Whipping up investment

By Cathy Dobson,  from www.theobserver.ca   The Observer

A Sarnia inventor has attracted financing from California to develop a tornado-like vortex that he believes could be the answer to cheap and plentiful power.

Louis Michaud learned this week he is the first non-American recipient of a grant from the Thiel Foundation, named for billionaire Peter Thiel, who is PayPal’s founder and the first outside investor in Facebook.

Michaud will receive $300,000 to build a prototype of an invention he calls an atmospheric vortex engine, which is expected to generate controlled 40-metre high mini tornados.

“It feels good,” said the retired Imperial Oil engineer. “I’ve pursued this for 40 years and this is our first grant.”

Michaud said he hopes to partner with Lambton College and build the prototype outdoors at the school with input from professors and students.

He has previously built two prototypes, one in his garage and one in Petrolia, but this one will be much larger, with an eight-metre diameter, and will drive a small turbine at its base.

“It will generate a small amount of power, enough to light a light bulb,” Michaud said.

By building his next prototype at the college, he hopes to publish articles that will provide the credibility needed to attract investors with pockets deep enough to finance a commercial model.

Michaud said the best case scenario would be that a prototype at Lambton College could lead to the construction of a full-size atmospheric vortex engine with a 40-metre diameter.

Cost to build a commercial model is estimated at $10 million.

“Once it’s running it requires no fuel and can produce electrical energy for as little as three cents per kilowatt hour,” Michaud said. “That’s less than half of the cost of the least expensive alternative.”

The vortex engine is “perfectly green” technology and would alleviate global warming by reducing the quantity of fuel required to meet energy needs, he said.

This week’s grant announcement is a big vote of confidence for Michaud who has taken his share of rejection.

The Ontario Centres of Excellence turned down his grant application Tuesday, just one day after he learned about the Thiel Foundation money.

Thiel’s foundation established a fund called Breakout Labs just last year that is providing the funding to Michaud’s AVEtec Energy company.

Breakout Labs focuses on “audacious scientific exploration” and requires some payback if the resulting technology is successful.


• Warm air from either solar energy or waste industrial heat is fed into a circular structure, causing the warm moist air to spin as it rises.

• It forms an “anchored” tornado-like vortex.

• The higher the tornado travels, the greater the difference in temperature between top and bottom, creating an ever-increasing force capable of spinning electricity-generating turbines installed at the base.

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