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Harnessing the Power of Wind for a Next-Level Umbrella

A Chinese umbrella that uses a force field to protect you from the rain

Author Nicholas Derenzo Illustration Jameson Simpson

brightideas

Much like the mousetrap, the umbrella has remained almost completely unchanged for more than a century, since the 1852 invention of the modern steel-ribbed model. Unlike the mousetrap, however, the umbrella doesn’t always get the job done (just take a look at the twisted steel-and-fabric corpses strewn on every urban street corner after an even moderately blustery storm). This is where Chinese inventor Chuan Wang steps in, with perhaps the most revolutionary advancement in rain-protection technology since the prehistoric development of the earliest rudimentary parasols. Instead of fighting against the wind, he has decided to harness its power. He teamed up with postgrad aeronautics and astronautics students from Beijing and Nanjing to develop a deceptively simple wand-like device, known as the air umbrella or “invisible” umbrella, which dispenses with the usual fabric dome and instead employs an impenetrable force field of air that stops rain from falling on users. Here’s how this high-tech invention, which is set to hit stores this December, promises to weather any storm.

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• When the user presses a button on the bottom of the device, a rechargeable lithium battery powers a motor that spins a fan at the top of the pole. Air is drawn up into the device and then expelled at high speed, creating an invisible shield of sorts.

• The “umbrella”—which will come in a portable 12-inch, a medium 20-inch and a telescoping 20- to 30-inch model—is kitted out with noise-absorbing materials that keep the powerful fan from whooshing like a jet engine.

• The bottom of the device can be twisted to adjust air pressure. Under normal rain conditions, the air umbrella can protect an area with a diameter of approximately three feet—enough for one or two people. If the rain is lighter, the creators believe it will be able to provide even more coverage.

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