Electric power generation using buoyancy-induced vortices

Mark W. Simpson, Arne J. Pearlstein, Ari Glezer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thermally-stratified air layers over solar-heated ground are exploited for scalable, low-cost power generation by the deliberate formation of intense buoyancy-induced vertical columnar vortices. Such vortices entrain the ground-heated air layer in regions with high surface solar heating rates, and convert the (gravitational) potential energy into “solar-induced wind” with significant kinetic energy. Unlike naturally occurring “dust devil” vortices, these columnar vortices are deliberately triggered and anchored. Each vortex is sustained by continuous entrainment of ground-heated air through an azimuthal array of stationary ground-mounted vertical vanes. Electric power is generated by using the rotational and vertical air motions within the columnar vortex to drive a vertical-axis turbine. Meter-scale laboratory experiments have demonstrated the nucleation, anchoring, and sustainment of strong, buoyancy-driven vortices centered within an azimuthal array of stationary vertical vanes above a controlled thermal ground plane. Outdoor tests of a meter-scale prototype have demonstrated autonomous start-up, formation, anchoring, and sustainment of a buoyancy-induced vortex generated solely by absorbed solar energy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)847-851
Number of pages5
JournalRenewable Energy and Power Quality Journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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