WindTapper's Journal - Grassroots Green Energy Projects

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WindTapper's Blog

Strength of Materials

Gig Teardown

The old gig is torn apart now. Inventory of parts for "Strength of Materials" category: All 10 "S" hooks are fine. Ten chains fine, except for a bit of rust. 20 foam spacers (gotten from water pipe insulation) all fine and reusable. The two hoops are not fine. Each was made from five parts. The two green sections (one for each hoop) survived. The two dark blue sections survived. Only one yellow section survived the teardown. Neither red, nor purple sections could withstand the process of dismantling them.

So, the red and yellow, also the purple sections suffered the same fate as the cloudy plastic bottles: They became brittle and split apart when pressure was applied to them. The Sampo swivel seems fine, too, as is the hanger.

I'm sorry but I cannot not recall how many years this rig has been twisting in the wind and generally suffering whatever the weather threw at it 24/7. I'll have to look it up eventually. I know it went through at least one winter, though.

Information is clear enough from this experiment that I need to put stronger plastic into these gigs in order to satisfy other builder/users of these gigs.

New Blade Experiment

Our whirligigs have been made out of plastic hoops that have half plastic gallon water jugs as blades for these wind turbines. Of course, the hoops are strung up and stacked so their central pivots have been fishing lure swivels from SAMPO of New Jersey. The plastic of these jugs deteriorates rather completely after approximately a year in full sun, longer in shady spots, but still, deterioration is rather complete.

Clover Valley Distilled Water one gallon jugs that I purchased at Dollar General recently are made of clear plastic that is tough. I had to use a hack saw to thin a place where I could finally get the tip of our scissors inside to make a cut all around the shoulders of the bottles.

Btw, Dollar General only sold one batch of these bottles at $1.00 each filled with distilled water, and then went back to selling the normal, cloudy white gallon jugs that we had been using up until this point.

I have since started collecting (saving) clear plastic bottles from various juice products and am currently plotting alternative patterns to cut up these bottles for whirligig blades. Also, I hope to figure out a Black Walnut leaf design for smaller magnet rotating rigs, but for now, I have eight bottle "necks" with which to build a one-layered gig.

I wish to record here the manufacturer in case it becomes of interest at some future date: "Clover Valley Distilled Water, Source Town of Mooresville, NC, Purified by Distillation, Distributed by Dolgencorp, LLC, 100 Mission Ridge, Goodlettsville, TN 37072. Bottled by Niagara Bottling, LLC, 178 Mooresville Blvd. Mooresville, NC 28115, (877)ITS-PURE...For a report on water quality & information, contact us at : (877)ITS-PURE or" I realize that the manufacturer of the actual bottle is not listed in all this information, but I do not believe the bottle is all that special except that it is clear rather than cloudy plastic. That is, the clear is tougher than the cloudy.

I intend to demonstrate this fact by putting the clear out onto whirligigs. Since I have no more than eight of this company's bottles, I could basically only do one design of cutting them up.

After watching the diminished old blades continue to rotate even after most of their materials have been lost, I decided to use only the top portion of the new bottles. Most of the bottles is going to recycling as I am only using 1/3 of the height of these bottles, that is, the top 4 out of 12 inches..

New Bottle

As readers are aware, the blades of the whirligig turbine actions are made from plastic one gallon jugs that originally held distilled water that we used in our humidifier vaporizers during Wintertime.

Kroger, Walmart, and smaller stores ran out of distilled water lately, and even Dollar General seemed to have run out, but no, Dollar General's distilled water was unrecognizable because it came in new bottles.

These bottles use a tougher, clear plastic, that I like very much. These should last much longer as turbine blades than the cloudy plastic.... I need to get some more of these and build a new whirligig in order to prove this.

Unfortunately for this project, the humidifier season seems to be almost finished. Pear blossoms were being pollinated by a hundred tiny bees a couple days ago, and I wrapped our apricot tree yesterday to protect its blossoms from a light frost last evening -- which never appeared.

However, the Weather Channel reported that a cold wave should arrive sometime next week, so perhaps I'll get a few more of the new bottles then....

Still Spinning

My battered and beat-up old whirligig spins steadily and silently in the night with 2-3 inches of snow on it. Picture to follow, after the sun comes out.

