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Title:
AIR FLOW GENERATOR
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2008/012564
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An airflow generator (1) is described, comprising an elongated tube (2) having a plurality of apertures (3A,..., 31) along its length and a fan (5) at one end of the tube (2) adapted to blow ambient air down the tube so that airflow passes down the tube and out of the tube through said apertures. The generator is primarily intended for personal cooling.

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Inventors:
BUXTON, Andrew Charles (Charwell House, Alton, Hampshire GU34 2PP, GB)
BUXTON, Jillian Mary (Charwell House, Alton, Hampshire GU34 2PP, GB)
Application Number:
GB2007/050287
Publication Date:
January 31, 2008
Filing Date:
May 23, 2007
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
BUXTON, Andrew Charles (Charwell House, Alton, Hampshire GU34 2PP, GB)
BUXTON, Jillian Mary (Charwell House, Alton, Hampshire GU34 2PP, GB)
International Classes:
F24F7/06
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SAUNDERS & DOLLEYMORE (9 Rickmansworth Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JU, GB)
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Claims:

CLAIMS

1. An airflow generator comprising an elongated tube having a plurality of apertures along its length and a fan at one end of the tube adapted to blow ambient air down the tube so that airflow passes down the tube and out of the tube through said apertures.

2. An airflow generator as claimed in Claim 1 wherein the tube is compressible.

3. An airflow generator as claimed in Claim 2 wherein the tube comprises a flexible tube of material and one or more parts enabling axial compression.

4. An airflow generator as claimed in Claim 3 wherein the parts comprise a spiral member or wire mounted to the flexible tube or a plurality of spaced apart hoops.

5. An airflow generator as claimed in any preceding claim formed from a plurality of sections which are telescoped together to enable compaction of the generator.

6. An airflow generator as claimed in any preceding claim wherein the apertures are in the form of slots spaced along the length of the tube.

7. An airflow generator as claimed in any preceding claim including a pouch adapted to receive the tube and fan when in a compressed disposition for storage or transport.

8. An airflow generator as claimed in any preceding claim including means for controlling the speed of the fan.

9. An airflow generator as claimed in any preceding claim including means for suspending the airflow generator from the ceiling or other surface such as the fan, when suspended, lies proximal to the ground.

10. An airflow generator as claimed in Claim 9 wherein the suspension means comprises a drawstring.

1 1. An airflow generator as claimed in any preceding claim including timer means.

12. An airflow generator as claimed in any preceding claims including means for enabling the fan to have a 'soft stop' in which its power is gradually reduced from an on to an off mode so as to minimise the chances of a user arousing from a sleep.

13. An airflow generator as claimed in any preceding claims wherein the fan includes a fan guard upstream and downstream of a fan.

14. An airflow generator as claimed in any preceding claims including means for placing a component into the air path between the fan and the slots, which component includes means for introducing a fragrance, water or other liquid or other substance into the airflow.

15. A method of cooling one or more persons, comprising providing an airflow generator as claimed in any preceding claim, positioning the generator in such a position that airflow from the apertures acts upon the user and actuating the airflow generator.

16. A method as claimed in Claim 15 including mounting the generator on the underside of a desk or workstation to cool a person working at the desk or workstation.

17. A method as claimed in Claim 15 comprising suspending the airflow generator from a ceiling or other support.

18. A method as claimed in Claim 17 wherein the airflow generator is suspended from the end of the tube which is distal from the fan.

19. A method as claimed in Claim 18 wherein the tube is suspended by a drawstring.

20. A method as claimed in any of Claims 15 to 18 including the provision of a soft stop mode in which the fan speed is gradually reduced from an on to an off position so as to minimise the likelihood of a user being woken from a sleep.

21. A method of use of an airflow generator substantially as hereinbefore described.

Description:

Air Flow Generator

The present invention relates to an airflow generator, especially to generate a flow of air past a human body to promote comfort in hot environments.

When living in hot climates it is often difficult to sleep. One reason for this can be a lack of airflow across the body to evaporate sweat to cool the body down. It can also be uncomfortable when not sleeping particularly when the surrounding air is still, e.g. due to lack of wind.

It has been known to use a fan to create an airflow to cool a person, but the airflow generated by a small fan is only in a localised area, and large fans consume relatively large amounts of power. Fans can also by noisy.

The invention seeks to provide a solution to this problem

According to the present invention there is provided an airflow generator comprising: a) an elongate tube having a plurality of apertures along its length, and b) a fan at one end of the tube adapted to blow ambient air down the tube, in use the elongate tube may be placed adjacent or in the vicinity of a person so that airflow passed down the tube and then out of the tube through said apertures to cool a person.

