Biomimicry UC Berkeley mimics mud for wave energy carpet

Published on June 20th, 2012 | by Tina Casey


Carpet Mimics “Mud Hole” to Harvest Energy from Ocean Waves

June 20th, 2012 by  

UC Berkeley mimics mud for wave energy carpet

Carpets and mud don’t usually make a good pairing, but a new energy-harvesting “carpet” takes its inspiration directly from, yes, mud. Currently under study at the University of California, Berkeley, the rug-like device would mimic the ability of muddy sea floors to absorb energy from ocean waves, and it would convert that energy to electricity.

Mud, energy and waves

As described by writer Ceri Perkins at Physics World, mariners have been known to seek out a “mud hole” when a storm is on the rise, knowing that waves are likely to be calmer in areas where the ocean floor is thick with mud.

Likewise, researchers have long been intrigued by the ability of muddy seabeds to absorb energy from ocean waves.

At UC-Berkeley, researcher Mohammad-Reza Alam envisions an elastic “carpet” that would rest on springs. The gravitational force of waves overhead would make the carpet ripple, just as it interacts with mud on the sea floor, and that movement would be transferred to generators.

Power from the ocean floor

In a recently published abstract detailing the results of his studies, Alam describes his “carpet of wave energy conversion” as a “synthetic seabed,” but that doesn’t mean that the horizontal structure would rest on the seafloor, let alone smother anything beneath it.

So far, Alam has demonstrated the carpet concept in computer modeling. Further development is needed to design an optimal height and placement for the structure that would anchor it to the seabed, and environmental impact parameters would have to be established to identify appropriate types of sites.


More wave power carpets

Another approach is the Wave Carpet developed by the Texas-based engineering firm KBSI, with the help of funding by the Office of Naval Research.

The Wave Carpet is designed to float, not to rest on the ocean floor, but like Alam’s wave carpet it could also serve the dual purpose of generating energy while creating relatively calm areas in ocean waters.

KBSI foresees its Wave Carpet being used to created buffer zones around aquaculture sites or around other ocean power generating equipment such as ocean thermal energy conversion stations.

More ocean power from the Navy

Funding for KBSI’s Wave Carpet is just one of the Navy’s forays into wave and ocean power generation.

The Navy’s wave power demonstration site in Hawaii has been upgraded to serve as a test bed for promising new wave energy technologies from the private sector, and the Navy has provided funding for Lockheed Martin to develop a new kind of ocean thermal energy conversion system.

Image: Some rights reserved by Bob Richmond

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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