Engineers Design Inflatable Blimp to Generate Electricity

PowerShipCanadian company LTA Windpower has designed an inflatable wind turbine to generate electricity for remote areas that do not have access to a power grid.

The PowerShip looks like a blimp with wings and two spinning propellers. LTA Windpower’s engineers wanted to create an inflatable wind turbine that built upon existing technology by using elements and subsystems that have already been proven to work, such as airships, wings, and axial flow propeller turbines, with minor modifications.

The design of the PowerShip is based on a non-rigid airship. Rather than a typical gondola underneath, it has wings similar to those of an airplane. Each wing has a nacelle to generate electricity. The propellers are located on the trailing edges of the wings and face the rear of the inflatable wind turbine. This gives it an appearance resembling an airplane with a wide-bodied inflatable fuselage and large push propellers.

A tether is attached to the front center of the wing to anchor it to the ground. The PowerShip operates close to neutral buoyancy, making it unnecessary to have a winch on the ground to deploy or retrieve it. The PowerShip can operate without needing to be controlled by people on the ground.

LTA Windpower decided to use hydrogen rather than the helium typically used in balloons because hydrogen is cheaper and can be produced on-site by electrolyzing water using energy generated by the wind turbine. Since hydrogen is more flammable than helium, the engineers developed a specially designed envelope to prevent the hydrogen from igniting.

The PowerShip can be created at a larger scale to generate more electricity if necessary. Turbines up to 50 kW intended mostly to be used off-grid will use non-grid synchronous permanent magnet generators, storage batteries, and inverters. Larger units that can be connected to an electrical grid can utilize AC synchronous generators and blade-pitch adjustment.

Engineers Create Inflatable Space Habitat

BA-330Bigelow Aerospace has designed the BA-330, an inflatable space habitat that can be used in the future by governments, corporations, and private citizens to create research stations or space hotels.

The BA-330’s soft shell allows it to fit inside a small launch vehicle and be inflated in space. The soft shell is also better at reflecting debris and absorbing radiation than the International Space Station.

The BA-330 can be compressed to a diameter of 12 feet to be transported to space. The inflatable habitat measures 45 feet long and 22 feet in diameter and has an interior volume of 330 cubic meters when inflated. Bigelow has created a full-scale model and plans to create two real versions by 2017.

Three or four modules could be linked to create a space bigger than the International Space Station. While it took over 20 launches to construct the ISS, the BA-330 could be assembled in four or five trips.

BigelowThe interior of the model was designed by Boeing and includes hypothetical research equipment. In reality, the module could be customized to fit the needs of whatever company or agency intends to use it. The center of the habitat forms the solid part of the BA-330 and contains the life support and computer equipment, unlike the ISS, which has equipment along the walls.

White bags inside the inflatable habitat will store drinking water and waste water, and brown bags will be used to store food, clothing, and medical supplies. Putting more mass between the inside of the habitat and the outside environment will help to protect the occupants from radiation.

The habitat is designed to accommodate six people. It will have separate sleeping quarters for each occupant.

In space, moisture is released into the air through sweat and breathing. An air conditioning system condenses it and converts it into drinking water. A hydrolyzer separates water into hydrogen and oxygen. Oxygen is pumped into the cabin, while hydrogen is used to fuel the inflatable habitat’s propulsion system.

Bigelow is also working on a smaller habitat, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), that will dock with the ISS in 2015 to conduct manned testing.


High School Student Wins Awards for Inflatable Airplane

inflatable-plane-potsdamScott Bollt, a 16-year-old sophomore at Potsdam High School in New York, will travel to Los Angeles to give a presentation on an inflatable airplane made from Mylar balloons that he designed and tested in a wind tunnel in his basement.

Bollt won Highest Honors at the Dr. Nelson Ying Tri-Region Science and Engineering Fair in Onondaga County, which drew students from all over New York, in March. He also won the Innovative Engineering Award and the Dr. Nelson Ying Tri-Region Science and Engineering Fair 2014 Ying Scholar Award.

Bollt’s inflatable airplane is designed for conditions with low Reynolds numbers, which describe the properties of a liquid or gas when something moves through it. The wing was optimized in the wind tunnel and then used on the inflatable airplane.

The idea for the wind tunnel was based on a desktop-sized tunnel that Bollt built last year. The wind tunnel used to test the inflatable airplane used an open return section design with two repurposed fans that sucked air through the tunnel. A diffuser section slowed down the air and created a barrier between the test section and the fans.

The contraction section was constructed with cardboard to increase the tunnel’s efficiency and reduce turbulence. The contraction section had streamers made of straws and mesh to streamline the air. The test section had smooth acrylic walls and the highest airspeed. The tunnel was airtight to maximize efficiency.

