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Latent Power Turbines(TM)

 Patent application Nos. GB1418029.3  GB 0807276.1,  0618171.3,  0903879.5

A Latent Power Turbine is a heat engine inside a mechanical engine. This combination allows power generators to work in a way that was previously thought to be impossible.

Innovate UK funded our early research at Lancaster University. We have been awarded £98,400 additional Innovate UK/EPSRC funding to test our deigns on a larger scale.

 

What is a Latent Power Turbine ?

A Latent Power Turbine (LPT) is a heat engine inside a heat recycling mechanical engine. Nature exploits this type of heat recycling process in hurricanes. But Patent Office searches show that, prior to our invention, nobody has attempted to copy this facet of nature.

The following images emphasise the difference between a heat recycling hurricane and a heat wasting power station.

 

Our mechanical engine copies nature by running on air at approximately atmospheric pressure and temperature. LP Turbines can operate indoors 24/7 and no toxic chemicals or fossil fuels are required.

For our early experiments at Lancaster University we used the same heat source as nature by extracting heat from moist air. Then we re-discovered an old Arab trick that allows us to use dry air: The Arabs found that by throttling a natural air flow so that it moves faster, the air also cools. The cool air could then be used to suck heat out of warm buildings.

We do something similar, but the heat sucked out of the air surrounding the LP Turbine is used to feed our heat engine. This means that LP Turbines offer the novel possibility of cooling their environment to provide air conditioning while generating carbon free power.

 

This is our demonstration rig at C-Tech Innovation near Chester, UK (www.ctechinnovation.com) .

Our first commercial product is likely to be a capsule shaped LP Turbine for generating uninterrupted electricity at locations remote from th national grid.

 

Do you want to get involved?

 

(i) Visitors from industry, academia and the media are welcome. You can ask us challenging questions, inspect our rig and see it in action.

(ii) We are a small company and need the help of big players. If you have a business interest please get in touch with us.

(iii) Spread the news. Until the idea that green energy can also be cheap becomes common knowledge, many people will oppose the fight against climate change because they think it will cost them money.

 Click to see Notes for potential investors & partners

 

The thermodynamics in a nutshell

You can skip this section if the word "thermodynamics" puts you off !

By building a heat engine inside a mechanical engine some surprising thermodynamic properties emerge

 

 

The mechanical engine is filled with air at approximately atmospheric pressure and temperature. There are no other chemicals involved.

The heat engine has to obey the Carnot efficiency equation just like any other engine. This means that it is thermally very inefficient but the external mechanical engine sneaks round the efficiency problem.

The external mechanical engine:

(i)   Captures the rejected heat stored in the air that exits the heat engine,
(ii)  Adds some new heat so that the working air is restored to its original condition.
(iii) Injects the rejuvenated air back into the heat engine.
(iv) It keeps on doing this indefinitely.
(v) The "business part" of the mechanical engine operates at a temperature lower than its environment. Consequently it cannot lose heat without violating the first law of thermodynamics.

During a single transit the heat engine offers a pathetically low efficiency, as demanded by the Carnot equation. But because no heat is wasted, in practical terms LP Turbines are 100% thermally efficient.

They cannot be less than 100% thermally efficient without violating the first law of thermodynamics.

This surprising claim is true because the local environment is our heat source. The operation of the electrical components and the work done against friction all generate low grade heat but this does not equate to a net heat loss because any heat leaking into the environment from externally mounted components can be drawn back into the engine again.

The following diagram summarises the key features of our Mark One Latent Power Turbine.

 

The interior of an LP Turbine is always cooler than its environment. This means that in principle an LP Turbine could continue to generate electricity until the circulating air started to liquefy. (Yes, when we get some additional funding we will try to do this!)

However, in damp climates such as in the UK, icing up is likely to start causing problems at a few degrees above freezing.

An important feature of the design is that throttling the air allows the turbo-generator to deliver more power than the fan needs to supply, to keep the air moving after it has generated electricity.

 Here is an annotated photograph of the throttling section of our Mark One engine.

 

 Here is the invention summaraised as a "black box."

