Category Archives: Inventions

Atredyne – A hydroelectric generator with no moving parts

Awhile back I lay awake at night thinking about the environmental impact of hydroelectric power, which despite being relatively “green” still negatively impacts the life cycle of many fish species, including Atlantic Salmon.  The major problem with modern hydropower is the dams.  They disrupt spawning routes for adult fish and can kill the baby fish that are headed back downstream to the ocean.

I ran through a number of possibilities for taking dams out of the hydropower process.  The problem with turbines (turbos + dynamos or “fast-moving power”) is that they need the water to be moving rapidly in order to generate power effectively.  That’s where the dam comes in.  The height of the dam raises the water to create “head”, so that the water can fall onto the turbine at high speed.  However, you can also generate head by diverting water into ducts farther upstream and letting the water “fall” through the ducts for a long distance.

Of course, ducting can still suck in baby fish and it can certainly get clogged up with tree limbs and junk in the river.   As a solution to that, I considered magnetohydrodynamism, in which water would be ionized and passed through an electromagnetic hoop.  Remember the book and/or movie The Hunt for Red October?  We’re talking about the same principal in reverse, so water flowing through to make power instead of power flowing through to move water.

Of course, you still have to ionize the water in order to use magnetohydrodynamism.   Poo.

Considering that problem, I thought about passing the water over a fine network of wires so that the triboelectric effect (or something similar) would cause the water to pick up electrons from the wires.  This is similar to how a Van de Graaff generator picks up a static charge from a moving belt.  Of course, in order for new water to steal electrons from the wires, we would have to ground the wires to someplace where they could get fresh electrons.


Water flowing over the end of a grounded wire generates a current, albeit a very small one!

Of course, that seemed way to good to be true, so the next day I got out a digital multimeter and connected one probe to the faucet in my bathroom sink and placed the other in the water streaming from the spout.  Nothing.

Duh.  I’d set the measurement too coarsely.  Dialing down to millivolts, I quickly registered -105 or so.  Negative?  Oh, I had the probes on backwards.  Again, duh.

Fixing that, I registered a constant charge of about 100 millivolts.  Unfortunately, my multimeter didn’t register below a deciamp, so I couldn’t measure the current, but I thought that it was probably in the milliamp range as well.

Excited, I ran out to the kitchen to show my wife.  I attached a probe to the kitchen faucet and then stuck the other into the water.  Bingo- 110mv!  Wait…  Why is the voltage falling?  0mv?!  WTF?

Looking inside the cabinet, I noticed that my kitchen sink was connected with plastic pipes, while my bathroom faucet had copper pipes that were grounded all the way to the supply inlet.  Of course, I was exhausting the available electrons in my kitchen faucet because they couldn’t replenish as quickly!

So, I dragged my wife to the bathroom and showed here there.  Huzzah!

Alright, storytime is over.

The point here is that my multimeter was the first “Atredyne” (from the Greek for “stationary power”).  I spent a few years after that eureka moment trying to set aside time to develop it into a useful invention, but the truth is I’m not good at that sort of thing.  I was being selfish and keeping a potentially important power source to myself instead of sharing it.  If Ben Franklin could give away the idea for the Lightning Rod and the Franklin Stove, I can give away the Atredyne.

So…  I hereby place the Atredyne, the principals thereof, and my descriptions of possible refinements, options, and uses into the Public Domain.  This means that the basic idea of an atredyne cannot be patented, nor can any of the concepts I’ve described here.  That said, any further improvements on these basic ideas are patentable and that’s what I want YOU to do.  Take the information I’ve included here and make something better.

Remember, an atredyne can theoretically pull power from any moving fluid, so you’re not limited to water.  Oils, molten materials, even air can strip electrons from a conductor.  Perhaps you could develop a “tree” with atredyne “needles” that generates power from the breeze.  Maybe you could run atredynes inside of pipes, increasing the efficiency of power plants, or even generating power every time someone takes a shower.

Perhaps you could put gazillions of tiny atredynes on a chip.  After all, diodes and rectifiers could help you control the direction of current flow and wiring in parallel or in series might increase the voltage and/or amperage.  Putting all of those things together in a tiny package might make it easier for you to get your atredynes where they need to go.

Certainly, printing atredynes on a chip could reduce manufacturing costs.  Heck, maybe they could enhance computer performance by simultaneously lowering electrical demand and speeding cooling.

Speaking of atredynes going somewhere, what if you could cover the tires and skin of a car with atredynes so that the one end pulled in electrons and the other pulled them out?  Maybe you could get a little more range out of your electric car.  Or not.  It’s just a thought.

Anyway, enjoy the atredyne.  I’ve spent too long dreaming up uses and not long enough figuring out the practical stuff.  So, stop reading about atredynes and go get rich!