Later Note: Nine hours later no sun shines. It is still snowing and the old gig still spins silently and steadily:

Deteriorating Turbine Blades

Admittedly, the blades I chose are known to be fragile, especially when exposed to the sun. The plastic just doesn't hold up beyond a year. Even placed in a relatively shady spot, they still fall apart after time has elapsed. The heavy snow last year was the largest killer in this location (see previous photos).

Here's where it's at now:

All but one of the upper level blades is missing.
Let me show you a contrast from last year:
I would guess this was taken after the snow melted and had pushed the upper level blades down.

Anyway, the population of blades has decreased over time.

Thought Experiments

Real experiments are costly, so I spend a lot of time imagining experiments -- particularly, how I would build them. This gives me the opportunity to try out ideas regarding their feasibilities -- can they be built?

Currently I am working on the idea of homemade solar cells using the spent activated charcoal from water filtering plus clear packing tape and fine wires. I need to be careful in the summertime, when I actually build such cells, not to put these up against a wooden house for the first experiment because the sun gets very hot on our back walls.

I have some extra cement board to use as the positive layer, and for protection from potential heat build-up in the cells....

No, I haven't forgotten our wind experiments. Also working on alternative framing ideas to give stand-alone places to hang gigs. Also, possible ways of firming up the blades so they would last longer....

Sorry, but our housework takes precedence this time of year due to Christmas preparations, so I have not been posting as much lately.

Just so you know, I'm still here, and still thinking....

Health Tip

WebMD dot com gives oodles of health tips, delivered to your email.

Here's one of my own:

Find a way to securely raise up the keyboard for your personal computer so that you can type and play Spider Solitaire standing up. I find that three games at the easiest level adequately substitute for "The Daily Constitutional" if you get my drift.....

Retired persons and possibly students should take note of this. Active workers, probably not so much, as they are on their feet all day....

Still Spinning

After a couple wind storms and time attacked our whirligig, and after it lost about half of its blades due to their brittle, time-worn nature, the gig is still spinning.

I should retire it and build a new one, but I am enjoying seeing how it still spins. Let's see how few blades it truly takes....

The top tiers of blades on both hoops have lost nearly all their blades, plus a few more on their bottom tiers. The plastic is so brittle that I cannot reorient any of the blades, because the handling means they will break off of the gig.

The lifespan, therefore, of one of these gigs is probably one year. Luckily, I used the segmented hoops, so I'll be able to build a new gig, no problem.

Halloween Aftermath

Our town has a 2-block party on Halloween. The newspaper says arrests are up this year -- or was it citations? Sorry that I haven't paid that much attention to the stats. A college town with a Halloween bash on its main street is quite a site to see! Halloween is Athens Ohio's festival.

We had some sort of storm, too, that evening. I've been cleaning up the yard a bit. Somehow we got a fresh bunch of little black spiders -- possibly newly hatched -- on the front door of our mailbox, and now the mailbox is falling apart on its surface. I treated it with straight neem oil which apparently did not agree with the surface treatment, which is now falling off.

Plus, the whirligig is much worse for wear. Can I assume that some goblins took a whack at it? I don't recall that much wind, but now there are several of the upper blades missing, strewn across the lawn, and a plastic dish was overturned off the top of the ceramic pipe -- lying on the ground.

Perhaps the local ghouls didn't like that we did not hand out candy. But we have no kids -- never had kids.... Oh well. It might have been the wind after all....

Some pix:

I'll spare you the yardwork pix. I did another layer of cement for the laundry post, but I am still waiting for more leaves to fall before I clear all that away. Xmas shopping is well along, though. And we have two more days over 70 degrees with no rain, yet to come, so I'll be busy.

Wire Size for First Generator

I had hoped to use the thicker, fully insulated size of wire, but my magnets are only 1/2 inch wide. Since the flux is thickest, closest to the edges of the poles, the return of the flux to the opposite pole would cut the wire in the opposite direction, thus negating the direction desired, thus negating part of the electricity flow. If I go beyond the 1/2 inch in size I will negate the maximum electricity flow.

The larger, fully insulated wire will not suffice, therefore. Also, since I am using only 6 magnets for the first generator, I cannot get up to the 12 volts in any case. I was avoiding using more than 6 because I felt that the closer proximity on a circle of a larger number of magnets would mean losing more of a percentage of flux among the closest magnetic poles.

