Student wins international award for generator built from used hard drives

A student from the University of Cape Town (UCT), a prominent South African tertiary institution, has won an international innovation award for a wind generator built using components from recycled hard drives.

Harmut Jaigu, a master’s student in electrical engineering, won the Student Poster Presentation award at the 2011 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Energy Conversion Congress & Exposition that was held in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

Jagau’s design reuses the permanent magnets from discarded hard drives to create a sustainable wind generator.

“From a young age, I was always shocked at how much useful stuff we actually throw away,” Jagau said. “Since electronic waste is one of the fastest growing solid waste sources, the importance of recycling cannot be overemphasised.”

Jagau reckons the generator finds its best “application in low-power households”.

In optimal wind conditions, the last prototype of the generator could create around 328W of electrical power -— enough to run one 19-inch colour television, two portable stereos, ten 16W compact fluorescent light bulbs and three mobile phone chargers.

Jagau acknowledges, however, that the prototype does have limitations. “328W is only generated at the rated wind speed and the problem with wind energy is that it is intermittent. To ensure continuous power supply to the household, energy storage is unavoidable,” he says.

Jagau plans to carry on with the project after his upcoming graduation, with the intent to increase the generator’s power output.

“I would like to see the generator incorporated into a fully functional wind energy conversion system, which actually changes lives, rather than just proves a concept,” said Jagau. “That would involve designing the turbine blades, the housing of the generator, and the support structure of the system. This would open up opportunities to collaborate with the private sector to test the turbine in real conditions.”



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