Ecology-engineering partnership on renewable energy

Tidal river at sunrise, (c) All rights reserved by wortenoggle

A team of Brown University researchers has received a $750,000 grant to design an oscillating underwater wing that can capture energy from flowing water in rivers and tidal basins. The funding comes from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), which funds breakthrough technologies that show fundamental technical promise but are too early for private-sector investment. “Marine and hydrokinetic energy is a vast renewable energy source,” said Shreyas Mandre, professor of engineering who will lead Brown’s effort with colleagues Kenneth Breuer in engineering and Heather Leslie in ecology and evolutionary biology. “The main advantage of hydrokinetic energy, unlike solar or wind power, is that the availability is predictable.” The wing would capture forces exerted on it by flowing water in much the same way airplane wings capture lift force from wind. “This lift force causes the hydrofoil to heave up and down periodically, and this motion can be used to generate electricity,” Mandre said. The award supports developing proof-of-concept for this potential technology, and complements current efforts to investigate the fundamental hydrodynamic mechanisms of energy conversion funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.