Engineers from Scotland and Italy have developed a new wave energy technology that could generate low-cost electricity for thousands of homes.
Engineers from the University of Edinburgh and from several universities in Italy have designed, developed, and tested a device that costs less than conventional designs and that can be incorporated into existing ocean systems, the University of Edinburgh has said in a statement, describing the scientists’ study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A scientific magazine.
The ocean and sea waves can provide a source of renewable energy, but few wave energy converters have moved past pre-commercial stage because of the high costs and the often harsh marine environment, the authors of the paper argue.
So they designed the so-called Dielectric Elastomer Generator (DEG) using flexible rubber membranes. The device is cheaper than conventional designs, has fewer moving parts, and uses durable materials, the engineers say.
The device was designed to be placed on top of a vertical tube in the sea. As sea waves pass the tube, the water inside it pushes trapped air above to inflate and deflate the generator placed on top of the device.
“As the membrane inflates, a voltage is generated. This increases as the membrane deflates, and electricity is produced. In a commercial device, this electricity would be transported to shore via underwater cables,” the University of Edinburgh said.
The engineers carried out water tests on a smaller scale in a circular tank reproducing any combination of currents and ocean waves. According to the scientists, the device could replace expensive moving parts and complex air turbines.
“Wave energy is a potentially valuable resource around Scotland’s coastline, and developing systems that harness this could play a valuable role in producing clean energy for future generations,” Professor David Ingram of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering said.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com