Ohio State University engineers recently tested a more precise anemometer that could be used to optimize wind turbine performance.

Engineers’ wind forecast: Improved sensors with a chance of turbine optimization

Autonomous aircraft are laden with sensors, including anemometers that measure wind speed and direction. Ohio State University engineers designed and recently tested a more precise anemometer that lets autonomous aircraft better sense weather changes and operate more safely. Plus, the devices could be used to optimize wind turbine performance. 

Conventional anemometers are expensive, consume a lot of energy, and cause high drag. But the Ohio State engineers’ version is lightweight, consumes less energy, causes less drag, and is more sensitive to pressure changes. 

They created the device from smart materials that sense and react to their environments, including an electric polymer called polyvinylidene fluoride. PVDF produces electrical energy when pressure is applied to it, and that energy can power the device.

The researchers tested the sensor in a sealed chamber to determine its sensitivity, and then they tried it in a wind tunnel. During tests, it measured and provided precise data about both pressure and wind speed.

The team is continuing to work with PVDF and other smart materials to improve the sensor technology. They say more research is necessary on the sensors in controlled environments before trying them in commercial applications. 

Eventually, the engineers want to expand the use of these sensors beyond aircraft to include wind power technologies. The more accurate wind measurements would help to tweak turbines’ energy generation capabilities and improve energy forecasting.

“These are very advanced materials and they can be used in many applications,” Marcelo Dapino, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor, said in a news release. “We would like to build on those applications to bring compact wind energy generation to the home.”