Bollt’s project is called “Inflatable Airplane Design and Optimization for Low Reynolds Numbers.” He will present his findings at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair from May 11 to 16.


Inflatable Tentacles Draw Visitors to Arts Center

inflatableThe Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley, Pennsylvania is using 30-foot inflatable green tentacles on the roof of the building to draw visitors inside.

The center is displaying a Wild Things collection and hosting a series of events that began on April 4 and will continue through June 21. The inflatable tentacles are part of a public art installation created by British street artist Filthy Luker. They are intended to entice the public to visit the center and learn about its artistic exhibits and variety of events and programs, including art classes, summer camps, and other activities with a Wild Things theme.

The Wild Things art collection is about wild animals, wild colors, wild urges, and movement. It is a juried art exhibit with submissions from artists across the country. The exhibit includes the work of many local artists as young as 13. It is free and open to the public.

The exhibit features work with various interpretations of the word “wild.” Many of the displays include depictions of animals or real animals. One exhibit features handmade paper locusts, and another contains a movable bird fashioned out of San Pellegrino labels. One exhibit includes live horseshoe crabs, while another includes antlers.

The Wild Things campaign also features events such as the Wild Things Family Day on June 7, which will offer “wild and crazy” activities for children and their parents. The day is a collaboration with local non-profit organizations to offer family workshops.

The Sweetwater Center for the Arts also offers art classes, outreach programs, and a variety of public events throughout the year.

NASA to Test Inflatable Technology to Prepare for Mission to Mars

HIADNASA is working on a supersonic flying saucer vehicle with an inflatable landing system to deliver large payloads to other planets, including Mars.

The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) is a disk-shaped module with an inflatable apparatus called a Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) to reduce its speed as it approaches the surface. Inflatable vessels around the ship will be filled with pressurized air to slow the aircraft. Then a 30-foot parachute will help it land.

In the past, craft were landed on Mars with a skycrane technique that used a system of reverse thruster rockets and tethers. The new method will allow larger payloads to be landed on Mars and may pave the way for a human mission.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been testing the LDSD with rocket sleds to evaluate the effectiveness of the inflatable system. They will next test the efficiency of the parachute attached to the LDSD. They may need a larger parachute than the ones that have been used in the past in order to land larger payloads. Parachutes and reverse thrusters alone will not be effective on Mars because of differences between its atmosphere and those of Earth and the moon.

Flight tests are expected to begin in the fall. They will be conducted at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. A high-altitude balloon will launch a test vehicle to 120,000 feet, and the rocket will bring it to supersonic speeds and raise it to an altitude of 180,000 feet. The thrusters will disengage, and gravity will cause it to fall back toward Earth. When it reaches Mach 3.5 (2600 miles per hour), the inflatable HAID system will fill with air. It will slow the vehicle, the parachute will be released, and the ship will land.

NASA expects the LDSD project to be ready for a mission to Mars in 2018, but there are currently no missions planned except the tests in Hawaii.

Cars to Have New Roof Airbags

roof airbagTRW Automotive Holdings Corp. has recently begun producing airbags for its Citroen C4 Cactus that are located in the roof of the vehicle, rather than the dashboard. The company believes the new design will save space and provide better aesthetics, ergonomics, and functionality than airbags mounted in instrument panels.

Many automobile companies are seeking designs with more space in the instrument panel for multimedia technology or storage, or want to create more open environments. TRW believes their Inflatable Restraint System will allow automobile designers to achieve these goals. TRW says the roof airbags provide excellent performance.

The airbags consist of a cushion, gas diffusion channel, and gas generator located within a housing that is fixed onto or below the headlining above the windshield. When the airbag deploys, it unfolds along the windshield in front of the driver or passenger, rather than towards the occupant. This enables the airbag to restrain riders of a variety of shapes and sizes.

The new roof airbags are easy to assemble and can be standardized, since some of the components are common to all of TRW’s airbags. The roof airbag also improves development efficiency. Since the airbag is not located inside the instrument panel, manufacturers do not need to test a door that opens when the airbag deploys. This will reduce the development costs of the dashboard.

TRW Automotive Holdings is headquartered in Michigan and provides braking, steering, suspension, and occupant safety systems, as well as electronics, engine components, fastening systems, and replacement parts and services.

Inflatable Wind Turbine to Be Flown in Alaska

inflatable wind turbineAltaeros Energies, a wind energy company formed out of MIT, is planning to conduct the first commercial demonstration of a high altitude wind turbine in conjunction with the Alaska Energy Authority in a $1.3 million, 18-month project.

