This study presents a computational analysis of a device that mimics dust devils in a controlled environment in order to explore its capacity as an energy conversion apparatus in solar energy applications. Concept is built upon the buoyancy effect over a heated plate surrounded by stationary vertical thin plates (vanes), which cause swirl in the raising air. The novelty of the paper is that it is the first parametric study that investigates effects of vane width, vane height, number of vanes, and vane angle on the vertical flow rate of the proposed device. It is found that (i) the optimal vane width is 1.4R, (ii) reduction in spacing between the vanes improves vertical flow strength, (iii) minimum vane height is 1.4R, and (iv) high vane angles increase swirl and hence vortex stability to yield better torque production opportunities with the high air speeds away from the vertical centerline. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.