Prototype Wind Turbine VAWT Home Hydrogen Production





Introduction: Prototype Wind Turbine VAWT Home Hydrogen Production

About: I'm a Mechanical Engineer who has been a part of this community for over 10 years! My interests have evolved over time, and now center around 3D printing.

   This was an interesting project, which has potential in the future, but did not deliver desired results.  The idea was to make a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) that instead of charging a battery, would deliver its power directly to an electrolysis apparatus to make hydrogen and oxygen gas.  The reason for doing this would be to avoid the complications and expenses of inverters, batteries, and connecting the turbine to the grid.  It would also make hydrogen gas which could power a car, a generator, or be used as a welding/cutting torch, which is what I intended to use it for.
   That was the idea, however I rarely saw the turbine actually spinning, and it never caught and converted enough energy during its few months of operation before winter to produce any noticeable amount of hydrogen in the collector.

   To make the turbine, I cut a large plastic jar in half using a razor blade and my Dremel rotary tool.  The two halves were offset to create a sort of "S" shape to catch wind from all directions and bolted to a piece of plastic cut from the housing of a salvaged non-working computer scanner.  A small piece of polypropylene tube was used to connect the piece of plastic at the bottom of the turbine to a small gear usinjg JB Weld.  The small gear slid perfectly onto a small DC motor salvaged from the same computer scanner as the piece of plastic.  The DC motor was screwed to the lid of an applesauce jar with hot glue placed over to screws to help prevent moisture from getting inside the jar.  A long wire salvaged from a broken vacuum cleaner was attached to the leads of the DC motor and connected to the electrolysis apparatus.
   The electrolysis apparatus consisted of two thin stainless steel sheets spaced apart roughly 1/16 of an inch.  One sheet was connected to one lead coming from the DC motor, and the other sheet was connected to the other lead.  This way, when the wind blows, the turbine would spin, creating electricity through the DC motor, which would pass through the water, breaking it into hydrogen and oxygen.  The gases were collected in an inverted water-filled bottle.

   Image notes have more information.

   I may revisist this project in the future, but in my suburban area and a mother that doesn't want anything on the roof, wind power is hard to harness.  It was a fun project, and one that may have potential in the future.  Thanks for reading!!



  • Creative Misuse Contest

    Creative Misuse Contest
  • Oil Contest

    Oil Contest
  • Water Contest

    Water Contest

30 Discussions

for your electrolysis aparatus did you fill it with salt water. because if the water is fresh water it wont conduct enough electricity to separate the water so you add salt as an electrolyte that way it will conduct electricity and then you will get maybe some more separation. I made one similar but a constant power source and found that the bubbles of hydrogen stuck to the steel or bubles at the top (kindof like soap suds but i wouldnt get much hydrogen into my collector.

The future is here, wicked idea some serious brain seeding happening right now , I dig your innovative and eco friendly green mind , if mother doesn't condone roof use, if I may suggest perhaps carrying your hydrogenator to a windy (free way) over passwindy or nearest windyest park /public land or even selecting a quiet secret spot at the top story of your shopping mall rooftop carpark, bolt it to something solid like a sign post, using U bolts, then spray it black, 99 percent of the population would not know its there. Peace

Hey man!

Very cool project, I saw you were thinking about using solar energy so you could try to make this work, how did that go?

I'm trying to do it in my own, I wish you would posted the outcome! that would have been awesome.

Anyway, I've got a question, once I have the gas there, where or how can I store it so I can use it like in a stove or something? I have no idea how can I store it in a gas tank.

Hope you can help me out. Cheers.

1 reply

Thank you! If you look at my solar panels project, you'll see the start of the solar-portion of the project. The panels I made didn't ever produce a lot of power, and the inexpensive setup I put together didn't survive very long in the elements.

Once the gas is in the water collector, a valve can be opened from the top of the collector container. From there, gravity will cause the collector container to sink, and the collected gas to be pushed out the valve at the top. That gas can be run through a moisture-removal setup and to a compressor, that can store it in a tank. Hopefully that makes sense without a picture.

Here's a water-collector diagram:

To use the wind more efficiently, double the number of wind collectors, barrel halves, and stack them twice as high. using a compass to describe placement, the lower two sections would be mounted North and South, and the top two would be mounted East and west. This would cause the generator to spin faster, no matter the direction of the wind.

Some have questioned why this would work better than a blade turbine, look at the overall surface area of the wind collector. this type unit will produce a higher output with a lower required air speed, and may even need to be restricted to prevent it from going too fast.

I've seen units similar in design, that were impossible to stop manually and had to have a disc brake system installed to stop it, even with just a slight breeze blowing.

11 replies

Thanks for the info!! That is an interesting design, which I may try at some point. I have seen designs like what you are describing on Youtube. Wouldn't an increase in wind collectors also increase the drag involved when the turbine is spinning? I

Half of the collectors will be facing into some part of the wind at all times, and the other half will be in the vacuum portion of the unit on their return to the windward side. They would have very little drag, unless there is a sudden wind change. Even then they will produce more than a standard wind turbine because these always have collectors facing in whatever direction the wind is blowing from.

