Hey! This thing is still a Work in Progress. Files, instructions, and other stuff might change!

Portable WInd Powered USB Charger

by TheSoup Jul 27, 2015
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While an electric motor is essentially the same as an electric generator, they are made differently and as such in practice you will experience more problems with an electric motor used as a generator than a rotor-based device designed to generate electricity. Generators typically have a speed governor which limits how fast the rotor can turn, which in turn prevents them from overheating, melting, and sometimes catching on fire. Commercial wind turbines have a speed governor. You may be able to implement a governor using that suggested gearing system as an external fix, solving both your power production and Halt And Catch Fire problems at the same time..

I'm working on a similar project. I had larger blades, but when I saw your portable charger, I decided to change my design.
I think I can improve your used electronics, first tests on mine were successfull. Based on the comments, I think your turbine doesn't work well.

Keep you updated.

The problem is really just that the cups are too small. They can't get enough wind to generate enough of a voltage to charge the phone. There are a number of ways to improve it. I think the easiest way would be to just increase the cup size, stack several of them, or use pulleys/gears to get a better speed ratio. You could try using better electronics too, but I think the best way to make a difference would be choosing a different motor, probably one with a lower RPM. I just used what I had on hand, and just really haven't had a chance to go back and work on this since then.

Does anyone have an estimate on the amount of filament needed to print this? All pieces included.


This is soooo cool and i am making it right now.
I bought the red circuit and i am wondering if the wires have to be in a certain way?

I have the exact same problem! I bought the red 3v to 5v and connected the red to positive and the black to negative. I tried blowing on the fan, but the light wouldn't light up. I have no clue what is happening. I even went as far as trying a different motor but I had no luck. Please help us with this issue!!

any recent work on this? any new updates?

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Is there any way you could hook up several LEDs to this that light up based on speed? For example, a 5 mph wind lights up the first led, a 10 mph wind lights up the second, etc.

or maybe a way to convert the voltage to wind speed on a digital readout?

I'm not circuit-savvy

A simple way to do this would be to use a voltmeter kit that uses an LED bar graph, in addition to the usual numeric display. Then you line up the bar graph with some paper and work out which speeds produce which voltages. As I mentioned in another comment, motors will burn up and sometimes catch fire if too much speed is applied, so you may want to govern how fast the rotor spins while generating the electricity with a gearing system.

That would be a cool addition, im not a circuitry talent myself but I would think it would like like this:
If LED lights are connected in series, the total amperage should be a constant and the voltage should be higher for every LED added. Sooo if you choose the LED's in such a way (or add resistors in a way I can't think of right now) that you need the max voltage output from the motor to power all say 5 LED's, then if the motor starts giving less then max voltage there won't be enough power for all LED's and since they are in series I think they will start dying out one by one.

Im hyped about this thing, if Ive made one and figured out the LED idea ill post a remix :)

Does anyone know the dimensions of the fan part as in size

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did you get the cups to bite onto the motor shaft because my cups aren't biting on the shaft and its just spinning around the cups. I know from prior knowledge that super glue wont work because it doesn't grip to the steel

Walking through the University library and see to seperate people looking at this object !!

It might be worth trying Adafruit's MintyBoost in place of the USB power controller you currently use. It has the necessary resistor network to provide higher power to devices like iPhones. And while you COULD use the MintyBoost as nothing more than a real-time power manager you could really jack up the utility of your power harvesting designs by using something to store power, be it a supercap, LiIon pack, alkalines, NiMHs, or whatever.

VERY nice work! PLEASE continue to rev it, and I very much look forward to your other designs!

Thanks. And yea, I've just been away all weekend and been busy with work and working on a solar powered version (just a lot of experimenting with different panels and different set ups to see which ones are the most effective right now), so I haven't gotten too much time to work on this lately. I do want to rig up some kind of pulley system to increase the RPM of the motor so I can up the voltage a bit, and ideally it'll run to a battery system like you suggested and I'll put a switch just to turn it on to start charging. I will check out the MintyBoost like you suggested though, I don't know if I'll use those pieces for this design, but at least for the sake of getting better ideas of how I can wire the whole thing.

