Apple’s patent filings today reveal one concept outside their usual product-focused applications, detailing a method for harnessing wind power in a manner different from that employed in traditional turbines. Electricity gathered from a wind turbine would be converted to heat energy and stored in a “low-heat capacity fluid” in Apple’s patent, allowing it to be tapped on an as-needed basis whenever the wind dies down.
It all gets pretty technical, but painted in broad strokes, the system would potentially use the motion of the rotor shaft moving against a “low-heat capacity fluid” (such as ethanol or mercury, for instance) to generate heat through friction between the two surfaces. This can then be transferred from the storage fluid to a working fluid which is then boiled off to release steam. The steam powers a turbine, converting the energy to usable form.
Apple’s system differs from basic wind-power generators that are highly subject to variances in wind power, as well as systems that use batteries to store energy made through rotational energy for later use when wind isn’t actively making that much power. Instead, it is designed to make wind power available on a more “on-demand” basis, which is of significant importance for facilities requiring a constant, uninterrupted power supply. That likely explains why Apple is pursuing this kind of tech: Its massive data centers have huge power requirements, and the company has stated its commitment to harnessing wind, solar and other alternative energy sources to help keep these facilities running smoothly.
So far, Apple has been working mostly on building solar farms and biogas generators to help fulfill its energy needs at data center locations like the one it has in Maiden, NC, and competitor Google recently revealed that it has powered a data center with wind power for the first time.
In a second filing published today, Apple is back on track with its more consumer-oriented patents, this time detailing an evolution of the mouse that would bring more gesture controls to the input device. The additions would allow a mouse to detect tilting, tilt-sliding, lifting and other gestures to add additional command capabilities to the mouse’s basic clicking, movement and scrolling. It’s sort of a Wii Remote-lite, which is likely an easier control paradigm for traditional desktop computer users to adopt than anything more drastic.
This is interesting is because Apple is still showing an interest in iterating on its input device design, which still requires a lot of improvement. The Magic Mouse, while promising with its multitouch surface, is in practice a frustrating device to use. Apple traditionally hasn’t done great with mice, and it’ll be interesting to see if it can do any better while adding motion control into the mix, if this patent ever turns into a shipping product.