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Perth, Western Australia

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1 Perth, Western Australia
The Vortex Engine A proposal for the utilization of updraft systems to increase rainfall, reduce global warming and generate electrical power Presentation by Donald Cooper CPEng Perth, Western Australia

2 First, the Vortex Engine’s cousin: the Solar Updraft Tower
Enviromission 1000 m high, 100 m diameter. Collector 40 sq km 200 MW, 300 tonne/sec Australia / US Enviromission in Australia and Solarmission in the US are planning to build a 200 MWe solar-thermal power station.

3 The main problem with the solar updraft tower is that at a projected cost of around A$600 million, it is expensive. The kilometre-high stack and the five kilometre diameter canopy together constitute about two thirds of the overall projected cost.

4 The Alternative - the Vortex Engine
It will be shown that the vortex chimney generated by the vortex engine should be regarded as a natural “worm hole” which is able to link the high and low temperature strata of the troposphere, thereby releasing the energy contained in atmospheric water vapour.

5 In the Vortex Engine, the vortex tunnel can functionally replace the power tower’s solid stack, and similarly a “vapour field” can functionally replace the glass canopy

6 The Increase in Atmospheric Water Vapour Content
The increase in atmospheric CO2 content has been well documented. The much more important greenhouse gas – water vapour - has been less so: “When you heat the planet, you increase the ability of the atmosphere to hold moisture. The atmosphere’s water vapor content has increased by about 0.41 kg/m² per decade since 1988, and natural variability in climate just can’t explain this moisture change. The most plausible explanation is that it’s due to the human-caused increase in greenhouse gases.” Benjamin Santer, lead author from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Program for Climate Modelling and Intercomparison. Water vapour strongly amplifies the warming effect of increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. This is a classic “positive feedback loop.” By conveying water vapour to higher levels in the troposphere, the vortex engine and to a much lesser extent the solar updraft tower can act to enhance heat transfer from the atmosphere.

7 The scientific consensus is that a runaway greenhouse effect must be halted
We have to reverse the growth in atmospheric CO2 and water vapour The vortex engine can arguably go a considerable way towards achieving this

8 The Solar Updraft Tower
Solarmission’s projected full-scale solar updraft tower will produce an updraft of 300 tonnes of air per second containing around 3 tonnes of water per second. The glass solar canopy of a solar updraft tower will be in the region of five to seven kilometres in diameter. One 200 MWe solar updraft tower will dissipate around 20 Gigawatts in terms of atmospheric convection.

9 A cloud will often be formed over the top of the updraft tower, but precipitation from the cloud is likely to be negligible because of its relatively low altitude.

10 Precipitation Efficiency (ep) vs. Cloud Height
Tropopause altitude km ep = 0.5 Relative Humidity (RH) RH RH Source: Divine Wind Earth When clouds reach the top of the Troposphere, precipitation efficiency tends towards unity. Some evaporation occurs during the descent of the rain, but this is not an entire loss as the evaporation causes cooling of the air, subsequent downdrafts, and horizontal wind when the flow hits the ground. Some of this energy can be harvested by means of conventional wind turbines.

11 Vortices in Nature NASA The Tropical Cyclone

12 Vortices in Nature NASA
A severe tropical cyclone can dissipate in the region of 30,000 Gigawatts. Australia’s electrical power generation capacity is in the region of 50 Gigawatts.

13 Vortices in Nature (Not to scale – the eye is typically 40 km in diameter and 12 km high) Wikipedia The primary driver for the tropical cyclone and tornado is the enthalpy of water vapour within warm humid air.

14 Vortices in Nature Wikipedia The Tornado

15 Vortices in Nature World Book
The tornado is a highly effective mechanism through which Nature conveys moist boundary layer air to the top of the Troposphere where precipitation is initiated. The “anvil” is formed when it reaches the tropopause, the interface with the stratosphere.

16 Updraft Clouds Wikipedia /Bidgee
Updraft velocities of up to 240 km/hr have been recorded within clouds – this is enough to hold aloft hailstones of up to 180 mm diameter. Atmospheric water vapour should arguably be regarded as a storehouse of solar energy.

