Windmill Farms answers:
Canada and many other countries depend on large-scale hydro developments for electricity.
Most machines that make electricity need some form of mechanical energy to get things started. Mechanical energy spins the generator to make the electricity. In the case of hydroelectricity, the mechanical energy comes from large volumes of falling water. For more than 100 years, the simplest way to produce the volumes of falling water needed to make electricity has been to build a dam. A dam stops the natural flow of a river, building up a deep reservoir behind it. However, large dams and reservoirs are not always appropriate, especially in the more ecologically sensitive areas of the planet.
Micro-hydro systems can provide clean, environmentally friendly electricity in rural communities.
For making small amounts of electricity without building a dam, the small-scale hydroelectric generator is often the best solution, especially where fast-flowing streams on steep slopes are close by. A small-scale hydro system usually consists of an enclosed water wheel or turbine, which is made to spin by jets of high-velocity water. The water is taken from the stream and moved down slope to the turbine through a long pipe called a penstock. Water flowing through the penstock picks up speed, and is directed at the blades of the turbine by nozzles. The turbine spins continuously, as long as there is water to drive it. The turbine is connected to an electrical generator, and the electricity is then available for running appliances or charging batteries. The spent water is returned to the stream. This kind of system is called a “micro-hydro” system, “run-of-stream hydro” or “low-impact hydro.”
In this activity, you will use plastic spoons to build a model of a simple micro-hydro system. It generates surprising amounts of electricity, provided you have a supply of pressurized water, such as from a lab sink. This model closely resembles real micro-hydro designs, and can produce enough electricity to light a small light bulb.
The completed micro-hydro turbine.
We are surrounded by hundreds of appliances that use electricity to do work. But what is electricity? Basically, electricity is a flow of electrons in a metal wire, or some other conductor. Electrons are tiny particles found inside atoms, one of the basic building blocks of all matter. We call the flow of electrons through any conductor a “current of electricity.”
Each electron carries a tiny negative charge. When electrons move through a conductor, they produce an invisible field of magnetic force, similar to that found around a magnet. The strength of that field depends on how many electrons are in motion. You can concentrate this field by winding the wire in which the electrons move into a tight coil with many turns. This causes many more electrons to be in motion in a small space, resulting in a stronger field. If you then place a piece of iron in the middle of the coil, the electromagnetic field will turn the iron into a powerful magnet.
While it is true that electrons moving through a conductor produce a magnetic field, the reverse is also true. You can make electrons move in a wire by “pushing” them with a moving magnet, which is how an electrical generator works. Electrical generators usually contain powerful magnets that rotate very close to dense coils of insulated wire. The coils develop a flow of electrons that becomes an electrical current when the generator is connected to an electric circuit.
You will be building an electrical generator as part of this project. It uses moving magnets to create a current of electricity in coils of wire. This generator is technically called an alternator because the electrons move back and forth in the wire, rather than flowing in just one direction as they do from a battery. A meter connected to the wire would show that the charge of the wire switches or alternates between positive and negative as the electrons change directions. Such an electrical current is called alternating current or AC. Household electrical current is alternating current. Appliances have to be specially designed to use it. The other type of current is called direct current, because the electrons move in one direction only. Most battery-powered appliances such as calculators and portable CD players use direct current.
Electric drills can cause serious eye and hand injuries. Eye protection is required, and leather gloves are recommended when drilling small parts such as corks. A cork borer can be used as a substitute but it also has risks for injury.
Hot glue guns can cause superficial burns. Be sure glue guns are warmed up only when needed, and unplugged immediately after. Hot glue can stick to skin and clothing.
Utility knives can be hazardous. Expose only as much blade as you need to cut the material, and fully retract the blade when not it’s not in use.
The Pembina Institute
If all has gone well with your construction, this turbine should be able to produce significant amounts of electricity, depending on the speed of the water striking the spoons.
Place the neck of the plastic container under a faucet and turn on the water. The rotor should spin quickly!
Connect your micro-hydro turbine to a multi-meter and set the dial to read volts of alternating current. Measure the voltage generated by the operating turbine.
The Pembina Institute
Please read and follow these instructions carefully, step by step! Have a one member of your group read each step aloud to be sure the instructions are clearly understood. Do not proceed until each step has been completed.
Electric drill, with ??” drill bit
10 cm (3.5 inch ) nail or awl
Hot glue gun, with 3 glue sticks
Permanent felt tip marker
Micro-hydro template sheet (see bottom of page to download)
4L plastic jug (rectangular style, from vinegar, windshield washer fluid, or similar-see illustration)
10 plastic spoons
1 large cork (3.5 to 5 cm)
Enameled magnet wire, 24 gage (approx. 100 m)
Foamcore or heavyweight corrugated cardboard (approximately 22 cm by 30 cm)
6 mm (1/4 inch) wooden dowel (20 cm long)
4 ceramic or rare earth magnets (18mm or larger)
clear vinyl tubing (6 cm long, ??” inside diameter)
4 brass paper fasteners
Cover the back of the template with a thin, even layer of glue.
Use caution when cutting with the utility knife.
Prepare the Disks
The generator we are building has two basic parts-the rotor and the stator. The stator is the part that remains stationary and has coils of wire to collect electricity. The rotor is the part that moves. It is equipped with powerful magnets that will induce current of electricity in the coils.
Glue the template sheet to the cardboard with white glue. Be sure to spread a thin layer of glue evenly over the entire back of the template.
When the glue has dried, use the utility knife to cut the rotor and stator disks from the cardboard sheet. Carefully trim the edges. Also, be careful not to damage the tabletop with the utility knife. Work on a piece of scrap wood or a cutting board.
Using an awl or sharp nail, punch a small hole through the rotor disk at its exact center, as shown. Using the utility knife, make a larger (1 cm) hole at the center of the stator disk.
Check to make sure you have good connections between the coils.
Prepare a jig for winding your coils by cutting a 3 cm by 16cm piece of cardboard, folding it in half and securing with a small piece of electrical tape.
Cut 8 short (4 cm) strips of electrical tape and set these aside.
Leaving a lead of about 10 cm, start winding the first coil on the jig. Wrap the wire neatly onto the jig, forming a tight coil. Use 200 wraps or turns.
Carefully slip the coil off the jig and secure it using two pieces of the electrical tape you set aside in step 2 above.
Using a small patch of emery cloth or sand paper, remove the enamel insulation from the ends of each lead, exposing about 1 cm of bare wire. Be sure the wire is completely bare!
Repeat steps 1 through 5 to make three more coils.
Lay the coils loosely on the disk in the position shown by the template. Arrange the coils so their windings alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise, as shown on the template. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Arrange and connect the coils so that an electron would follow the path shown by the arrows, starting with the counterclockwise coil on the left hand side.
When you are sure you have them arranged correctly, connect the coils by twisting the bared ends together, covering the connections with small pieces of electrical tape.
Check your connections: Set your multi-meter for measuring electrical resistance (ohms). If your connections are good, there should be little resistance to the movement of electrons, and the meter should produce a reading of about 10 ohms or less. To check this, touch or connect the probes to the two free ends of the wires from the coils. If the coils are not properly connected, the reading will be a very large number, or infinity.
Once you are confident the coils are properly positioned and connected, glue them to the stator disk. Lift each coil up a little and apply a large blob of glue to the template where the coil touches. Let the glue solidify before gluing the next coil.
With the utility knife, cut 4 slits through the cardboard between the magnets as shown on t