The design weakness in our current prototype

To keep within budget, we have had to use a cannibalized air conditioning fan in reverse as a turbine rotor. This is very inefficient.

We urgently need extra funding and a partner with turbine design expertise to overcome the problem.

 

 

A more detailed technical discussion is presented on our LP Turbine theory page.

 

Well, that's the physics out of the way. So what can we do with LP Turbines?

 

1    A problem solver for Europe?
Solar powered LP Turbines would allow all EU countries to meet their electricity demands in summer. But Mediterranean
Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus could produce additional electricity for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The hydrogen could be used to fuel LP Turbines in winter. And, in liquefied form. be used as pollutant free transport fuel.

- No more industrial smog to harm our kids and asthma sufferers.

Here is one of our glasshouse designs for harnessing solar energy at a lower unit cost than using solar panels.

 

Figure 1 A cross section through a glass house as used in warm Southern European countries.

By adding air ducts and using the waste heat to drive LP Turbines, clean low cost energy could be generated.

 

2    A problem solver for the Middle East?

 The Arab Spring was triggered by one man’s despair at not being allowed the dignity of honest work.

 Latent Power Turbines could stimulate low carbon wealth, energy and food production in

Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and a future Palestinian state.

 

3    Love wind turbines because they are green, but hate them because they are big and ugly ?

Latent Power Turbines could be the new wind turbines.

 

 

Wind turbines

Vs.

Latent Power Turbines

 

  • Wind turbines are massive structures that blight the landscape.
    LP Turbines are discrete "canned wind turbines" that can be housed in single story buildings.

  • Wind turbines depend on the whim of the wind.
    LP Turbines will generate electricity in synchronisation with consumer demand.

  • The capital costs for wind turbines are far higher than for fossil fuel power stations, driving up electricity bills.
    Capital costs for
    LP Turbines will be comparable with fossil fuel power stations, but without the pollution penalty.

  • Don’t forget the hidden costs of wind turbines.
    They damage rural tourism, reduce rural house prices and cause distress for many rural people.

 

4    Improving the efficiency of fossil fuel power stations

Figure 2. The steam turbines used in fossil and nuclear power stations are not very efficient.

A typical coal fired power station can only exploit about 40-50%% of the energy fed into the turbine.

The remaining energy is trapped as latent heat in the “cool” turbine exhaust steam.

In this illustration the cooling towers at Ferrybridge power station are dumping the waste heat into the atmosphere.

(Original photograph courtesy of SSE.)

 

 

Figure 3. Steam turbines dump a lot of waste heat into the environment. The very pure water required for turbine operation is re-circulated, but the secondary cooling water used to condense the steam at the end of the turbine cycle is gradually lost to the environment. This loss can be a serious problem during prolonged draughts.

 

An alternative to cooling towers

 Latent Power Turbines could be powered by the waste heat we currently throw away.

This diagram shows how we could do it.

 

 Figure 4. The principle of an LP Turbine based steam condensing unit.  A large array of such units would be required.
 

The air passing through the turbines is dry at one atmosphere pressure. The steam condensing on the outside of the turbine tube is below atmospheric pressure.

 

 

Figure 5. LP Turbines can be used to increase power output and reduce fuel costs.

The need for secondary cooling water is also eliminated.

 

5          Carbon capture

Fossil fuel power stations will only become truly “green” if the carbon dioxide they produce can be captured and buried. The snag with existing techniques for carbon capture is that they are very energy intensive and are predicted to increase energy costs by about 25%. In Appendix 2 of our technical page we explain how LP Turbines could convert carbon capture into a net energy generating process. This means that carbon would be captured and fuel costs reduced.

 

6          The petrochemical industry

The business model could completely change, with oil being phased out in the manufacturing of fuel and fertilisers.

6.1    Petrol and diesel would be replaced by liquefied hydrogen as the fuel of choice.

 

 

Figure 6. Hydrogen could replace petrol and diesel as the motorists favorite fuel. But the costs of manufacturing and liquefying hydrogen will have to tumble to make it price competitive.
LP Turbines have the potential for reducing the costs of manufacturing and storing liquid hydrogen.

