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Global Ideas

Catching a breeze to power the world

Charlotte Slingsby, a graduate design engineer, has invented Moya, a lightweight, flexible curtain that turns a soft breeze into wind energy, even in inaccessible locations.

Global Ideas: When I first saw your invention, the Moya, I thought you where holding a curtain. But it's obviously something very different. What is it?

Charlotte Slingsby: It is a lightweight, flexible sheeting material that can independently harvest low grade wind energy in a variety of locations. It can be applied like a fabric to many different surfaces.

How did you come up with the idea?

As fossil fuels rapidly diminish, the need for alternative, clean energy solutions is essential to a sustainable future. Contemporary clean energy solutions, such as solar panels and wind turbine farms, demand the clearing of land, presenting a further challenge to our environment and undermining their sustainability. Furthermore, wind turbine generated energy requires durable, advanced and costly infrastructure as well as high speed, laminate winds while solar panels require a large, unobstructed surface area with consistent sun exposure. Undoubtedly, energy farming will continue to play a valuable role in providing power in the future. However, I decided to explore cost effective energy generation on the surfaces of existing infrastructure.

Moya der Windenergie-Vorhang

Beautifully versatile

Where can Moyas be used?

With Moya sheets I sought to develop a clean energy solution that does not rely on prime real estate or expensive infrastructure. Moya sheets are designed to scavenge off low grade energy. This involves vibrations and low speed, turbulent winds generating power 24 hours a day, mounted on otherwise dormant, contained locations, hidden from public view.

What kind of material did you use?

Each Moya sheet comprises of thousands of free standing filaments. Each filament is embedded with a flexible piezoelectric film that converts strain energy, caused by the movement of the wind, into electrical energy.

You are originally from South Africa - is there any connection between the energy situation in the country and your invention?

I recently graduated (July 2015) in Innovation Design Engineering, which is a unique double masters in engineering and art, at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. Moya began as part of my masters six month solo project. Considering it being a solo project in which we were tasked to define our own brief, I decided to pursue tackling challenges close to home. In light of the current energy crisis in South Africa, I began exploring alternative energy solutions. This led to Moya power, a lightweight, flexible sheeting material that can independently harvest low grade wind energy in a variety of locations.

Why did you choose wind power over solar power?

My project evolved into wind energy harvesting as I wanted to find a solution to absorb the abundant and low grade wind energy that is constantly moving around us, yet there is currently no solution to take advantage of it. This low grade energy can be harvested from the most obscure and inaccessible locations, such as underneath bridges or lining tunnels. Therefore it can give value to otherwise wasted space.

Look outside a window covered with Moya (Photo: Charlotte Slingsby)

The light, flexible material can also be used in front of windows...

What is the current development status of Moya, would it be possible to have it on a larger scale?

I am currently in the research and development phase. I am in the process of sourcing funding with the goal of bringing Moya power to mass manufacturing level. I have made some exciting contacts and hope to see this project through to implementation.

What are the difficulties in developing an idea like this?

As with any new technology, a great deal of testing and large start-up costs are required before it is mass producible.

Thank you very much for the interview.

A building wrapped in Moya (Photo: Charlotte Slingsby)

...or even to cover buildings from bottom to top.

And that's a close-up look at Moya (Photo: Charlotte Slingsby)

And that's a close-up look at the material -- each Moya comprises of thousands of free standing filaments, each of them is embedded with a flexible piezoelectric film that converts strain energy, caused by the movement of the wind, into electrical energy