November 2, 2008 – Vol.13 No.33
BICYCLE SAFETY LIGHTS AND THE BOBBLE GENERATOR.
In this business I search for morsels, tidbits of information, specks of ideas that may lead to some energy breakthrough or even revolution. Most ideas are probably dead end streets, unfortunately. There’s nothing easy about making energy.
But the world is big place. It isn’t flat as one author/columnist suggests. It’s round and plump and filled with people with good (and bad) ideas. Someone, somewhere, may have a fantastic energy invention that may save the world from frying in its own manmade heat and end all wars over energy resources.
The Internet and World Wide Web have made us all one community where ideas can be shared instantly like one big 24/7 global town meeting. The Internet may be our salvation. Without it Qin Gang of the UK never would have been able to share his nifty little (and patented) invention with me – The Batteryless Bicycle Flashing Light System, A Non-Friction Bicycle Dynamo (Generator).
I’m not saying that this little product that Freelights.co.uk sells globally is a world-changer. But it is one that tinkerers in every corner of the earth can play with, improve upon if they like. (Freelights sells the Batteryless Safety Lights, an experimentation kit, individual parts and components; or find your own supplies elsewhere to experiment with in your basement shop.)
Basically this is how the no-friction, no drag, Bicycle Flashing Light System works. (You’ll probably need to look in the recesses of your mind for something you learned in high school science class to understand it completely.)
Imagine a little plastic can, not unlike the one 35mm film comes in. The can is wrapped in copper wire to create a coil. The copper wire is attached to LED (light emitting diode) lights. Inside the can is a strong magnet. It’s just sitting in there waiting for something to happen. The happening happens when another magnet is passed by the plastic can. The passing magnet causes the magnet inside the can to flip north-to-south, south-to-north. As the magnet in the can flips, it induces a small electric current in the coil. (This is how generators or dynamos make electricity, pretty much.) There’s enough juice coming from the coil to make the LEDs flash on and off.
In the bicycle version that the company sells, the generator is attached to the frame of the bicycle near the hub of a wheel and the magnets that pass by the generator are taped to the spokes. As the wheel turns the spoke-attached magnets pass close enough to the generator for its internal magnet to flip and generate enough power to flash clusters of LEDs facing fore and aft mounted on the bike. The lights flash for safety.
According to the inventor there is no friction, no drag, thus no power lost as the wheel turns and spoke magnets pass the magnet in the generator. The magnet inside the coil absorbs all the drag. And, since there is no conventional generator rubbing against the tire there is no friction either. If the bike is put on chocks and the wheel spun, it spins freely, yet the lights still flash, power is generated.
The company has sold about 8000 units to global customers.
Freelights has this to say about its product: “ Some people wrote to us, saying they do not believe there is no drag in this dynamo. Technically, there is a drag force but only between the two magnets. Unlike typical dynamos there is no scraping against the tire to slow down the bike itself. On a real bicycle, even the drag force between the two magnets is too small to be detected.”
Freelights calls the dynamo a “Tumbling Magnet Electrical Generating System.”
Another nice feature is that there is no electric connection, nor is one necessary, between the generator mounted to the bike frame and magnets mounted on the spokes.
So, aside from Batteryless Safety Lights for bicycles, what’s the potential? Imagine if the basic concept could be scaled-up to produce more power. Others such as the Pack Rat Workshop are working on this and giving the generator another name: the Bobble Generator.
Off the top of my head here are some potential applications:
--- A generator that spun freely could be used in wind turbines to produce power at very low wind speeds.
--- Ditto for tidal current energy devices: low speed currents could make electricity.
--- Can the rising heat from a chimney be enough to spin a turbine and bobble generator to capture lost energy and convert it to electricity?
--- How about a big heavy flywheel storing energy from another source and giving it up with through a low-drag bobble generator?
All of this may lead nowhere, or it may lead to an energy revolution. In any case more than a few people in this big round world will have some fun fooling around with the idea.
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