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Like the Wind

James Dyson’s new fan loses the blades and shoots the breeze.

Author Jacqueline Detwiler Photography Courtesy of Dyson


Image – Courtesy of Dyson

THE FIRST TIME YOU SEE DYSON’S NEW AIR MULTIPLIER, you will want to stick your hand through it. Go right ahead. Just as traditional fans have inspired generations of kids to impersonate space aliens (“Taake mee tooo youur leeeeaderrrr…”), this one— which dispenses with the conventional machine’s most menacing design flaw, the whirring blade— may inspire a new pastime: outright gawking.

The sleek machine’s inventor—vacuum visionary James Dyson—was inspired to revolutionize the home fan because he found the traditional motor’s clunky design and chopping noise aesthetically unpleasant. “It’s completely wrong to have the motor up at the top, with all the dust being passed through it,” he says. “I use fans a lot in France in the summer, and they’re really annoying if you’re trying to sleep with one on you, or you’re trying to work or cook.” So he fashioned a fan with a motor in the base, which shoots air over a miniature version of an airplane wing to amplify it 15 to 18 times. The result is a surprisingly powerful, silent column of breeze that uses the same force that lifts aircraft.

Dyson, whose company filed the second- highest number of patents in the U.K. last year, says the idea came to him when he was solving yet another problem: inefficient bathroom hand dryers. His team was developing the Airblade, a commercial dryer that uses a 400 mph sheet of air to essentially scrape water from the skin, when they noticed that the fast-moving wind sheet was drawing a substantial amount of the surrounding air into the stream. The rest is fan history. After months of testing, during which engineers set up lengthy domino chains of prototypes and sucked balloons through them to check the fans’ strength, a desktop version of the Air Multiplier was released last October.

Since then, Dyson has released a standing fan and an oblong version with even more power. The only drawback is no more alien voices. But we’ll bet that somewhere in that pile of Dyson patents there’s a solution for that, too.

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