Power generating bonus: Power stations specialising in the production of liquid hydrogen would do so off-peak, feeding power into the grid when peak demand was high, for example, during a cold winter. This would ensure security of supply for electricity consumers without the high cost of keeping spare capacity on standby.

 Image acknowledgement http://www.startrescue.co.uk/blog/what-is-the-future-of-hydrogen-cars#.VD00wOl0xD8

 

6.2 Aviation fuel

Manufacturing hydrogen by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen would also produce copious amounts of oxygen. The carbon dioxide released by burning waste materials and other forms of bio fuel in pure oxygen could be captured and used in the production of synthetic kerosene, with LP turbines providing the necessary energy input.

 

6.3 Nitrogen fertilizers

The bulk of the worlds nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing industries use the Haber process to convert methane gas into into nitric acid, the key ingredient in manufacturing nitrogen fertilizers.

The Birkeland–Eyde process dispenses with the need for methane, using nitrogen extracted from the air instead.
Until now the Birkeland–Eyde process has been uneconomic because it consumes a large amount of electricity converting the nitrogen into nitric acid, with most of the electricity ending up as low grade heat.
This would not be a problem for an LP Turbine based system, because the waste heat could be converted back into electricity again.

 

6.4 Bioreactors for manufacturing the raw materials for bio-plastics

We deal with this topic on a separate page.

 

 

7  Micro and local power generation

7.1  Hot climates

The design shown in Figure 4 would be useful in environments where there is also a demand for moist air cooling.

Combined micro-power and solar desalination plants are a feasible option. Solar radiation would be used to evaporate water vapour from brine and an LP Turbine would act as the heat sink for vapour condensation.

7.2  Cool climates

In most parts of the world, rock temperature only increases by 25oC for every kilometer increase in depth. This hopelessly inadequate for conventional geothermal power stations, but quite sufficient for LP Turbines. Consequently countries such as the UK that have very limited areas of hot underground rocks could still become major geothermal power generating nations.

 

 

8  Large scale solar thermal power stations

70% of the fresh water consumed by humanity is used for agriculture. As the world population increases and climate change exacerbates drought problems, water conserving glass houses are likely to become financially more attractive.

Figure 1 is reproduced below.

 

 

Figure 7.  Air extraction ducts can be added to existing glass houses. When coupled to LP Turbines this converts them into solar power stations.
The power generated depends on location, time of day, cloud cover etc.
In southern Europe we estimate this will averages out at about 500 kWh/m2/year.

This is higher than the power output for photo-voltaic cells and is predicted to be a lot cheaper. 

 

Unlike solar panels, LP Turbines are not limited to day time running.

Here are five suggestions for power generation after the sun goes down

 

9.1 Extract heat from a warmer layer of the atmosphere

At night the ground temperature in warm arid regions falls rapidly. But a warmer layer of air, 100 metres or so above ground level is common. This can be tapped into using a tall "chimney".

 

F

Figure 8. The "chimney"  works in reverse, drawing down relatively warm air at night. 

A large fan is required to pull the air through the turbine hall.

Each kW-hour of power generated will also condense out about 1.5 liters of water.


Increasing glass house productivity
Some of the electricity can be used for night time illumination of the glass houses. This will increase crop yields.
 

9.2 Combined solar thermal and gas fuelled power stations

Natural gas would be burned to produce additional heat when the solar power is inadequate.

The combustion process produces water vapour and carbon dioxide. Consequently, LP Turbines will be inherently more efficient than conventional gas turbines because they can harness the latent heat released when the water vapour condenses. The carbon dioxide  would be fed back into the glass houses to speed up the rate of plant growth.

Combined solar and gas fuelled power stations would be an attractive option for countries having access to cheap natural gas because they could operate at full power throughout the year.

Rice production
Rice growing paddy fields produce methane which is a potent greenhouse gas. This climate change threat could be converted into a virtue by growing rice inside the LPT glass houses and using the methane rich air as the air supply for natural gas combustion. (Methane is the principle component of natural gas., so gas purchase prices would be reduced slightly.)

 

9.3 Combined solar thermal and bio fuel

Bio fuel includes domestic and industrial waste, purpose grown vegetation and dried sewage solids.

