One of the problems with traditional turbine generators is that they are only really efficient and cost-effective at large scales. They may be great for feeding the grid, but an efficient, cheap, and portable device to power your cell phone or charge a radio a wind turbine will never be. Shawn Frayne’s invention, the Windbelt, does not have this problem, and its mechanical simplicity makes you smack your head and wonder why this hadn’t been thought of before.

There’s no gearbox — just a thin belt strip stretched taught with a button magnet at one end. When the wind blows, the belt begins to oscillate, moving the magnet in and out of a coil to generate an AC current.

Shawn’s Windbelt was one of the award winners in Popular Mechanics’ 2007 Breakthrough Awards. They have a video of him discussing his invention and using the prototype and a few dollars worth of electronics to power some LEDs and a clock. He hopes that cheap Windbelt-powered LED lighting will eventually be able to provide an environmentally sound and easily serviceable home-lighting alternative in developing nations. It’s such a brilliantly simple design. You can probably build one yourself before the weekend is through.

Windbelt, Cheap Generator Alternative, Set to Power Third World – Link