UMass Dartmouth Engineers Work To Advance Wave Energy Science

Dec 26, 2017

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth have been working to develop devices and computer codes that would help harness wave energy more effectively. 

Wave energy is another form of renewable energy that relies on the power of ocean waves. Scientists have been trying to generate power from waves for more than 100 years.

If wave energy was harnessed at its full potential today, it could power about a third of the country, according to Dan MacDonald, civil engineering professor at UMass Dartmouth.

MacDonald has spent several years working on small-scale projects, developing devices that could power lights on a nearby dock or bouy. He said it’s better to start small because focusing on larger-scale projects in parts of the country with stronger waves requires more money and more research to withstand harsh water conditions.     

“I think if we start small scale we can kind of forget that for starters and focus on how to generate electricity, let’s figure out how to do that, and then we can move towards building something that can withstand those extreme environments," MacDonald said. 

MacDonald has prototypes in the lab, but he said getting them out in the ocean depends on securing funding.

Mehdi Raessi, associate professor in mechanical engineering at UMass Dartmouth, and his team have developed a computer code that simulates the interaction between waves and the devices that harness their energy called wave energy converters. 

Raessi said this computational tool is important because scientists need to figure out which device is best for harnessing wave energy.

“In order to answer that question, or in order to refine a design, people rely heavily on experimental methods, which are very expensive and difficult to do," Raessi said. 

Raessi said computer simulations save money on experiments and design. 

Raessi is currently in talks with a wave energy company to analyze their converter using his computer code.