My Solar Design Prof at USM built the one that couldn't be stopped. He used a different design, but the same principle. A student tried to stop it when there was just a slight breeze, using a huge pipe wrench, and the power of the thing broke both of his arms. Next they tried a big chain the was covered with radiator hose and it snapped the chain. So, we built a brake assembly using disk brake pads, mounted to a frame near the drive pipe, and finally stopped it by compressing the pads against the pipe. The pads were about work out when it finally stopped. Before we set it free again, we installed a heavy duty hydraulic brake assembly on the pipe with a push pedal that worked fine, but still had to work stopping it.

We did some really off the wall building in that program. For my final project I designed a house that could be heated to 70 degrees with it -30 outside, and all it used was the same amount of heat as what a book of matches produces per hour. The Prof said it couldn't be done, and I'm one of those people who can make anything work. My nickname in the military was The Wizard, so that should tell you how I am.

Pdionne, could you post a link to a document or something that shows more details on what your professor designed??

Also, I would be really interested to learn how your house heating worked? Was it thermal mass and south facing windows, for passive solar or more advanced than that?


The house was 24 X 50, with the 50 length of one wall facing south. The other three walls were bermed up to roof level. The south facing wall was covered with dark brick to absorb the thermal radiation from the sun. Looking at the southern wall, the left half of it , and to a depth of 10 feet into the house, was a sun room with triple pane glass sliding doors. The room had dark tile for the floor, and water storage tubes along the back wall to act as thermal mass and store the heat. There was a intake vent at the top that was used to circulate the heat through the house. When the sun reached a certain point, where the rays no longer served the purpose of producing heat, insulated curtains would automatically unroll, thereby preventing the stored heat from being lost through the glass. The remainder of the south facing wall had the main door and a mud room that extended out from the house. There was also another door that went into the kitchen.

As I said before, the other walls had dirt against them that was even with the roof. I put a roof on the house, but built on the roof was was an area that some people call a captains deck. It is a fenced in area in the center of the roof, where you gain access to it from a stairway inside the house. What it does is gives you an area where during the summer you can go up there to relax. The other advantage is that because of the walls being bermed, and because the frost line will only be three feet down, the ramainder of the wall will be exposed to dirt that will stay at 50deg all year. So when it comes to heating, you only need to raise the inside temp 20deg, and during the summer you will still need to draw warm air in to bring the temp up where it is comfortable.

One of the drawbacks is that a dehumidifier would be needed year round as it would be a perfect breeding ground for mold. I was also going to use a solar water heater to heat the water and pv panels for the electricity. It was a really simple design, but I still had to put in a sizable amount of insulation to help with keeping a barrier between the house and the cold dirt.

The wind unit is pretty hard to describe, so give me a couple of days and I'll scetch it out for you and will send it that way.

Nice design. That sounds exactly like an Earthship ( I think that they have gotten it to a point where it is sealed enough not to need a dehumidifier.

Do you happen to remember the design or an specifics to the shape of the blades for the turbine that wouldn't stop? That sounds like a perfect companion to an earth home.

As far as braking/slowing the turbine down wouldn't a tarp placed between the turbine and wind work? A "wind-breaker" if you will. Design a cowling that will be horizontal and below the turbine when not used. Then transformed into vertical to shroud the turbine to help braking. Just a thought.

That sounds amazing, I will have to put more thought into a vertical turbine, if only I had the space needed to make one of decent size..

You would be able to make a medium sized one and connect the stand to the corner support post for your deck. As long as you take time to get all of the collectors positioned properly you shouldn't have a problem with vibration. Also, if you set it up with a belt drive to the generator, you won't have a noise issue.

There are tons of pros to this design.

Thanks! I'm glad it sounds like I wasn't completely in the dark with my design, but missed the mark a bit. It will be fun to see what I have time to come up with when the snow melts..

You would be able to make a medium sized one and connect the stand to the corner support post for your deck. As long as you take time to get all of the collectors positioned properly you shouldn't have a problem with vibration. Also, if you set it up with a belt drive to the generator, you won't have a noise issue.

There are tons of pros to this design.

How do you store the hydrogen for later use ?
I would concentrare on finding a suitable tank , if one exists yet , which guarantee a safe use of the hydrogen.
Wouldn't it be safer to look into flywheels (made of concrete for example-cheaper) for energy storage (from a wind turbine) ?

1 reply

I wasn't too worried about storing a lot of hydrogen due to the very small scale of this project. I'm not sure if a "suitable" tank exists for 100% safe hydrogen storage, and if it does, I'm pretty sure I couldn't afford it.

Flywheels would certainly be safer than hydrogen, however those would require more moving parts than this project uses. Also, the flywheel energy would have to be converted to electrical or another sort of usable energy at some point.

Really, there's a myriad of different ways to store wind and solar energy, and hydrogen was the way I chose because I think it's awesome, and I thought it could be implemented on a small scale. Batteries, compressed air, elevated water, and molten salt are all other methods being looked into now to try to store the energy.

The concept is great! Does the electrolysis apparatus work if the turbine is spun fast enough? Do you only need to upgrade the turbine for better performance in order for the project to produce more hydrogen and oxygen?

1 reply

Thanks!! The electrlysis apparatus works fine when it was tested with a car battery charger, so the problem is only with the turbine. I have some ceiling fans that I may try to make use of for the generator on the next version, but that would mean a much larger turbine, and I would have to mount it somewhere else.

Thanks for the comment!!