Improving Wind Turbine Efficiency Through Blade Design; Technological Innovation of Rideshare Electric Scooters as a Response to Increased Regulation

Wendelken, Craig, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Momot, Michael, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Wayland, Kent, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

The development and use of renewable energy will become one of humanity's most significant challenges in the imminent future. As a result, the effort to utilize green energy has penetrated and continued to integrate into almost every technological sphere. The loosely coupled technical research report and science, technology, and society (STS) research paper focus on two distinct instances regarding the production and utilization of green energy. The technical research report explores the potential to innovate a wind turbine blade's design to reduce material usage while increasing overall efficiency. This improved energy generation rate would create a net-positive impact on the system of green energy production as a whole. The STS research paper focuses on how technological innovation of the electric rideshare scooter could potentially save it from impending obsolescence. The survival of the electric scooter could lead to urban infrastructure reform that would promote the use of more eco-friendly means of transportation.
The proposed design solution for the technical research report focused on creating a slotted wind turbine blade. The slot feature was originally intended to replace the existing braking systems used by wind turbines to prevent damage to the rotor at high speeds. However, due to testing limitations the focus of the tests shifted to testing the overall running efficiency of the turbine blades. The slit blades would ideally decrease drag by increasing airflow attachment to the fin and save on material costs. If successful, the slotted turbine blade would require less raw material to manufacture and produce green energy more efficiently. The wind turbine design was tested using a scaled-down, 3-D printed prototype. Three sets of turbine blades were created, with one of these sets serving as a control. The 3-D printed parts were assembled, attached to a DC motor, and tested in a wind tunnel. The output of the DC motor was recorded to collect transient data.
The overall results from the physical tests were inconclusive. This is mainly because many of the 3-D printed turbine blades turned out warped or mishappen and were therefore unusable. As an alternative solution, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software in SolidWorks was used as a substitute. The three-blade configurations were subjected to the same high-wind simulation. However, the CFD results confirmed that there was no discernable difference between the torques produced by the three different turbine blade configurations. Ultimately, at this smaller scale, it was determined that the addition of a slot into the wind turbine blade design had no discernable effect on the turbine's overall energy production efficiency. Future experimental research conducted using larger-scale wind turbine models could potentially produce an alternative result.
The STS Research Paper started in the fall semester of 2019, prior to the pandemic, and focused on legislative solutions to incorporate the electric scooter and other existing rideshare devices into current urban systems of transportation. However, after learning about the motor scooter's history of "death by regulation" dating back to 1915, the focus of this research paper has evolved to look at ways that the current electric scooter could potentially avoid the same fate. This process used Actor-Network Theory and Technology and Social Relationships framework to analyze the connections between different entities to develop a greater understanding of the network surrounding the rideshare electric scooter.
This paper concludes that self-regulation through technological innovation could have the potential to establish the electric scooter as an enduring component of urban transportation systems. In regards to the technical research report, unfortunately, the proposed solution was not successful in creating a more efficient wind turbine blade. However, as displayed in both cases, the innovation, production, and use of green energy is a cause worth pursuing.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Wind Turbine, Green Energy, Rideshare, Electric Scooter, Actor-Network Theory

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Michael Momot
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Anna Ho, Joseph Kim, Tryston Raecke

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