The elongate tube may be of a flexible material such as an impermeable fabric with a plurality of apertures. It may preferably be compressible so as to have a compact storage and transfer mode and an extended 'in-use' mode. This may be achieved by means such as a plurality of spaced rigid hoops, arranged within the tube so that the arranged tube can compact and expand in a concertina fashion, or by a spiral or helix of a relatively rigid material arranged within the fabric or other flexible tube, so that the tube can compress and expand by compression or expansion of the spiral, or otherwise.

The elongate tube may be formed from a plurality of sections which can be assembled into a tube. The sections may be telescoping sections whereby the elongate tube sections can be telescoped together to compact the airflow generator for storage and transport. The sections may be cylinders or tapering cylinders.

The apertures may be in the form of slots. If the tube comprises a plurality of sections, the sections can rotate relative to each other whereby aperture/s in one section may be orientated in a different configuration to apertures in another section when the tube is assembled.

Preferably at least part of the airflow generator has a flat section to prevent the tube from rotating when lying on a surface.

Preferably the fan is mounted in a housing at one end of the elongate tube. The housing may include a flat section. The housing may rotate relative to the elongate tube.

Preferably control means are provided to control the speed of the fan. The control means may include a remote controller. The control means can include a timer to limit the time the fan can run.

The fan may be battery, solar, mains powered, powered by Kinetic energy from a wind- up mechanism or otherwise.

A connector may be provided to support the airflow generator from a hook or cord.

In a further aspect the invention provides a method of cooling one or more persons, comprising providing an airflow generator as described, positioning the generator in such a position that airflow from the apertures acts upon the user and actuating the airflow generator.

The invention further includes any one or more of the novel features or combination of features or method steps disclosed herein.

Embodiments of the invention will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 shows a perspective view of the generator in use with tube sections telescoped apart,

Figure 2 shows a perspective view of the generator in a storage position with sections telescoped together;

Figure 3 shows a fan,

Figure 4 shows a tube assembly,

Figure 5 shows parts of the tube assembly,

Figures 6(a) to (g) shows some alternative aperture arrangements

Figure 7 shows an airflow generator mounted under a desk or work station

Figure 8 shows a vertically arranged airflow generator, and

Figure 9 shows a storage pouch enclosing a compressed tube and control unit; and

Figure 10 shows an embodiment of a 'soft toy'.

Referring to the drawings there is shown an airflow generator 1.

One embodiment is shown in Figures 1 and 2.

Generator 1 has an elongate tube 2 formed from nine tapering cylindrical sections 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 21 which telescope out to an in use position shown in Figure 1 and telescope in to a compact storage and transport position as shown in Figure 2. Each section 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 21 has apertures in the form of slots 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E, 3F, 3G, 3H, 31 to create a plurality of apertures along the length of tube 2.

Each section can rotate relative to each other whereby, for example, slots 3B of section 2B can be orientated in an opposite direction to slots 3C of section 2C when the tube is telescoped out.

A housing 4 is provided at one end of tube 2 which contains a fan 5. Fan 5 is adapted to blow ambient air down the tube 2 and out through slots 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E, 3F, 3G, 3H, 31 as shown by the arrows.

Housing 4 is triangular in cross section and includes three flat surfaces 4A, 4B, 4C, one of which can rest on a surface to prevent the tube 2 from rotating when lying on a surface. The housing 4 is designed to rotate relative to the elongate tube 2, e.g. with section 2A engaging around an annular flange on the housing 4.

Control means are provided to control the speed of the fan and may include a timer to limit the time the fan can run. The control means may include switches 6 and/or a remote controller 7 with switches (e.g. operating on FR or Infra red technology). Fan 5 may be powered by rechargeable or normal batteries, e.g. stored in the housing 4, and/or it may be powered by the mains using a plug in type transformer 8 with lead and plug 8A which connect to a socket (not shown) on the housing. Remote controller 7 could be housed in a recess 9 at the end of section 21 remote from the housing 4.

A connector in the form of a rotating ring 10 adjacent housing 4 with eyes 1OA, 1OB, 1OC (1OC not visible) may be provided to support the airflow generator 1 from a hook or cord.

In use the elongate tube 1 can be placed adjacent to a person, e.g. on a bed on which a person is lying. The airflow passing down the tube and then out of the tube through the slots 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 3E, 3F, 3G, 3H, 31 will cool a person. Also the tube could be placed between two persons with some of the slots orientated in the direction of one person and some of the slots orientated in the direction of the other person.

