How to Build a Small-Scale Wind Turbine for a Science Project

Written by will milner
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How to Build a Small-Scale Wind Turbine for a Science Project
Use a real turbine to model your design. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Wind turbines are likely to play a big part in the energy future. The U.S. Department of Energy plans for 20 per cent of the nation's needs to be supplied by wind power by 2030. It is therefore important to understand the science and technology involved in turning wind energy into electricity. The key to building a wind turbine model is achieving a good strength-to-weight ratio.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Drill
  • Wooden block
  • Wooden dowel
  • Wire coat hanger
  • PVC pipe
  • Scissors
  • Cork jar stopper 2" or more across
  • Small electric fan or toy car motor 1" or 2" long
  • Wire
  • Wire strippers
  • Small electronics kit light bulb
  • Voltmeter
  • Ammeter

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Drill a hole in the wooden block and press the dowel securely into the hole.Flatten the hanger and wind it in a spiral around the top of the dowel. Leave a few inches extending at the end of the hanger. Shape it into a circle and twist it horizontally to form a support for the motor.

  2. 2

    Cut three long right triangles about 7 inches long and 1 inch wide at the base, from the PVC pipe. Leave an inch-long, half-inch-wide tongue shape protruding from the short side of each triangle. These are the turbine's fins.

  3. 3

    Insert the tongues of the fins into the sides of the cork bung equidistant from each other. Make sure the convex sides face outward directly away from the dowel and the diagonal edge of each fin points the same way.

  4. 4

    Push the axle of the motor into the centre of the cork. Mount the motor on the wire hanger so that the blades can turn freely. Use duct tape to secure it and make sure that it is pointed directly outwards from and perpendicular to the dowel.

  5. 5

    Cut two lengths of wire about 10 inches long. Strip the ends and join the end of one wire to the cathode of the motor and the end of the other to the anode. Attach the other ends to the contacts of the light bulb. The light bulb will show that the turbine is generating electricity.

  6. 6

    Join the ammeter and voltmeter to the circuit to measure the power output of the turbine. Wire the voltmeter in parallel, which means joining its incoming wire to one of the contacts of the light bulb and the outgoing wire to the other. Wire the ammeter in series by wiring it next to the light bulb with a wire running from it to the light bulb and another running to the motor.

  7. 7

    Position the windmill outside in a moderate wind or in front of a fan. The windmill will turn the axle of the motor. This rotates a magnet inside a coil of wire, driving an electric current through the wire. The current can be seen in the illumination of the bulb and the readings on the ammeter and voltmeter.

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