At 6 magnets, with slightly less than 1/2 inch thick coils, I could pack 48 coils around the 20 cm diameter circle. Only 6 coils would reach their peak of electricity production at each instant, given connections among them congruent with the correct pattern of winding six coils to be simultaneously cut by the magnetic flux of the 6 magnets.

I considered getting another 6 magnets, but without the higher safety of the thicker wire, I've decided to experiment with only the 6 to start. I would like to experiment with finessing coil shapes to see if I can detect differences in their electricity production.

Also, if I let the center pole of the whirligig be free then two benefits occur: 1. High winds will take the rotation off center, thus reducing power output, away from dangerous levels; and 2. I can keep the coils fully separate from the elements as they can be contained underneath the magnetic rotor and unattached to the rotor.

BTW, I believe the gage 14 for the smaller will give enough turns for experimental purposes, although, coil shapes are very dependent on gage in useful sizes. 9 is the recommended wire gage using opposing magnets cutting through the wire coils. However, the drag caused by fixing the rotation slows down and breaks my apparatus eventually, so far, 'though I am working on that, too.

Turbulence Problem

I am still working on the turbulence problem especially during these wee hours of the morning. Without anchoring, the turbine blades -- which are horizontally hung by the way -- are blown side to side and swung up and down relative to the central shaft during high winds.

Therefore, the central shaft also -- if it is not anchored -- suffers the same irregular paths, especially at its lowest point. To have a magnetic rotor on the central shaft would put too much wear on both magnets and coils unless I can figure out a way to link the circular motion of the blades to the central shaft without also transferring side-to-side and up-and-down motions to the shaft.

1. One possible solution is to set the weight of the central shaft onto a bearing at its bottom. The bearing creates a drag on the whole she-bang, especially if any dirt got into it -- and that is likely since rain and dust would naturally fall toward it. However, ignoring that problem, then there is still the problem of coupling circular motion without sideways and vertical motions also being translated.

Relatively large hoops of steel, heavy  wire could accept and ameliorate unwanted vectors of motions, but attaching the hoops to the central shaft would create negative forces, threatening the integrity of the shaft. In other words, the shaft would probably break unless it were also heavy metal, but that would interfere with the magnetic flux of the magnetic rotor, no?

2. A second solution is to apply a braking/limiting hoop hanging from the lowest blade level, which is limited by the size of the ceramic pipe sitting centrally under the blade levels. This could provide much triboelectric power, but would necessitate frequent replacement of the materials set up to rub on each other to also reduce noise. The maintenance would also be irregular because it would depend on the amount of high winds encountered during each period of time.

Also, attaching the lowest level -- for braking/limiting -- could add even more stress points at the junctions of vertical with horizontal materials due to the friction with the pipe.

It is in times like these that I wish I were a genius....

Carbon Fiber

Volvo's car body panels made of carbon fiber and fiberglass supposedly store electricity. These are in development as far as I know now. Anyway, I decided to order some carbon fiber to experiment with and it arrived today from Soller Composites which can be found at

What I ordered is not exactly what I had imagined. Each waft and weave is far broader which requires subsequently seriously broad seam binding on its edges. I had ordered a 1 ft X 50 inch sample with which to experiment, so I spent some time applying clear plastic packing tape three times to each edge -- once for each side, then once to seal the edges of the two layers I had applied.

[Later Note: investigating the clear plastic packing tape at the Staples website, I think it is made of Acrylic. I am not sure what electrical properties this has compared to fiberglass resin. Another poly-something tape is available at Staples. I had wanted to mix up a titanium oxide calcium copper paint to try to use as insulation among cells of a battery. I might paint that onto the carbon fibers after impregnating a central layer of the fabric with other, positive and/or negative versions to set beside each other.]

Now I have edges encapsulated and will apply more tape before cutting off any more chunks -- other than a little clipping that I did on an edge that was frayed and longer. I now have some small fibrous chunks to play with.

I had imagined the material would be hardy, which it is, but not in its present state could I allow it to be subjected to triboelectric friction. It would warp and fray too much if I subjected it to my whirligig's bumps and grinds.

I guess I really should have ordered carbon felt, but I can see how this stuff would be hardy after fiberglass resin is applied. I can see why one might be interested in Kevlar-impregnated carbon fiber, now. I will think on this.

