The generators that are being used today can be traced back to a simple device invented by British physicist Micheal Faraday in 1831. It was then made of a tube, wire, and a bar magnet with cotton insulation. From then to now there have been many advancements in the generator technology. Though the speed of innovation in this industry is not as fast as other industries it has not lagged behind too much either.
Generators and types:
Generators are backup power sources that become the primary power supply in case of power outages. Before learning more about the latest advancements in generators it is essential to know what is a generator and what are the different types available in the market. There are three main types of generators.
- Portable generators
- Inverter generators
- Standby generators
Portable generator: This is a backup power source that is run on fuel like gas or diesel and can provide electricity to homes temporarily. Some of the features it provides are:
- Uses a combustion engine to produce electricity
- Electrical appliances can be powered through the sockets present in generators
- Can run large home appliances like AC, TV, refrigerator, etc and also be used for lights and power tools
- There are various power output options available and the buyer can calculate power requirements and buy one with the required capacity.
- Can be hooked to the subpanels of main circuit
- Due to its portability, it can be used in remote sites, campsites, etc
- They are small in size and can be carried in the trunk of a car
- They have handles fitted and also wheels which help to move it from one place to another
- It is useful as a backup source in case of storms, earthquakes or other such natural disasters when the main power line is no longer functional.
Inverter generator: It uses fossil fuels to run the combustion engine. The energy is produced through electromagnetic induction where mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy. It is a step up from the conventional generator that needs the engine to run at a speed of 3600 rpm to produce electricity irrespective of the load. But the inverter generator is such that the AC has to be converted to DC and stored in an inverter battery which converts into AC and powers the wall outlets. The power generated from the inverter generator is clean and free of fluctuations and hence can be used by sensitive appliances like the ones used in hospitals too.
Some of the features of inverter generators are:
- They are portable and are very quiet with very less noise
- They are small in size and lightweight
- They are more fuel-efficient than normal generators
- Can run appliances for a longer time
- Is safe for use on all types of appliances
Standby generators: These are generators that are permanently installed at home and provides automatic backup when the main power supply shuts down. If you are looking for a generator for sale then this is the one that you need to invest on. These generators are placed outside just like an AC unit and deliver power to the home’s main power supply unit. This device has an automatic transfer switch that powers up a device when there is a power outage. Some of the characteristics of a standby generator are:
- Gives power protection permanently
- Automatically switches to a backup source when there is an outage
- Operates on natural gas or liquid propane
- Conducts self-tests to check if it can react to a power loss properly
- Monitors the main power constantly
- Mainly used in safety systems like elevators, life support systems, fire protection systems, etc.
New technologies for generators
Domestic generators were invented so that the lights and other important appliances run even when there is a power cut. There are many drawbacks of generators, a standby generator may automatically switch from the main power supply to backup but it can put a lot of stress on the appliances. Whereas in the case of portable generators they have to be hooked up which takes time to install. Moreover, the generator’s control panel has to be monitored to know that it is working properly.
To overcome the above-mentioned drawbacks, the following latest technology has been used:
Direct power installation technology: It is a new method to install the standby generators in case of failure in the main lines. It helps to lessen the installation time span by close to 60% and thus power backup is up and running in less time than before.
Wireless monitoring system: The generator’s control panel has to be monitored to check the performance which is a hassle for consumers. But with the new wireless monitoring device, the monitor audits the performance and other activities and sends messages to your mobile, laptop or any internet-enabled device.
Power Management Systems: When there is a power outage and the backup generator kicks in the power will not be evenly distributed to some appliances and parts of your house. Due to this uneven distribution, some appliances get more power and others less than what is mandated which can damage the appliances. The Power Management system is a viable solution where it ensures that all the equipment gets the required power without the need for any manual intervention.
Carbon Monoxide(CO) sensing and auto shutdown technology: These days generators come with a sensor that can detect the leakage or buildup of CO over the optimal limit. Though generators are supposed to be kept in well-ventilated spaces, more often people ignore this, thereby risking leakage. These CO sensors will automatically shut down the generator when these gases are detected and this latest safety technology is a critical one which is a must-have in all generators.
Use of natural gas: The use of natural gas for the generator is not new but it has gained popularity in the past few years. There are several reasons for it and some of them are
- The reduction in prices of natural gas and the increase in the price of diesel
- The production of natural gas has increased and hence there is easy availability
- The power generated by this type of fuel is cleaner, efficient and less expensive compared to other non-renewable fuels.
- It does not produce a bad odor which is usually generated by diesel or oil
Generator controllers: A generator has complex machinery inside a seemingly simple-looking device. It needs an easy user interface so that its operations can be monitored for efficient working and also if there is a need for intervention. The electrical signals that are produced by these generators vary due to various reasons like overheating, weather conditions, wear and tear of parts, etc. These signals need to be controlled so that the machine performs optimally. To accommodate such control, controllers are used which detect the changes and produce signals accordingly. Modern generators that use the latest technology have such sensors that detect the changes and display them on a control panel.
Emerging technologies that can power the future
Use of sodium and solar energy to generate electricity: This unique engine has no movable parts and is called the Thermo ElectroChemical Converter that uses solar energy to make sodium redox reaction which results in less heat leakage and more efficiency. There are other technologies like the flexible charging pump being developed. But this technology can use the sun’s energy to generate power that can be used at home. Not just the sun, it can also use biomass, natural gas as fuel and the engine can be placed in the backyard and power an entire house.
Radio waves recycling: This technology which initially started off with the potential to generate watts from a TV channel can now recycle radio waves from Wi-Fi, cellular signals, electronic devices and harvest the power. The technology has the ability to receive signals of various frequency ranges through its antennas, has charge pumps that can maximize charging, circuitry uses origami principles to change its shape as per the electromagnetic signals. The technology can also use other energy forms like vibration, solar, kinetic energy, etc.
Energy generation through friction: There are a few researchers who are working on producing electricity through friction. This is an energy source that had been ignored until now, but now engineers are working to produce mechanical energy that can be used by generators to operate small devices. The system uses human movement to first charge a capacitor and then transfer the energy to a battery. Even a few seconds of rubbing palms can generate power that can open a wireless car lock. The technology is being developed to convert other sources of energy like wind, waves of the ocean, tire rotation, etc to electric signals that can be used by generators.
Though slow to start off with, generators technology is slowly but surely progressing at a rapid rate making up for the slow start and helping generators become cleaner and more efficient.