Whale-inspired ocean turbine blades

November 28, 2010

Interest in developing alternative energy sources is driving the consideration of a promising technology that uses underwater turbines to convert ocean tidal flow energy into electricity.

Now lessons learned from the ocean's largest mammals has inspired United States Naval Academy researchers to tackle one of the serious challenges of this technology: the low velocity associated with many tidal flows and the difficulty of extracting useful from low speed flows using current designs. They will present their findings today at the American Physical Society's Division of (DFD) meeting in Long Beach, CA.

"We designed a novel blade modification for potential turbine performance improvement, which was inspired by flippers, with the addition of tubercles, or bumps, to the leading edge of each blade," explains Mark Murray, a Naval Academy engineering professor. Previous research demonstrated the addition of biomimetically derived protuberances (technology that mimics nature) improved stall characteristics and aerodynamic performance."

The researchers' modified blades proved to be more effective in extracting energy at low speeds. Importantly, the blades did not degrade performance at high flow speeds or increase the mechanical complexity of the turbine.

Applications of this research may include the development of turbine designs that are more effective in converting low velocity tidal flow energy into useful electricity and more economically feasible to deploy.

Explore further: Compact tidal generator could reduce the cost of producing electricity from flowing water

More information: The presentation, "Effect of leading edge tubercles on marine tidal turbine blades" was on Monday, November 22, 2010. Abstract: meetings.aps.org/Meeting/DFD10/Event/133206

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not rated yet Nov 28, 2010
My only concern about tech like this would be long term affects on sea life, wouldn't algae or small organisms build up on the blades and cause high cost/difficult maintenance to the turbines.

Plus they would need filters to make sure small fish dont get killed in the turbines.
not rated yet Nov 29, 2010
Or filters after they get killed,that way we don't have to go looking for them and waste fuel on fishing boats. But in all seriousness, you are going to harm something when generating energy, thats just the way it is. If you look for a method that won't kill something somehow, you'll never have power. These systems are so slow that it is unlikely that a fish would be injured. If a fish gets bonked on the head, it was an idiot and we have strengthened their population through artificial selection.
not rated yet Nov 30, 2010
They stole this tech from Whalepower


Then again maybe using a wind turbine technology for a tidal turbine is considered an innovation...

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