An MIT engineering student named Shawn Frayne has created something he calls the "Windbelt," a device that uses the vibrations from the wind to generate electricity. Frayne got the idea when he was visiting rural villages in Haiti and was inspired to come up with an efficient, inexpensive device that could help underdeveloped communities gain access to improvements like lights in their homes and a radio.
His prototype may soon be a reality, thanks to his start-up company, Humdinger Wind Energy. From BusinessWeek:
"Wind power has pretty much looked the same for the past 80 years," says Frayne...After his initial prototypes proved too expensive or inefficient (or both), Frayne took a different tack, eschewing a propeller-type design for an entirely different idea. About the size of a cell phone, the final Windbelt prototype employs a taut membrane that, when air passes over it, vibrates between metal coils to generate electricity. Frayne claims it is the first wind device of any size not to employ turbines.
Frayne won a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award last year, but he hopes his design will help the developed world as well. For example, the technology could be used to power air-quality sensors in new buildings or in places where power is needed in small spaces. Besides pilot programs in Guatemala and Haiti, Humdinger is also working on larger versions of the Windbelt that could create even more power.