In 2004 Shawn Frayne travelled to Haiti and noticed that the small fishing village of Petite Anse was not connected to an electrical grid. This left residents dependent on diesel and kerosene for lighting, at a cost of US $5-$10 per month, a huge sum for most families. Frayne was inspired to find an inexpensive and reliable alternative that would enable residents to harvest energy on their own. After a series of unsatisfying experiments with solar cells and microturbines, he remembered a film he had seen in a physics class about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State, which famously collapsed in 1940 due to powerful vibrations caused by the wind.
Frayne’s invention, an elegant device small and light enough to hold in your hand, harnesses this effect, known as “aeroelastic flutter,” by using tensioned membranes to capture small pockets of wind energy. The membranes oscillate magnets linearly past wire coils, creating an electrical flow.
Today, Frayne continues to explore clean energy alternatives through his companies Humdinger Wind Energy, LLC and Haddock Invention. Recent projects include the Solar Pocket Factory, a small machine that could enable local, cost-effective production of micro solar panels.