17 Nature’s “Heat Pump” Convection processes such as storms, cyclones and tornados are the primary means of effectively pumping heat out of the ocean, into the atmosphere, and lifting it to where it can be re-radiated into space, thereby mitigating the heat build-up that otherwise occurs.

18 The Atmospheric Temperature Profile
It has been shown by MIT Professor Kerry Emanuel that tropical cyclones are based on a close approximation of the Carnot cycle. Within the troposphere, the temperature varies from approximately 30oC (~300 K) at ground level to minus 70oC (~200 K) at an altitude of 10 kilometres. The Carnot thermodynamic cycle working between these limits has a theoretical efficiency of up to 33%. The frequency of these events is arguably only the “tip of the iceberg.” There is always a potential for vortex generation, particularly strong in hot and humid regions.

19 The Carnot Engine The ideal thermodynamic efficiency of a Carnot cycle is a function of the difference between the extreme temperatures of the cycle. The relationship between efficiency and temperature difference is given by

20 The Carnot Potential Wind Speed
Map showing the maximum wind speed in MPH achievable by tropical cyclones over the course of an average year according to Carnot’s theory of heat engines. Source: Divine Wind by MIT Professor Kerry Emanuel Cyclonic energy is normally derived from the moist air over a warm sea

21 Australia’s Position From the Carnot potential wind speed distribution, it can be seen that Australia is positioned in a region of high cyclonic potential. This has usually been seen as a problem, but there is a strong argument that it may be turned to advantage.

22 The Atmospheric Temperature Profile
Thermosphere 80 km Mesosphere 50 km Stratosphere Ozone Layer 10 km Troposphere -90oC -70oC oC 30o C Temperature TYPICAL GRAPH OF ATMOSPHERIC TEMPERATURE PROFILE

23 The Atmospheric Temperature Profile:
It can be seen that atmospheric temperature generally declines with altitude except where: incoming solar radiation is absorbed in the stratosphere (in which the ozone layer lies), and “solar wind” particles are intercepted in the thermosphere which includes the ionosphere.

24 The Vapour Field as Solar Collector
Tri-atomic molecules such as carbon dioxide and water vapour are effective absorbers of infra-red radiation

25 A vapour field can absorb energy by two mechanisms:
Radiation (absorption of infra-red radiation from within the environment) Conduction (from the surrounding environment, in particular warm earth and air)

26 Absorption of Infra-Red Radiation
“…compared to molecular nitrogen and oxygen, water vapor molecules are capable of great gymnastic feats. Besides being able to stretch and compress, they can bend at their mid-sections, rotate, and perform combinations of stretching, bending and rotating. Because they can move in such complex ways, they can absorb and emit much more radiation than molecules that consist of only two atoms… Changes in energy state of a single molecule are communicated to neighboring molecules with which it collides… Absorption of radiation… increases air temperature…” From Divine Wind - Professor Kerry Emanuel MIT

27 The Greenhouse Effect NASA
Water vapour is by far the most important greenhouse gas NASA

28 NASA Convection of water vapour through the Troposphere provides by far the most effective single way in which Earth’s heat can eventually be re-radiated to Space.

29 Water vapour is a villain of global warming but it can be the hero:
It is a villain because it absorbs solar energy (infra-red radiation) and hence contributes to the greenhouse effect. It can be the hero because with its high latent heat capacity, it is an ideal medium for transportation of energy to the top of the troposphere where heat can be radiated into space. …and we can sustainably tap off a small but significant percentage of the energy on the way in order to drive our electrical generators…

30 The increasing number and severity of tropical cyclones and tornadoes in some regions is arguably a pointer to Earth’s need to dump heat to Space. That’s fine, but we need to learn to control the location, frequency and intensity of the process… hence the need for vortex engine research