Altaeros Energies has created a 32-foot-wide inflatable wind turbine called the Buoyant Airborne Turbine that is inflated with helium and has been tested at altitudes over 300 feet. The BAT can rise to higher altitudes than tower-mounted wind turbines. In the demonstration, the BAT is expected to soar to a height of 1,000 feet in the air at a site south of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Winds are stronger and more consistent higher in the air, and can thus provide more energy. The BAT is designed to withstand strong winds. In a 2013 test, a prototype of the inflatable turbine withstood 45 mile per hour winds.

The inflatable turbine has high-strength tethers to hold it in place and cables that carry electricity to the ground. The BAT’s design is based heavily on that of aerostats, blimp-like inflatables that are frequently used to lift heavy communications equipment. Unlike past wind projects, the BAT can be transported and set up without large cranes, towers, or underground foundations.

The goal of the BAT project is to test the viability of the inflatable turbine as a power source for remote communities. It is expected to generate enough energy to power over a dozen homes. The company is seeking to provide an alternative to diesel generators.

The BAT is expected to rise 275 feet higher than the current highest wind turbine, the Vestas V164-8.0-MW.

City of London Festival to Feature Inflatable Bowler Hat

bowler hatFrom June 23 to July 17, the City of London Festival will draw visitors from around the world for a wide range of events and activities. This summer’s festival will include an inflatable bowler hat, a popular symbol of London’s history.

The inflatable bowler hat will be set up in Paternoster Square, next to the iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral. It will stand over 10 meters (30 feet, or over three stories) high.

The bowler hat will be able to seat up to 212 people. It will be the site of over 100 public events, including children’s theater, cabaret, comedy, musical, and circus performances, as well as debates on themes related to justice, money, and power in London.

The inflatable structure is patterned after the design of the original bowler hat, which was created in 1849 by St. James Street’s Lock & Co., the world’s oldest hat shop. It was originally intended to protect a gamekeeper’s head from overhanging branches, but over time the bowler hat became a part of every City worker’s uniform. By the 1950s, the bowler hat had also become popular with businessmen. It has also been worn by characters in several famous movies, including “A Clockwork Orange” and James Bond films.

Festival organizers chose the inflatable bowler hat because of the hat’s status as a symbol of London’s history. They expect it to bring added fun to the festival and allow the public to enjoy artistic and cultural events in a unique venue.

Inflatable Sun and Moon to Be Part of Opera Performances at Sydney Harbour

inflatable sunPerformances of the opera “Madame Butterfly” at the Sydney Harbour will include an inflatable sun and moon as part of the set.

The sun measures 12 meters (36 feet) in diameter, and the moon is 6 meters (18 feet). The sun is supported by a large platform that floats on the water. It is constructed with thick sail cloth and is inflated by two fans and lit up with 12 LED lights. Four anchor lines hold the platform in place. The anchor lines must be checked every day to be sure that a boat has not run over them and cut them, which has happened in the past.

The sun and moon will be inflated by theater technician Andrew Tindal-Davies, who refers to himself as an “Orb Master.” He will be inside the sun during the entire performance of the opera. He will be positioned behind the lights so that audience members will not be able to see his shadow from the shore, where they will be watching the performance.

In addition to the inflatable sun and moon, the large outdoor set also includes a Japanese bamboo forest, two working cars, two cranes, a live orchestra, and two fireworks displays.

This is the third year that Handa Opera will perform a series of shows on Sydney Harbour. They will perform 20 times, beginning on March 21.

Puccini’s opera is about an American naval officer who visits Japan and marries a local woman, whom he nicknames Madame Butterfly. The cast of the opera consists of 60 artists, both local and international.

Inflatable Colon To Raise Colon Cancer Awareness

inflatable colonIn honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the Josephine Ford Cancer Institute at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, will display a 32-foot-long by 14-foot-high inflatable replica of the human colon on March 10. The inflatable colon shows healthy and unhealthy polyps and explains diseases.

Over 136,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year. It is the second most common type of cancer and one of the most preventable. Early detection and treatment can dramatically increase survival rates. There has been a significant decline in colon cancer rates in the past 15 years due to colonoscopy screenings becoming more commonly performed.

Ninety percent of colon cancer cases occur in people over 50. Doctors encourage anyone over the age of 50 and those with a family history of colon cancer or other risk factors to have a colonoscopy. If a polyp is found, it can be removed before it becomes cancerous.

The event’s organizers hope that by walking through the inflatable colon, people will better understand the colonoscopy process and the importance of early detection and treatment. They hope that visitors will be less afraid of the procedure after walking through the inflatable colon.

A 2013 study funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control concluded that similar inflatable colon exhibits improved the public’s knowledge of colon cancer and interest in screening.

The hospital will also host a panel discussion about colon health and answer questions about health, prevention, screening, and treatment.