A dedicated double glazed glass house could be assigned for drying out the fuel. The moist air produced by drying the fuel would be used to power LP Turbines.

 

9.4 Combined solar and geothermal

The efficiency of geothermal power stations can be improved by replacing conventional steam turbines with LP Turbines. Combining solar and geothermal LPT systems offers a further advantage: the geothermal rock can be “rested” during daylight hours, allowing it to warm up again.

 

9.5 Extraction of latent heat of fusion

Dry air LP Turbines can operate below 0oC.
Latent heat could be extracted from brine as pure water freezes out to form ice. If brackish or sea water is available locally, the system would also deliver freeze desalinated drinking water.

Figure 9. Ice is frozen out at night, releasing latent heat to power the LP Turbines.

 

 

10          Using LP Turbines to create tourism and engineering jobs in Southern Europe

LP Turbines could deliver power and water to coastal communities. As a bonus, floating LP Turbine power stations could act as pontoon harbours.

Figure 10. A pontoon version of the solar powered LPT power station would provide moorings for boats. It would produce 1.5 litres of drinking water for every kW-hour of electricity generated. Entrepreneurs will exploit the warm sea water for hydrotherapy and other tourist attracting purposes.

 

A bonus for Greece
To save on transportation costs, pontoons for use in the Mediterranean basin would need to be built locally.

Designing and building the pontoons could revive the Greek shipping industry.

 

Figure 11. Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain could become the green energy generating sunshine economies of Europe.

 

EUROPE

Discover more or our proposals for reviving Europe by clicking on the following internal web links:

1        An instrument for local property price control to support the Euro

2        Football lesson. How Europe could exploit its diversity to
          dominate world diplomacy

 

11          LP Turbines could make the deserts bloom

(Map courtesy of Guinness Publishing.)

Fig. 12. The World’s desert assets. [1]
In addition to the true deserts shown, all the populated continents have extensive tracts of semi-arid scrublands. These could become economically productive regions if solar LP Turbine systems were introduced.

 

Estimating the desert area needed to be colonised by solar LP Turbine units to meet our TOTAL energy needs

Some background information.
(i) The mean annual direct solar energy density for the Sahara desert is 2.9 x 103 kWh/m2. his is about twice the solar energy density in southern Italy. [2]

(ii) For the following desert calculations we will assume a cautious value of 1.0 x 103 kWh/m2/year. (=109 kWh/km2/year). We will also ignore any energy captured from the desert air at night.

 

 

Sample primary energy consumers (Primary energy = coal + oil + gas + nuclear + renewable)

Total primary energy consumption/yr (x1012 kW h)

Year 2004

Area of solar LPTs required to generate equivalent amount of energy (km2)

Regional desert(s) used for comparison

Total area of desert(s)        (kn2)

% of desert area required to meet all energy needs

Iran [3]

2.4

2.4 x 103

Iranian (Dash-e-lut)

52 x
103

4.6

USA [3]

26.6

26.6 x 103

North American (Mojave + Sonoran)

345
x 103

7.7

Whole world [3]

130 678

142.3 x 103

All of Worlds true deserts

15 013 x 103

0.9

 

 

 

Information sources:

[1] Desert areas, The Guinness World Data Book, ISBN 0-85112960.9

[2] Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment, 2005, "Harnessing solar energy as high temperature heat".

[3] IEA Key energy statistics 2010

Notes
(i) These calculations are presented simply to show that generating all of the worlds energy needs using desert solar energy is possible. We are are not proposing that this should be done.
For example, in hot weather, Iran could meet a large fraction of its energy needs by using LP Turbines to simultaneously cool its buildings and generate electricity. In winter, the same LP Turbines could run off shallow geothermal energy. The Iranians have a long and proud history of using clever engineering to keep their buildings cool and their arid lands irrigated. We hope that they will become early adaptors of LP Turbine technology/

(ii) Don't forget, these power generating glass houses also produce cash crops and create jobs in the horticulture industry.

