- Further developing wind energy is necessary for a more reliable and cheaper energy supply, which will contribute to achieving climate objectives.
- UT students Rowan and Cedric van Wijk, twins, worked together on a thesis project and built a customised wind turbine.
- This wind turbine will make education more practice-oriented, and it provides students with more experience before they enter the business community.
UT lecturer Arne van Garrel has rarely seen such perfect cooperation between students, technicians, lecturers and others involved. Arne teachers a fourth-year course called “Wind Energy” at the University of Twente, and part of this course is practical. An average of about 100 students take wind tunnel measurements on a stationary wind turbine blade and compare the test results with computer simulations, every year. “It had started to turn into an aeroplane-building practical, which is not entirely desirable for the future. The Department of Engineering Fluid Dynamics has wanted to use a small wind turbine in education for a long time. They want to put theory into practice, which will make it more tangible for the students. The small wind turbine would be equipped with force transducers, a torque meter and an rpm meter. The resulting experimental data would give us insight into how the wind turbine operates and how this relates to the theory we teach in the course. The wind turbine was to be a didactic tool.”
Rowan and Cedric wanted to graduate together, and they were perfect for the big project that Arne van Garrel had in mind. The brothers preferred a mechanical engineering assignment rather than a purely theoretical or mathematical one because of their previous education. “You have to work together very closely if you want to make a small wind turbine. This went smoothly since the twins live together. They also specifically wanted to work together on parts of their graduation. That is not always possible, but one of them did the rotor design, and the other did the mechanical and electrical part.”
The students started working on the challenge in 2019. Arne: “They started with nothing: there was no previous result, and they had no design to work with. They only had the theory from the course; there was no hardware available. These two boys built a wind turbine from scratch.”
The coronavirus somewhat delayed the test phase. So their dad’s car and the kitchen table served as a lab and test environment. Fortunately, Rowan and Cedric were able to enter the Campus when the corona measures were relaxed a little, so they could officially test their invention in the University of Twente’s wind tunnel.
“The measurements in the wind tunnel turned out to be the icing on the cake. The students made a lot themselves by 3D printing, but they also had some help. Lecturers, technicians and the department were all involved. We worked together as a close-knit team. The twins worked on the wind turbine for nine months. They have now both graduated on the same day, with a nine as their final grade. The committees were impressed by the fact that they created a working system from scratch. A well-deserved final mark”, says Arne.
A PhD student from China will travel here soon and use the twins’ results in his PhD research. The twins’ wind turbine can be used there, for research into reducing noise production and improving energy yield. “A wind turbine like this one is a kind of vibration machine that has to operate as reliably and efficiently as possible for the next 20 years. The PhD student is going to research this.”
The turbine has not only given rise to scientific research; education, in particular, is also being improved. Arne: “The goal was being able to take measurements that make the physics behind the wind turbine more comprehensible. That goal has been achieved. It is an added value for our education and for the business community, which is where our students will end up.”
Students from “Sustainable Energy Technology” and “Engineering Technology” will end up at wind turbine manufacturers. 2-B Energy in Hengelo is an example; a graduate from the UT recently started working there. Because these students now also gain practical experience, their knowledge and skills have greatly increased. This allows them to make better decisions in their work, and the designs they create will be better. “This new generation is making the world a bit better, that’s the ambition.”