Sir James Dyson has made a mint selling the story of his dogged pursuit of the vacuum cleaner that “never loses suction.” But Dyson’s newest product doesn’t suck. It blows.
That’s right, Dyson’s newest invention is a room fan–a bladeless fan–called the Air Multiplier. And it turns out that the Air Mulitiplier might never have been invented at all, if Dyson’s engineers didn’t notice something strange was happening during testing of another product, the Airblade hand dryer.
Some background: Rather that drying your hands by blowing hot air and evaporating water, the Airblade blows a single, super-thin sheet of air, at upwards of 400 mph. When you run your hands through it, it scrapes water off–just like a windshield wiper. No need to wipe your hands on your pants when the air shuts off.
But engineers noticed some scientific quirks in how the Airblade was working. The sheet of air, due to pressure and friction, was dragging a large amount of the surrounding air along with it–something that fluid dynamics people call “inducement.”
“We didn’t really know what to make of that,” says Dyson. It seemed like a minor annoyance, as it didn’t affect how well the Airblade worked. Still, it was a cool enough phenomenon that Dyson’s team began wondering how they could possibly make use of it. They hit upon the idea of a new fan, one that worked in a different way than any other.
Normally, fans create moving air by chopping and pushing air, with angled, rotating blades. The Dyson Air Multiplier, by contrast, blows just a single sheet of air, from a thin opening towards the rear of its circular wing. (The fan is driven by a motor similar to those in jet turbines and turbochargers.)
The 16-degree slope of that wing creates negative pressure around the moving air sheet–thus sucking more air along for the ride. All told, the air emanating from the fan gets multiplied 15-fold. So, while the Dyson actually blows relatively little air, it eventually generates a substantial breeze–about 118 gallons of air per second, which is comparable to other, upper-tier fans. (By comparison, a Vornado 9″ blade fan pushes around 35 gallons of air per second.) Since the fan isn’t chopping the air, the wind it generates doesn’t buffet you. It isn’t turbulent. It feels uncannily like a natural breeze.
Of course, it’s gonna cost you. The 10″ fan costs $299.99; the 12″ fan costs $329.99. And that begins sounding a lot like Dyson’s tried and true business strategy: Reinvent something commonplace, charge a hefty premium, and listen for the cash registers to start ringing.