Now that the Catch The Wind challenge is done I do think I'm gong to focus on the solar powered version a little more first since it'll be a little easier to work on in my spare time while I'm busy with work.

cool idea and design! perhaps try some sort of crankshaft for the winder?

This is very cool, but I have some questions:

  1. How do you know what voltage is being produced (I did notice that you plan on incorporating a voltage regulator)?
  2. Where does the current go if the battery in your phone is already fully charged?
  3. How much current can it produce? Is this something that would charge a cellphone in an hour? 4 hours? a day?

So the reason I chose that particular USB port at first is because it is supposed to automatically regulate the voltage to 5 volts if you input between 2.5 and 6 volts. Since the motor is a 6 volt motor I figured that would make the circuit as simple as possible, however when I put a multi-meter to the motor I was definitely getting less than 2.5 volts out of it, so to be entirely honest, I don't know what exactly is coming out quite yet. The Voltage regulator I bought, which is coming tomorrow, has an LED display which will clearly indicate what is coming in and what is going out, so that will give me a much better idea of what voltage is coming in and going out.

My understanding is that the electricity will likely turn into heat if it has nowhere else to go. I doubt the heat it produces will be enough to melt your battery or anything unless you leave it for a VERY long time (like days at a time after it's been fully charged), but running the power to a portable charger and then having that go to your phone once it's charged definitely isn't the worst idea ever.

Considering the voltage is almost definitely pretty low right now, it's definitely not going to be the fastest way to charge a phone, and like I said, I haven't been able to successfully test it to a phone yet. My plan was more to run it to a portable phone charger I have (I'll link to the one at the end of the comment), and I know it does charge that battery, however I haven't had a chance to charge it all the way yet. It would also depend on how much wind you're getting, whether it's constant the whole time, etc.

I do wish I had more solid answers for you, but this is still more of a prototype than a fully completed market-ready machine.

Honestly, the other factor is that wind simply isn't the most effective way to produce energy at smaller sizes like this since the turbine isn't large enough to catch as much wind as is ideal, hence you don't see a lot of wind powered phone chargers for sale either. I do like wind though since it's easy and very cheap to produce, which is why I want to make this work, I just have some more progress to make, and I am open to any suggestions.

I am still working on a hand cranked and solar powered version (solar panels are also coming tomorrow), and those will probably be a little bit more reliable right off the bat since the output will be more steady.

This is the portable charger that I use, just in case you might find it useful:

Hi Anthony, cool concept! It's been a little while and I'm wondering if you ever got back to this project. In particular I'm wondering if there is an alternative motor that might work better. I do think that the size of this unit is a big limiting factor but I'm printing it as is to try to prove the concept for myself before scaling up. My printer supports 10x8x8 prints there is some room to grow.

It would be helpful to know what kind of voltages you are getting from the motor directly and from the voltage regulator to see how tenable the project is.

Hey, to be honest I haven't done a ton of actual work on this project lately. I've been taking a few circuitry classes, so I wanted to hold off on this until I learned a little more. As it is, I was able to get between 1 and 2 volts at the highest speed. directly out of the motor. I've tried using higher RPM motors before, but they tend to generate less power per spin. What I really need to do is work out some kind of belt or gear system to get a higher RPM out of the generator. It's a 6V motor, so hypothetically it could get to around 6 volts if I could get the RPM high enough, but since the USB plugs I used were designed to step up the voltage, it only needs like half of that. I have a couple of ideas as to how I could do this, mainly I want to try using ball bearings to minimize the friction between the moving parts. I also want to find a good battery I could attach to it, and a switch, so that you could just leave it out and have a battery fully charged.

I also want to be careful to keep the cost of building one as low as possible in order to make sure it's practical to use over a regular wall outlet charger. I do still have a bit more to learn, but I definitely haven't forgotten about this, I've still been doing a bit of work on a solar powered version too, but just like this one, I want to wait until I'm more comfortable with my knowledge of electronics before I post more designs.