When we think of hydroelectric power, chances are, massive dams are the first thing that comes to mind. But rivers can generate usable amounts of electricity without being dammed, and a new invention by third-year Cambridge University students proves it.

Dubbed the “FloDrive Turbine”, this portable underwater generator (which comes to us via Ecofriend) developed by Deniz Erkan, Li Jiang and Ned Stuart-Smith is easily installed in just about any flowing body of water, and produces 1 kW of electricity as a consequence of the natural current. The 500kg FloDrive Turbine does not require special infrastructure or equipment; however, it works best with a minimum flow rate of 1m/s and a uniform flow rate profile. It makes use of a brushless generator for increased robustness and reliability.

image via Ecofriend

This isn’t minor news in the world of hydroelectrics, as both dams and tidal generators–the two dominant technologies for electricity produced from water–require large commitments in terms of infrastructure and investment. The team that created the FloDrive Turbine sees it as a possible boon for the developing world, and if it poses no harm to river wildlife, we could see that being true. Apparently, a  number of university consultants have shown interest in purchasing this innovative product, but the Cambridge student team believes their design needs another year to become more efficient before going for commercialization.

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