Novel Wave Device Could Deliver Low-Cost Clean Energy

The technology has been created to feature less complex and expensive moving parts than conventional designs.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Clean energy is becoming increasingly popular with some estimates seeing investments in the sector growing to $332.1 billion in 2018. With its many environmental benefits, it only makes sense that it would grow in popularity with new projects arising all the time.


Dielectric Elastomer Generator

Now, the University of Edinburgh researchers are working on a new wave energy technology they say "could help generate low-cost electricity for thousands of houses." And this is no exaggeration.


The novel device called a Dielectric Elastomer Generator (DEG), is intelligently engineered to be easily incorporated in existing energy systems. We would argue that's a pretty ingenious idea.

The device is made to be durable while costing less than traditional designs. It also features fewer moving parts. The purpose is to see it replace conventional designs, that feature both complex and expensive moving parts.

But don't let its simplicity fool you. This less-complex but very efficient invention packs some heavy energy-creating power.

The system has already been successfully tested in a scaled-down version at the FloWave facility at the University of Edinburgh. The facility is a 25m diameter circular tank that generates oceanic conditions.

So far, the experiments in the ocean simulator have revealed that just one device could generate the equivalent of 500kW

"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," said Professor David Ingram, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Engineering, who took part in the study.

How does it work

The way it works is surprisingly simple. Created using flexible rubber membranes, the DEG stands on top of a vertical tube. When placed into the sea it fills with water that rises and falls with each passing wave.

"As waves pass the tube, the water inside pushes trapped air above to inflate and deflate the generator 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," explains the University's press release.

The study is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A. It was supported by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme and Wave Energy Scotland.

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