The Firewinder® was inspired and developed by Tom Lawton, a young British inventor from the West Country in the UK.
Since childhood, Tom dreamed of being able to see the wind, which would whistle and howl outside his window as it weaved through the trees in his garden. Some years later Tom wondered if it was possible to transform the wind into light by means of a standalone and affordable garden product – to create a beautiful spiral of light; giving hope to a world, which sometimes appears to be doomed by its own environmental disregard. In 2001, Tom conceived his first designs and began to research and develop a solution.
Tom hopes to be able to inspire people to think about the invisible beauty, awesome power and endless resource of the alternative energies which encircle us.
Tom formed The Firewinder Company and set about proving his concept. After years of effort, Tom successfully turned wind into light and patented his invention. In autumn 2008 The Firewinder Company will finally start shipping Firewinder®, a single, stand-alone product, which is affordable and accessible to everyone.
Tom’s dream is for Firewinder® to be adopted as an international symbol of sustainability throughout the world.
Technical obstacles overcome
Turning wind into light may sound simple, almost as though it could have been achieved two hundred years ago, but making the technology actually work in an affordable product where wind is ‘instantly’ transformed into light – even in low winds (as well as being funded on a shoe-string!) was always going to be a challenge.
Researching Faraday’s discoveries of electromagnetic induction (1831) while applying Maxwell’s principals of electromagnetism (1864) to construction of efficient electric generators, combined with Savonius’s designs for a simple vertical axis wind turbine (1922) and advanced developments in the latest LED technologies, led to a 12-month independently-funded, proof-of-concept programme to develop a working prototype – many prototypes later and the concept was realised.
In addition to Tom’s blood, sweat and tears, the development involved the expertise of numerous world-class professionals, including a professor of Aerodynamics from Bristol University, a specialist electronic system design consultant and a leading consultant in environmental management & sustainable product design. Aeon Ventures provided funding and extensive support which proved invaluable while the initial concept was transformed into a market-ready commercial product. Now, seven years after the first concepts were generated, with product ready for shipping in autumn 2008, the Firewinder Revolution can begin.
Naturally inspired aesthetics and design
Firewinder’s distinctive ‘self-illuminated’ spiral combines the natural twist of DNA and the awesome spiral of the Helix Nebula – an astrological firework show created by the death of a sun-like star.
While the aesthetics have been primarily influenced by the aerodynamic performance of the product, it was important to create a universally appealing form, which would fit in well with any outdoor environment; for this, inspiration was drawn from the naturally spiralling geometry of plants & shells, as well as a few seeds, insects and a ‘living fossil’ called the Nautilus.
In the daylight and when the wind isn’t blowing, the product looks unobtrusive. But at night and when the wind blows, Firewinder® creates a silent wind-powered firework show, illuminating an amazing ‘never-ending’ and completely mesmerising upward spiral of light.
Superior performance and safety
The performance of Firewinder’s efficient aerodynamics, contact-less generator and utilisation of the latest LED technology enable the product to harness a light breeze of 4-7 mph (Beaufort Scale Force 2) in order to begin creating the desired lighting effect.
Firewinder’s unique design harnesses the wind, no matter which direction it blows from.
Firewinder’s soft flowing edges were specially designed to make the product safe to use in close (but not touching!) proximity to people and animals (unlike conventional wind turbines, which use sharp, fast turning blades and mostly only work when the wind blows in a particular direction).
Evoking the good spirits
In September 2006, Tom travelled to Java in Indonesia where he was lucky enough to experience sunrise at Borabador, the world’s largest Buddhist temple. There, he met and shared his design ideas with a Buddhist teacher, who took considerable interest in the Firewinder’s creation and had only one suggestion to improve on the design – ‘the Firewinder® must turn clockwise to evoke the good spirits’. With this most important and insightful snippet, Tom re-engineered the mechanical design and every Firewinder® now spins in a clockwise direction, itself in turn calling forth on the good spirits, every time the wind blows.
One day, he plans to encircle one of the Holy Mountains of Bhutan, with a ring of Firewinders (with permission granted by the King).