A team of Brigham Young University students has found a better way to separate chaff from wheat with static electricity, a process that could help developing nations.
The device is the 100th project for Capstone, a hands-on approach to engineering and manufacturing developed six years ago through the departments of mechanical engineering, manufacturing engineering, engineering technology and the industrial design program in the visual arts department.Ezra C. Lundahl Inc., a manufacturer of farm machinery, asked BYU to develop a machine that separates wheat and chaff for harvesting with a combine.
Students took Lundahl's idea that static electricity could be used in harvesting and built on it by experimenting with a Van De Graff generator to electrostatically charge the wheat and chaff. The density of the wheat affected its ability to take a charge, so it moved slower than the chaff. The team used its new knowledge to create a prototype machine that separates the wheat in a much simpler manner than current equipment - and to produce the charge only requires a simple battery.
"The significance of this machine is what impact it will have on developing nations that cannot afford huge farm equipment," said associate professor Spencer Mag-leby, co-director of Capstone.