The interior edges of the packing tape binding on the carbon fiber would provide capillary action for sucking up liquids impregnated with various substances, plus electrodes, before further encapsulation once a chunk was cut off the sample, so I see much potential here for experimenting with the stuff as solar and triboelectric battery material.

What If?

Discussing capacitance today with a fellow, he was saying that capacitors are not so great because they give up their power very quickly. I agree that they have their downside in that regard, except when there is very quick build-up and release of charges, as, say, when you have a generator flinging relatively small charges back and forth with AC sent to a rectifier, then to a battery.

Another idea I considered today -- but have no notion of whether it has any merit at all -- is that when one is charging a battery one has a sort of intrinsic voltage control. If the voltage is not high enough to overcome the 12 volts, then the battery won't be charged, but if the voltage builds up to be higher than the 12 - 14 volts on the battery, then the battery will be charged. If the charge is coming from a capacitor, it will be discharged quickly.

If the capacitor is constantly in contact with the battery, then it shouldn't build up too high of a charge, but rather discharge itself when its charge becomes high enough to overcome the voltage of the battery....

Of course, things are more complicated than this. I will have to think long and hard on this idea in order to come up even with something I might test....

Getting too much charge built up is, of course, dangerous on a capacitor since it can discharge so rapidly, so please don't try this at home unless you absolutely know what you are doing!

Later Note (4-15-15): Well, dudettes and dudes, I pretty much blew this one. I googled "voltage regulator,"  chose the "12 v" variety, then the images for circuits and devices. 300 pictures came up on page one. So, my experience with 12 volt batteries is VERY skewed by the existence of voltage regulators already on our vehicles.

Lately I have also been continuing to try to read Tipler's Physics. I am pretty much fooling myself that I am getting anything out of it. You know, when I studied speed reading, they told us to go ahead and read three times faster than you can understand because your comprehension speed would catch up eventually. They also had you read the material at least three times, btw. So I guess this is my first skim through the material in Vol. 3, lol, although I am not speed reading it by any means....

Spring Arrives

Nearly 70 degrees yesterday. Changing over to paint scraping and yard work these days, but I have a sewing project or two to finish, too.

Been reading Vol. 2 of Physics for Scientists and Engineers by Paul A. Tipler, pages 657 - 845. Most of the math is beyond me but I have learned a few practical warnings about electricity and batteries lately. Soon I will start on the Magnetism chapter.

Right now I am cooking a pot of chicken legs to feed our cats for a couple weeks some extra meat and fat for their coats.

Soon I will continue the project to eradicate (lol) the poison ivy around our place. Literally, the granddaddy and grandmammy plants are just beyond our property line, but our neighbor gave me the go-ahead to "do what you have to do." Technically, much of the poison ivy is on Township property, but landholders take care of the lands between their properties and the roads, typically. Unfortunately, there is a very large tree across the road that is threatening to fall down on our cars, and it is also on Township property. Perhaps I will speak to a trustee to see what they might be able to do about that, if anything.

I should find a picture of the whirligig to show that it "keeps on ticking" even after the massive snow load, but pictures can be from any date, so I will wait til Spring shows itself more. Ah shucks. I'll go look for a recent photo.... It turns out that I did not take a photo of the whirligig after the snow storm. I'll go do that, after checking that the chicken doesn't boil over of course.

It is the wrong time of day for light to fall on the whirligig, but here is today's picture. You can't see that it is still turning because I have not yet set up video. Sorry.

Winter Storm Thor

The Weather Channel reported this morning that the National Guard had been called out to aid motorists in Kentucky yesterday. Kentucky is a state due south of Ohio, near us.

I took a slew of photos of our local snowfall which was close to a foot in depth. The Norwegian Pine tree (next to the swing set frame on which I put a board to hang a whirligig) is laden with snow. The whirligig is stationary, but still hanging out....

The whirligig is at the lower right corner of the tree and barely visible. Another photo could show how this gig is set up to catch the wind that comes down the hill due to the sinking of cooler air.

I realize the gig is difficult to see, above, but if you have been following this blog at all, you might be able to discern the infrastructure underneath the snow laden tree.

Later Photo and Note: The sun did not hit the gig till after 4 P.M. The wind also came later, so that it does turn, even with all the snow on it.

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