Japan scientist’s ‘typhoon turbine

Atsushi Shimizu aims at harnessing nature’s fury to tackle country’s energy woes

Most people look for a place to hide when a typhoon is on the horizon, but Atsushi Shimizu hopes that the fury of nature may one day help resource-poor Japan tackle its energy woes.

As thousands of Australians seek shelter from a “monster” cyclone battering the country’s northern coast, the Tokyo-based engineer believes that his bladeless wind turbine can not only stand up to the raw force of these destructive storms, but also harness that power to generate electricity.

Mr. Shimizu’s egg-beater shaped creation — the device has three cylinders and a central rod — responds to wind coming from any direction and does not use a propeller to spin. Instead it takes advantage of the Magnus effect, a force that sees air curve when passing by a spinning object, such as a football.

“There are some estimates that wind power has more potential here than solar,” said the 37-year-old, who quit his job at an engineering firm to launch start-up Challenergy in 2014.

“But we haven’t been able to turn that much of this wind power into actual energy here in Japan,” he said.

Japan turned to expensive and polluting fossil-fuel options when it shut down dozens of nuclear reactors in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima accident.
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