Figure 3 shows a fan housing 4. Typically, this houses a fan 20 disposed adjacent to a number of slots 21 (forming a guard) allowing the airflow from the fan to be generated. It may also incorporate a power jack 22, control electronics, perhaps a control keypad and may also incorporate one or more lanyard fixing points 23. The fan is chosen to provide sufficient volumetric flow, when an account is taken of the resistance from the finger guards 21 , duct and

duct holes, to evaporate sweat from a skin surface thereby causing noticeably and/or measurable body cooling. The duct or tube is connected to the received air from the fan 20.

Control of the fan is such as to ensure safety of the user, and most preferably includes features such as automatic power cut offs in the event of over heating and/or jamming of the fan blades. In addition, warning, typically by LEDs or other means (not shown) maybe given for over voltage, low voltage or other conditions. Fan speed can be controlled in a number of steps to provide personal preference for cooling. A multi step timer may be included allowing a user, or perhaps a parent or carer to set cooling for a certain time period only, and this might include the possibility of 'constant' mode. Desirably, a 'soft stop' option is provided to cause the fan to slow from an operative mode to an off mode gradually without providing an audible cue which would arouse the user from the initial stages of sleep. All of these functions may be achieved by suitable microprocessors or controllers.

Most preferably, a finger guard is provided both upstream and downstream of the fan to prevent access to the fan blades 20. A flange is provided to attach the duct to the fen housing. The flange is able to rotate to allow the duct to be positioned according to personal preference.

The fan may be one which operates at a voltage of around 12 - 16 volts for example. This can be provided by means of battery power, such as dry cell batteries and these may be rechargeable batteries. Alternatively, power sources such as solar panel may be used or other means such as fuel cells, car batteries and so on. Alternatively, a wind-up mechanism could be used. Power might alternatively be derived from the mains via a small transformer.

Figure 4 shows an alternative duct or tube design which is made of a flexible material such as impermeable plastics or fabric material to form a flexible tube 30. In a typical example, this is around 1000mm in length. A suitable mechanism is provided within the tube to make it compressible or expandable at will. In the embodiment shown in Figure 4 this is by means of a spiral wire 31 sewn into the tube. This therefore acts as a kind of spring which maybe compressed or expanded by axial pressure. Thus, axial pressure along the tube causes

the wire 31 and thereby the tube 30 to axially compress and release of this pressure will allow the spiral 31 and thereby tube 30 to expand again.

The tube is open at a first end 32 for attachment of a 'control unit' (i.e. fan housing and its components 4). The other end of the tube 33 is closed and is most preferably connected to a separate storage pouch into which the tube, when compressed, together with the touch control unit, can be housed for storage and transportation. The storage pouch 34 is again of a flexible material but may fold inwards to receive the compressed tube and control units. A drawstring 35 is mounted around the circumference of the storage pouch to cause closure of the pouch when the tube is axially compressed.

The drawstring can also be used to suspend the cooler from, or a separate suspension means can be provided.

A plurality of vent holes 35 are provided along the length of the tube. The size, number and/or positioning of the holes is chosen to provide uniform, or near uniform, distribution of airflow. Note that the hole and the spring arrangement 31 are arranged so that the spring passes between vent holes and not across a hole. In one example, the holes are equally spaced and are of approximately 35 - 40mm in diameter for a tube of length 1000mm and internal diameter approximately 90mm. The storage pouch 34 maybe tapered as shown from an end adjacent to the tube of about 90mm to a maximum diameter of around 180mm, over a length of about 200mm.

The holes themselves may be either seamed, or heat treated or a grommet press fitted to prevent fraying. Fraying is to be avoided as this could provide a choking hazard to young children.

The ventilation holes may be provided by means of an air permeable panel running along the length of the tube, or in patches along the length of the duct.

The spiral coil 31 maybe attached securely to the fan housing at one end to support the weight of the fan housing, if the whole device is suspended by the duct alone. The means of securing the duct to the fan housing maybe by means such as an elasticated seam, a hook on the end of the coil, a lip or groove on the flange, by a compression fitting, or by Velcroâ„¢ tabs or rubber inserts, or otherwise.

In some embodiments, the duct maybe provided with a pocket, shown schematically at 36, which is accessible to the airflow and into which a perfumed fabric wad, sponge or similar means can be placed allowing the transfer of an aroma, scent or similar into the airflow. This can be used to introduce aromatherapy into the airflow or to introduce other types of chosen aromas. The positioning of the pouch in the Figure is schematic only. It can be positioned in any suitable location and may be closer to the seam (37, 38) or formed as part of this seam for example.

The pouch/pocket 34 may be formed of an additional piece of material into which the duct and fan housing can be stowed.

One or more drawstrings, handles or other means may be included along the length of the tube to cause or assist compression of the tube.

