Several types of science projects involve small windmills. Generally, the smaller the windmill, the easier it will be to complete and assemble. The disadvantage of using overly small windmills is that the turbine may not be high enough to catch much wind, unless the windmill is in a very open area. The projects below all assume access to a small windmill under 20 feet high.
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Generate Electrical Power
Whether for immediate use or storage, harnessing the power of wind to create electricity is a growing practice the world over. Wind power can emanate from a 12-inch-high windmill or a 100-foot behemoth turbine. To perform this physics experiment, you will need a motor with a permanent manet, electrical wiring and a blocking diode. If you plan on storing the power, you will also need a battery bank. Measure the power coming from the windmill with a voltmeter, and compare it to the speed of the blades and rotor, which you can measure with a strobe light.
Aerate a Pond
Good oxygen content is important to the health of any body of water, and to the creatures living in it. Windmills can mechanically drive an air compressor, pumping air into a pond or lake near the ground level. A windmill-based chemistry project calls for access to a mechanical air compressor and a gearbox to attach to your windmill. As the turbine spins, the gearbox operates the diaphragm of the compressor, forcing air down a tube and into the water. Over time, measure the oxidation of the water using a dissolved oxygen meter.
A physics experiment with applications in civil engineering, the groundwater experiment provides an opportunity to use a windmill to draw water from wells. You will again use a gearbox to raise and lower a crankshaft with a one-way valve on the end. When lowering, the valve is open, and plunges into the water. When rising, the valve closes, drawing the water up the shaft with it. Using a strobe light to measure the speed of the windmill rotor and blades, record how much water is gathered using different diameter pipes. Determine what is more efficient way to draw water vertically up a pipe.
Blade Pitch Effects
In many commercial windmills, the blades have a variable pitch. This allows the angle of the blade to change, relative to the oncoming wind. To see the effects of blade pitch on your windmill, measure the speed of the blades and rotors using a strobe light. Keep track of wind speed during your measurements using an anemometer. Change the pitch of your blades, then repeat the experiment when the wind is the same speed and compare your results. This physics experiment measures the effects of air on differently angled air foils.
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