3D printing technology is constantly changing our world. From space stations to sex toys, the ability to create custom items on demand (and often from 100% recycled material) is allowing us to achieve things that even a few years agosimply would not have been feasible. For example, a simple device created using a 3D printer has demonstrated that a gravity battery might be a way to store wind energy.
What is a gravity battery?
Picture a wind turbine. Now imagine that inside the tall, central shaft there was a simple device attached to a weight. As the blades spin, the mechanical energy turns a ratchet. The ratchet raises the weight until it reaches the top of the turbine. The weight, because it’s being held off the ground, has potential energy. When the wind stops blowing, and the turbines go still, the weight can be released. It generates force as it goes back down, and that force can be used to spin the turbine to keep generating energy.
The small device, made by Mike Blakemore using a 3D printer, is something of a proof concept. It’s very small, and it would generate only a tiny amount of power by itself. However, it shows that the theory of the gravity battery is relatively sound. The next step, of course, is to build a larger, industrial-sized model in order to see if they can really store enough energy to stabilize a power grid. If they can, well, this small, 3D printed model may be to thank for ushering in a completely new method of harvesting renewable energy.
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