,and needle bearings need lube.
Only sealed bearings and Oil-lite bronze bushings can exist without lube (sealed contain their own lube,Oil-lite bronze is impregnated into metal during mfr...)
VoltisArt1 year ago
One thought that's come to mind regarding bearings -- this is another place magnets can help. I looked around and the easiest source seems to be computer case fans. Very low friction. Then it occured to me that the fan itself, (minus blades for higher speed, though the cooling factor may benefit the workings?) may be a great option to simplify the entire endpiece.

I have a handful of 92mm case fans from the close-out shelf of one of the local electronics store. The motors are rated 12v - 0.4a, so the output should be pretty decent without burning anything out for quite some time. Your turbine design should turn these babies very nicely. (I can blow on them and get them turning, so...woosh!) It's a very different machine, but I think it fits the "simple and readily available" criteria.

Am also curious to see how much power could be pulled out of your suggestions for beefing up the coils and such, though.
Tom Buckey1 year ago
Does this work with the sour cream and chive tubes?

On a serious note, can this be used to charge 'Re-Chargeable' batteries?
NightLord2 years ago
What power production really depends on (despite the wind speed), are number of turns per coil, wire resistance, and strength of magnets. It is better to use thicker wire, because it has lower resistivity, and voltage drop under load is smaller. If you only test its voltage there will be no difference, but try measuring current flowing through...
hi again, i just wanted to say that i would really like to get the response as soon as possible, cause i have to submit this project in college.

and i would upload the images of my project as soon as possible so that u r able understand the problems i am facing.

thank you.
read the instrubable, it shows and tells everything
how much energy does this put out? And can you store any of the energy?
hi there, i have to say that this project is a nice one but i am facing some problems such as
1- how many rounds of coil winding are used in this project.
2- i am not able to understand, on which part of the project is the CD with magnets attached is supported i.e. the CD with magnets is too heavy and needs a very good support. would appreciate if u upload pics of the supporting parts.
3- i would be very happy if u could provide me the link for the video of the making of this project.
4- i wasnt able to find the paper towel holder, therefore i made a wooden holder just like the paper holder.
5- a question- can we use LEDs to show the energy produced, and use a rechargeble battery for storing purpose.
bykerboi763 years ago
Also, one of the requirements of the project was that if the wind blew, the project wouldn't blow away. It needed to be stable and supported somehow in the ground of our university field, which is just grass. So I added string, tent stakes to the milk crate which were shoved in the ground and specifically placed at the joints of the milk crate. Worked perfectly for the strong winds whipping through our university. Keep it simple.
bykerboi763 years ago
Great project to do. Easy, and can actually double your amount of energy by putting magnets on the top cd as well. Used a milk crate vs the towel holder. Can fit magnets in the 'diamonds'. Worked wonderfully. Had professors in Physics class asking to reproduce for the school and their own houses. Produced 12 depending on wind speed. Also used pyrex so you could see how it worked. Good stuff free. Everything available online.
Wesley6665 years ago
I have a bunch of hard drive magnets and I was wondering if they would work for the magnets. Also This project is alot like something I've built. I built a big fan and welded it to an alternator and that works wonders for generating power because alternators are so easy to turn. Another question is did you ever test the current and voltage of AC this produced before adding the DC converter/Bridge rectifier?
there's a wind turbine project I've seen that uses HDD magnets. they are polarized different then most magnets so they didn't work well at first. The project was made to work by cutting the magnets in half and attaching the halves back with one flipped to get the polarity to the wanted configuration.
cutting a magnet doesn't affect how it is magnetized. The end you didn't break is still either north or south, but the break still becomes the opposite for both halves. You can't break a magnet apart and one half is north and the other half is south. If you did somehow, you have broken laws of Physics. Magnetized objects always have to poles, they can never have a single pole. So breaking it in half just makes the same magnet but smaller.
right, but HDD magnets are polarized on the faces, not the ends. so a coil passing over a face won't pass through the strong points of north and south. cutting in half and flipping one side over makes a north and south on the same face, so then the coil would.
All the wires should be connected like this.
Make sure that they are wound in the same direction, as shown in this photo.
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G14diat0r3 years ago
hey, I'm making a generator for a project, and I'm making a small scale model, and I was wondering if there was an equation that I could use to calculate the voltage/amp output of it at different rpms, and with different numbers of magnets.
Cool project and great explanations! A question and a suggested improvement: Is your three phase "Y" (wye) rectifier circuit connected half wave? I think so. If it is, rewiring to a full wave circuit could supply even greater voltage or current. Pages 23 and 24 of http://www.autoshop101.com/forms/alt_bwoh.pdf show full wave, three phase rectifier circuits, wye-connected and delta-connected, respectively.
I can confirm that the circuit is a full bridge rectifier. In you link, I believe the reference to 8 diodes includes the field coil diodes on some alternators. In car alternators for example, you have no permanent magnets, instead they use a much more powerful electromagnet. To start power generation, the battery must power the field coil but when the alternator is up to speed, it feeds it's own field coil on top of recharging the battery.
If it were connected half wave he would have used three diodes.
It doesn't explain the 8 diodes, what would you do with the 2 extra ones?  It is already a full wave.
MaXoR4 years ago
Darn I'm so confused!!!

ok, I was wondering what the values were on those diodes? I have some that say 10U, and 20U, and 5U (However the 10's are smaller than the 20's, but the 5's are HUGE!

There is a "IN" before the 5U as well, don't have a clue what that means either.

I just got all the parts together, somewhat. Now I need to know that the diodes that I got, are going to at least work for me.

Any help would be great. Also if you have pictures you can send to me, or whatever... I'm just looking for as much reference material as possible, so I can have redundant pieces of info that can help me get this done.


thnx!
MaXor,


The size of the resistor depends on it's current flow limit (the small one are usually 1/8amp and the larger are 1/4 of an amp).
1N is a designation meaning it is a diode (one gate so to speak)
Diodes start with 1N,, transistors start with 2N, etc
i did this in fourth grade and got nothing on it because it was a " collage level project" but i had fun and my favorite part was the eating of the pringles!
what is 'collage' level' ??
jj.inc3 years ago
I really haven't gotten the whole three phase thing yet, so do you just take 1 wire from each coil and not use it, then link up the others and hook them to the rectifier. I know not all together, but in their individual phases
Rimwulf3 years ago
I've seen propeller turbines use this magnate method rather than curved magnets around it. What I'm coming to is could one make multiple platforms? I would imagine it would have to be done in a way where there no interference from the others. Any ideas?
dellmang1874 years ago
i wanna do this one but im really not to good with circuits
PL NOTE IT HAS TO BE "CLEAR CD"

The "CLEAR CD"   comes in bulk from 50 or 100 CD / DVD as protection. It is not made.

ear0wax4 years ago
What about using the main motor assembly for the coils and magnets
john henry4 years ago
do you think hard drive magnets would work there strong and have N and S pols on one side and there in a half circular shape so you can make a ring of them.

Yes they would because they are rare earth magnets.
sweet thanks!! i will post pictures when get it to work.
Your Welcome
AT4 years ago
Great project!  I did something similar a couple years back with spare parts.  I called it a miniature wind turbine.  I used a motor from a hard drive as my generator and a pop mounted to a CD can to drive it.  Snagged some diodes from various sources to create my rectifier so it would output DC.  Was able to generate 1.37V when I put it in front of the exhaust from the Shop-Vac.

geekweekend.schwiegers.com/images/2009/IMG_0508.JPG
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