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Duco researches energy extraction from airflows

Veurne-based company Duco specialises in ventilation systems and solar control for homes and commercial buildings. One of their products is a ventilation unit for homes. To ensure optimal use of the system, the ventilation flow can be adjusted on the basis of measurements in the room.

The system is controlled via valves in the central ventilation unit itself. One disadvantage of this is that there must be a separate air channel to the central unit for each air conditioned room. This can be improved by using a flow control valve in each of the exhaust points.

To avoid having to run power supply and signal cables to each valve, the unit should be able to power itself. The required energy could be drawn from the airflow via a small turbine and stored in a battery.  Communication between the unit and valve should also be wireless.

Feasibility of local power generation
Together with Sirris and FMTC (now part of Flanders Make), Duco wanted to find out if such a system was feasible. It wanted to answer the question: "Can the energy for the valve be drawn economically from the airflow without compromising the capacity of the central unit?"

Designing this kind of autonomous application powered by local energy generation requires a total approach encompassing energy generation, storage and use.
To assess the feasibility of such a system, a concrete image of the system must first be formed. Account had to be taken of the anticipated flows since they have an influence on available energy. They were compared with the estimated consumption of the valve and electronics. A systematic approach was taken to estimate the energy output from the turbine. The potential concepts were assessed using off-the-shelf components and proof-of-concept testing rigs.

The feasibility study revealed that generating energy in an air channel as per the requirements is feasible, provided a specific component design is used. Further validation will reveal what that is. With these results, Duco can build and evaluate a turbine prototype.