31 The Latent Heat of the Water Vapour is Released Within a Buoyant Plume
The energy required to transform a tonne (roughly one cubic metre) of ice at minus 70oC into vapour at 30oC is around 3.5 Gigajoules. Conversely, transforming a tonne of water vapour into ice between the same temperature range liberates this amount of energy into the environment. This is comparable to the chemical energy contained in a hundred litres of fuel oil! The notional “volumetric ratio” of water vapour to fuel oil is thus in the region of 10:1. In a rising plume, as the water vapour condenses and eventually freezes, energy is released. This warms the surrounding air, resulting in an increase in the buoyancy and hence the corresponding potential energy of the air within the plume. This buoyancy can be utilized to convey the air-water vapour mixture to higher altitude, and in some instances supply excess energy for the production of electrical power as a by-product.

32 The Release of Latent Heat with Increase in Altitude
Ambient Temperature Case 0 -Temperature of rising surface air of medium humidity Case 2 - Temperature of air approaching equilibrium with SST. Temp = SST-1, RH = 90% SST = Sea Surface Temperature The effect of humidification – the resulting higher temperatures in Case 2 increase the buoyancy of the plume

33 The Energy Content of Atmospheric Water Vapour
It has been estimated that the Earth’s atmosphere holds in the region of 12,900 cubic kilometres of water in the form of water vapour (ref: The Case for Alternative Fresh Water Sources; D Beysens & I Milimouk; Secheresse; Dec. 2000). Based on the 10:1 rule of thumb, this then has the energy content equivalent to about 1,200 cubic kilometres of fuel oil, and a significant percentage of this can be sustainably “harvested,” mostly for lifting water to an altitude where precipitation can be initiated, radiating heat to Space, but also a significant percentage for non-polluting electrical power generation. The vortex engine principle, invented independently by Australian physicist Norman Louat and Canadian engineer Louis Michaud is designed to achieve these aims.

34 ~100 m diameter arena and ~300 m solid canopy 
The Vortex Principle All that is required is: 1. An arena and canopy 2. A burst of steam from geothermal sources to trigger the updraft 3. Tangential air entry ducts to cause spin ~100 m diameter arena and ~300 m solid canopy  4. A continuous source of warm, moist air to sustain the vortex Tangential air entry control ducts   Steam injection to start updraft using solar energy to heat a vapour field, industrial waste heat or warm sea water An Atmospheric Vortex Engine would eliminate the need for the expensive solid stack and large glass canopy of the solar updraft tower. A relatively small concrete canopy would be used to quarantine the vortex from the humid zone.

35 Geothermal Priming of a Vortex Engine
Arena Canopy Geothermal vents, with hot water flashing off to increase the enthalpy of the air/vapour mixture under the canopy

36 The Positive Feedback Effect Within a Vortex
Warm air “rises” towards the centre (the eye) of the centrifugal field as it is less dense. It is also more buoyant in the Earth’s gravitational field and hence rises vertically when it reaches the eye. Atmospheric water vapour, which has a mass density about 63% that of air at the same temperature and pressure, is also displaced towards the centre of the centrifugal field and rises vertically once in the eye. Centrifugal force reduces the pressure at the centre of the centrifugal field. Low pressure again means low density and hence high buoyancy. A buoyant gas has inherent potential energy. Each of these acts to create a strongly buoyant updraft within the eye and hence a self-sustaining natural “chimney” effect. Just as the potential energy of water can be used to drive hydroelectric turbines, so too the potential energy of an air/vapour mixture can drive wind turbines.

37 Funnel of visible rising water vapour and warm air
The Power of the Vortex Air at altitude rotates with the vortex and cannot enter the cone of the vortex eye On the other hand, the less dense water vapour content is preferentially displaced towards the eye by the centrifugal field Funnel of visible rising water vapour and warm air Moist air within the stagnant boundary layer is able to move towards the low pressure “eye” due to the relative lack of centrifugal force Diagrammatic representation of the dynamic vortex chimney in a Tornado The vortex naturally concentrates a highly buoyant and high-enthalpy air and water vapour mixture at its centre. It is thus an extremely non-linear system.