 

12 How to make replanting the rain forests profitable- Without subsidy or handouts!

 

 Daytime rain forest temperatures are lower than in deserts at the same latitude, but the air remains warm and humid throughout the night. This will allow LP Turbine power stations based in replanted rain forests to operate 24/7 without any form of backup heating.

 

 Figure 13. This is a plan view of a replanted rain forest based LPT power station. (Not to be confused with a Dalek on a bad hair day!)

 

Replanted rain forests can earn extra money by acting as carbon sequestration sites. The following vertical cross section through an LPT moist air conduit and adjacent land shows how.

 

 Figure 14. The archaeological evidence suggests that biochar can remain locked in rain forest soil for more than a millennium. Rain forests growing on improved soil have a lower canopy and denser undergrowth. This should improve the moist air holding capacity of the forest. [“Hand made”, New Scientist, P42, 4 June, 2011.]
The high value cropping areas inside the tunnels will be protected from physical erosion caused by violent tropical rainstorms.


Bonus features

(i) Preserving the way of life of indigenous Amazonian rain forest peoples

The Brazilian government is currently planning to build a series of large dams to harness river water in the Amazonian basin, to generate electricity.
[Dam Busters New Scientist 7 March 2015, page 34.]

LP Turbine power stations would create a far smaller intrusion than building dams.

  • 1 kg of water falling every second from the top of a 100 meter high dam has the potential to generate 1 kW of electricity.

  • 1 kg of water vapour fed into a LP Turbine power station every second has the potential to generate 2,000 kW of electricity.

Extracting moist air from the replanted rain forests would cool the forest air slightly. This would mimic the effect of elevating the local land height. For example, a drop in air temperature of 2oC would mimic an increase in elevation of about 360 meters. If anything, this would would increase biodiversity by offering two slightly different temperature zones in close proximity.

 

(ii) During El Nino events the Indonesian rain forests are subject to drought and catastrophic fires. Enriching the soil with biochar and adding fire breaks will improve the fire resistance of the replanted forests.

 

 

13   Supplying LP Turbines with heat in cool climates

13.1  Extracting heat from sea water

The average sea water temperature around the British Isles in winter is about 6oC. This combined with the fact that sea water freezes at about -2oC, suggests that Britain could employ offshore LP Turbine units to generate power all year round.
 

 

 Figure 15. Pontoons floating offshore could become the homes for large LP Turbine power stations. The same design could adapted to provide power for marine vessels and buoys.

Strategically placed pontoons could also provide a degree of storm protection for vulnerable stretches of coastline such as at Dawlish, UK where a length of exposed railway track was swept away in February 2014. As a tourist bonus, the pontoons could be linked to the shore by a gangway, with the pontoon roofs being used as a create a promenade.

 

13.2  Community power stations

To reduce electricity transmission costs it makes sense to build power stations as close to the consumer as possible. Here is a suggested design for a community power station that people might want to have close to their homes. It would provide a large airy, pleasantly warm indoor space where people of all ages could spend their leisure time. It would create a refuge during heat waves and encourage lonely people out of their homes in the bleak days of winter.

 

 

 Figure 16. An LP Turbine power station could improve the quality of life for the whole community. 

 

SAD
People suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) could enjoy exposure to natural light in winter without exposure to winter weather conditions.

Hydrotherapy in the sauna and pool could also be used to combat the blues and other problems exacerbated by winter.

Chilling out
Normal body temperature is 37oC, several degrees higher than the air temperature required to run LP Turbines. Even people chilling out by the pool would be donating body heat for the manufacturing of electricity.

Community power stations may even create a new social animal, the YIMBY. (Yes in my back yard.)

 

 

 

14    Reducing air temperature and humidity in underground railway tunnels

 

 Figure 17. Heat trapped in underground tunnels could be converted into electricity.

 

 15  Converting fracking wells into geothermal power sources

Fracked gas is warm and rich in water and organic vapours. LP Turbines could be used to cool the raw gas and strip out the vapours. Scrubbing the gas in this way would generate additional power without increasing  greenhouse gases.

When the wells are exhausted they could be enjoy an extended life as geothermal heat reservoirs.