Figure 5 shows the three separate elements of the tube. It shows that the tube maybe formed of an elongated strip of material which has its long edges 37, 38 joined together at a seam 50 (Fig. 5) to form a tube. Tie laces 36 may be included, to form additional attachment points to support the duct against, for example, a tent spa, a desk (e.g. by sticky feet), fans on a cost, or otherwise. Figure 5 also shows an end cap 39 which blocks the end of the tube remote from the fan and the storage pouch 40 which is again formed by joining edges.

The holes may be formed in many different configurations. Some of these are shown in Figures 6(a) to 6(g) by way of example only, although many other configurations may be apparent. In Figure 6A the holes are formed as segments of a certain space along the tube and having a flat perpendicular to the longitude and axis of the tube. Figure 6B shows an

embodiment in which the holes have two arcuate edges to form a shape which has an axis which at an angle other than perpendicular or horizontal to the longitude or axis of the tube. Figure 6C shows the holes having a similar shape to Figure 6B but rotated. Figure 6D and Figure 6E show respective arrangements in which the holes are rectangular and Figure 6F shows an arrangement in which the holes are elliptical. Figure 6G shows a presently preferred embodiment of generally s-shaped slots. It will be appreciated that many other types of holes and configurations may be used and the precise hole and configuration may be chosen for particular airflow requirement. In Figures 6, the dashed line indicates the wire spiral spring 31. Note that this is positioned so that it does not interfere with airflow from the slots.

A primary use of the device is to provide a means of cooling a person, most preferably to a degree where that person can sleep comfortably in a hot or hot and humid climate. The device may be used in domestic and outdoor, tented, accommodation or other accommodation. The device can either be placed on bedding, possibly placed within the bedding, strapped to a travel cot or bed (i.e. hospital bed or other bed) or hung in close proximity to a child's cot or adults' bed, attached to a roofline spa or other fixing in a tent, in proximity to a car seat, attached to a child's pram or pushchair or in a boat or in many other situations. Typical users are infants or young children, pregnant women, back packers, military personal (especially when on operations in inclement climates), aid workers, senior citizens, refugees in refugee camps or other environments where cooling is not only desirable for comfort, but also to help reduce the risks of infection and the spreading of pathogens which thrive in warm and/or unsanitary environments, or of course for any other persons.

The device may be used by so called 'first responders' (i.e. ambulance crew, fire service etc) in the treatment of hypothermia or other conditions.

In all situations, the device works most efficiently when promoting evaporation of water from the skin surface.

Addition of tepid water to the skin surface is of benefit to many users specifically senior citizens and hypothermia victims, and where of a schematic region 36 in shown in

Figure 4 for the addition of a scent of a fragrance source; a source of water or other fluid may alternatively and/or additionally be mounted within the tube or adjacent to the fan so that the airflow draws water or other liquid droplets along the tube and causes these to be output through the apertures to have a humidifying affect or to gently apply water droplets to a user.

Figure 7 shows a device mounted underneath a desk or workstation 40 so that the device provides a cooling flow to a user seated at the desk.

Figure 8 shows a device used in a suspended mode. The device 41 is suspended from a ceiling 42 using the draw string 35 or other suspension means. The fan 4 preferably sits upon the floor although it maybe suspended to lie a distance above the floor surface. By using a device in this configuration, an airflow from vertically spaced apertures is provided. Note that Figure 8 shows a configuration in which the tube comprises a flexible material provided with a priority of spaced hoops or rings 43 and which is compressible by a constantina like action. Of course, any of the other embodiments of the invention disclosed and/or envisaged maybe used in the vertical configuration of Figure 8, the configuration of Figure 7 or any other configuration.

Figure 9 shows systematically the storage pouch 4 when containing the compressed tube and control unit.

In some embodiments, the product may be modified to make it more appealing to a child or other particular user. This may include the use patterned fabric in various themes, the addition of small plush soft toy to the outside of the duct or by making the duct itself to take the form of an object such as the Dachshund like version shown in Figure 10, a space rocket, nursery rhyme theme, animal character or any other character or configuration.

The device can also be used for other applications when ventilation is desirable. It may be placed adjacent or under a clothes horse to promote the drying of washing for example.

A waterproof coating may be applied to the PCB or other circuit board within the fan to prevent contact of water with the electronics control board. In other applications, the device may be of use to hobbyists seeking a means for ventilating solder or paint fumes away from a working area. The device may be of use to pet owners who wish to cool their vets during car journeys or to parents of children or carers of other people who also need cooling on car or other journeys.

The invention may take a form different to those specifically described above.

Further modifications will be apparent to those skilled in the art without departing from the scope of the present invention.