38 Airflow in a Vortex at Altitude Pressure gradient force
Centrifugal force Pressure gradient force Rotation High pressure Low pressure Diagram adapted from Divine Wind At altitude, the pressure gradient force (inwards) exactly equals the centrifugal force (outwards). Air rotates without a significant radial component

39 Airflow in a Vortex at Ground Level Pressure gradient force
Centrifugal force Rotation High pressure Low pressure Diagram adapted from Divine Wind friction Near the ground, friction acts to reduce the rotational velocity and hence the centrifugal force. The air consequently is able to spiral towards the low pressure at the vortex centre.

40 The Concept of Utilization of a “Vapour Field” to Facilitate Absorption of Solar Radiation
Vortex Engine Local zones of atomized water particles (zones of evaporation or latent heat addition) Intermediate zone of addition of sensible heat from solar radiation The generation of a vapour field allows solar radiation to be absorbed, creating a feedstock of high enthalpy air/vapour mixture for the vortex engine.

41 Why Won’t it Run Away? The humidity of the vapour field would be kept below the critical level at which the vortex would be self-sustaining. Only after the injection of geothermal steam underneath the canopy within the vortex engine would the energy level become super-critical. The canopy would quarantine the vortex from the high energy vapour except at its centre. If strong cross winds were to occur, the system would be shut down and the fall-back position would be to utilise wind turbines in the area surrounding the vortex engine to generate power.

42 The Possibility of Fighting Salinity
Absorption of infra-red radiation by the vapour field can create the high energy feedstock needed for the vortex engine – recall that cyclones are normally born in a warm humid environment Pumping and atomizing groundwater can allow a sub-critical vapour field to be created around the vortex engine As the water spray droplets begin to evaporate, they become higher in salt concentration and hence density, and fall to earth. The ideal place to site the vapour field would be over the bed of a dry salt lake. The precipitated salt could be regularly harvested as a by-product. The surrounding environment within a radius of 30 – 40 km would have enhanced rainfall.

43 Enhanced Precipitation over Land
World Distribution of Precipitation Rainfall (mm) Deserts generally occur at intermediate latitudes where air from the Hadley circulation descends after dropping most of its moisture content in the tropics. Near South America and Southern Africa, this low precipitation zone is displaced offshore by the effect of orographic uplift by mountains. The atmospheric vortex engine can arguably be used to increase local precipitation even in areas of normally low precipitation. Note that at any given time, there are around one hundred cubic kilometres of water held within the lowest kilometre of the atmosphere over Australia.

44 Advantages of Convective Vortex Systems
No CO2 emissions Zero fossil fuel use – instead utilization of stored solar energy within atmospheric water vapour and air Increased precipitation over land means increased plant growth and hence photosynthesis – hence reduction of CO2 Increased heat radiation to space – hence global cooling Significantly increased terrestrial Albedo

45 Will it Work? ‘Nilton Renno, a professor at the department of atmospheric, ocean and space sciences at the University of Michigan, has spent his career studying tornadoes and water spouts. He says there is no reason why Michaud’s vortex engine wouldn’t work.’ ”The concept is solid,” says Renno. …‘Still, Renno is not without reservations. He’s particularly concerned about the ability to control such a powerful monster.’ ‘“The amount of energy is huge. Once it gets going it may be too hard to stop,” he says.’ The Toronto Star July This is where research and development engineering is needed…

46 “…It all looks beautifully obvious – in the rear view mirror
“…It all looks beautifully obvious – in the rear view mirror. But there are situations where one needs great imaginative power, combined with disrespect for the traditional current of thought, to discover the obvious...” Arthur Koestler

47 But research must be carried out to determine its viability
Harnessing the vortex principle will not be easy, and the risks are significant. But research must be carried out to determine its viability

48 Disclaimer As the author of this presentation I have to state that I am a total layman where meteorological processes are involved. As a mechanical engineer I would love to research the mechanics of generating a vortex and reaping the environmental benefits. Donald Cooper

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