The UK winners of the James Dyson Award for engineering excellence are targeting the £30,000 international prize and are considering crowdfunding their innovative wind turbine.

Nicolas Orellana, 36, and Yaseen Noorani, 24, took home the £2,000 winning UK prize for the Omnidirectional Wind Turbine, which they believe could power the apartments of the large swathes of the population which live in city centres.

“People living in apartments – 40 per cent of people living in cities – cannot install solar power technology,” Orellana told BusinessCloud.

“In the UK three per cent of houses have installed some kind of technology to create their own electricity. I'm therefore targeting three per cent of apartments.

“It's about allowing people living in apartments to be part of the energy revolution and to create their own electricity.”

Office buildings are also a potential target market for the O-Wind Turbine, which could in theory allow people to sell excess power back to the grid.

Inspiration for the device struck while studying NASA’s flawed Mars Tumbleweed rover – an inflatable ball designed to autonomously move across Mars’s surface and measure atmospheric conditions – while at Lancaster University.

The rover was powered by mini turbines which relied upon horizontal winds, much like the turbines you might see in the UK countryside.

“If you took a number of them to Mars, the wind would take them all together in the same direction – so the design didn't make sense,” Orellana explained.

“I wanted to create something that goes in a straight line, no matter where the wind comes from.

“I developed a device that would travel in a straight line by taking on crosswinds. When I took it to the desert, it went 7km.”

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Orellana, who graduated this year from Lancaster Uni with an MSc, revived the project a few months ago when he saw the chance of competing for the James Dyson Award. 

He built a 3D-printed prototype to prove the concept of a contraption that could be installed either outside a window or on a balcony to generate power. Only 15cm in diameter, Orellana says the ideal size for a finished product would be 50 or 80cm.

“Wind could [hit a property] from any direction as it depends on where the building is built, where the other buildings are around it, where the wind is coming from and how high it is,” he continued.

“Every single apartment would have a different situation: urban winds are chaotic in nature.”

Following graduation, Chilean Orellana returned to South America briefly before heading back to the UK to explore potential opportunities for his device.

The O-Wind Turbine will now go into the international reckoning for the James Dyson Award alongside winners and runners-up from 26 other countries.

Dyson engineers will narrow the entries down to 20 – the shortlist is announced on October 18th – before Sir James Dyson himself chooses the winner and two runners-up on November 15th.

The runners-up will receive £5,000 apiece but potentially world-changing projects require hundreds of thousands of pounds to develop, finalise, patent and launch into the marketplace. Orellana is plotting a two-year development phase.

“I've been getting a lot of attention on the back of the James Dyson Award – people coming to me and saying 'I want one. If there's a crowdfunding round, I want to support it',” said Orellana.

“I am looking at crowdfunding. Initially everyone said to go for Innovate UK or European Horizon 2020 grants – but they all ask you to co-fund it to some extent. It's not easy to find that at this stage.

“Crowdfunding could be the answer – that's a decision I'll have to make in the next few weeks.” 

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