Cold dry air could be pumped into the wells and warm moist air for driving LP Turbines extracted. Heat of compression would be removed from the dry air before injection and also used for driving LP Turbines.

In mild weather the LP Turbines would extract heat from the atmosphere, leaving the underground heat reservoirs to make a thermal recovery.

Optionally, the electricity could be used for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. The existing natural gas distribution network would then be used for distributing the hydrogen to customers.

 

16         How low can they go?

If LP Turbines are used for extracting thermal energy from atmospheric air, then the outer surfaces of the turbine unit will start to ice up when the air temperature falls to around +5oC.
SLIPS ice repelling coatings being developed at Harvard University may solve this problem.
 https://aizenberglab.seas.harvard.edu/index.php?show=research_project&proj=71&wh=undefinedxundefinedx1024x768

If it works efficiently, SLIPS would allow countries with damp cool climates, such as the UK, to generate all of their electricity using outdoor LP Turbines, all year round.

Preferably, the power stations would be situated in community forests so that the additional chilling of winter air did not raise objections from the neighbours.

Figure 18. The steep jacket walls would encourage any ice that did form to drop off under gravity. The air inside the jacket would be dried by running the LP Turbine for several minutes at about 5oC, so that the water vapour fraction of the air condensed out.

SLIPS type technology may also be useful for reducing drag inside LP Turbine systems. This would allow the air to travel through the turbines at higher speeds, increasing their power to volume ratio.

 

17  Nuclear waste incinerators

Click to visit our linked web page.

 

 18         Current state of development (March 2015)

A proof of concept LP Turbine is being built for us by C-Tec Innovation at Capenhurst near Chester, UK.

Journalists, academics, politicians and people with a serious business interest are welcome to inspect the generator and ask us questions.

This project is supported by Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council.
[£98,400 granted.]

Barriers to progress

For the proof of concept research we are keeping costs down by using an air conditioning fan in reverse as the rotor, a second "off the shelf" fan as a static air deflector and a fork lift truck motor in reverse as the generator.

We need to find a partner who can build a bespoke turbine-generator unit, hopefully with the aid of further funding. A similar comment applies to the fan design. We are using a centrifugal fan that delivers a distorted air flow because such fans are readily available.

Figure 19. The problem of poor turbine design needs to be addressed before we can move on. The other problems can be lived with for research purposes.

In addition to optimising the turbine and fan designs, the drag as the air moves round the rounds needs to be minimised.

One way of doing this is to string together several LP Turbines in the form of a daisy chain.

In the following composite diagram we indicate some of the design options open to us.

Figure 20. This is a composite diagram showing some of the options open to us for improving LP turbine efficiency.

 

Enquiries from potential partners and investors are welcome.

 

 

Caution!
Latent Power Turbines are almost too versatile. They could destabilise world energy markets if there  is no international long term plan for their implementation. Energy policy planners are invited to contact us to discuss the issues.

 

+ First aid for our planet +

If necessary, LP Turbines could be used for geothermal engineering.

(i) Pontoon mounted LP Power stations could be used to extract heat from marine dead zones of ocean. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_zone_(ecology)

The electricity would then be used to drive air pumps to aerate the water. In addition to biologically rejuvenating the water, the air bubbles would also whiten the surface of the sea, increasing its solar reflectivity.

(ii) Likewise, pontoon systems could be used to cool warm ocean currents before they undercut unstable ice shelves.

 

Recent research at Leeds University suggests that micro sized bubbles have the highest reflectivity and can persist in the water for up to 24 hours. The Leeds workers also make an ingenious suggestion for downsizing the the size of bubbles in a ships wake to improve their persistence and reflectivity.

We speculate that a large fraction of tomorrows ocean going vessels could obtain their power from pontoon type LP Turbines as illustrated in Figure 15 above. Conventional propellers would then be replaced by of arrays of air pumps that deliver directed flows of micro-air bubbles. The reaction force on the hull of the ship would then drive the ship in the opposite direction.

An even more appealing option would be to extract heat from the air to power the LP Turbines. This would allow the microbubules to flow under the whole length of the hull, reducing drag and increasing the speed of the vessel.

 

Potential space applications for LP Turbines are described on this linked page.