Billionaire Peter Thiel is already trying to create all sorts of zany things: 3-D printed meat, reconstructed brain tissue, antimatter-fueled spaceships and more. Now he wants to harness tornadoes. To produce energy.
Thiel's Breakout Labs has awarded Louis Michaud’s company AVEtec $300,000 to research tornado power.
Michaud is a Canadian electrical engineer and entrepreneur. His idea is to create a power plant add-on that would tap into the waste heat generated at a regular gas- or coal-fired power plant. The add-on would work by blowing hot air into a hollow cylinder at a sharp angle, which would cause a swirling air current in the cylinder. Hot air rises, so the circular current would rotate upward. The temperature difference between the warm incoming air and cooler air above it would continually feed the vortex, which would suck in hot air rapidly at its base. This controlled tornado would spin other turbines, which would be used to create more electricity. The heat could also come from solar panels or warm water, Michaud says.