Hexagonal Distributed Embedded Energy Converters (HexDEECs)

Research output: NRELPoster


Distributed Embedded Energy Converter Technologies (DEEC-Tec) is a new domain for marine renewable energy research that utilizes a conglomeration of small distributed embedded energy converters (DEECs) that, in aggregate, form larger metamaterial frameworks. These resulting DEEC-Tec metamaterials can then, in turn, be used to construct flexible ocean wave energy converters called flexWECs. DEEC-Tec enables flexWECs: (i) to be inherently broad-banded ocean wave frequency energy converters and (ii) to have an inherent lack of highly loaded rigid bodies. The DEEC-Tec domain also benefits the marine renewable energy domain by inherently availing ways that marine energy can be harvested and converted that heretofore has not yet been considered possible: real-time execution of transforming topologies (e.g., actively changing a flexWEC's shape and form) and morphologies (e.g., actively changing a flexWEC's stiffness and damping throughout its entire structure). Presented, is one specific type of DEEC, a HexDEEC, that shows promise in aiding the adoption and further development of the DEEC-Tec domain - it is a small energy transducer being developed by the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The HexDEEC is a small (characteristic length approximating a centimeter) energy transducer that converts the dynamic deformations of an elastomer into electricity through a charging-discharging cycle of a capacitor whose capacitance is varied by those elastic deformations. The HexDEEC is composed of a hyperelastic hexagonal housing (nominally silicon rubber) with six electrodes on its inner faces. The upper three electrodes share the same charge while the lower three electrodes oppose the upper electrode charges. Externally, the HexDEEC has two arms extending away from the middle vertices of the hexagon. Via principles governing the relationship between electrical capacitance and electrical potential (voltage and charge), electricity is generated when the HexDEEC's arms are dynamically pulled or released under tensile loading as doing so causes the distance between the upper and lower sets of electrodes to change - varying the energy converter's overall capacitance. Analytical and numerical modeling have already been used to estimate the electrical energy produced by a HexDEEC. The cursory models approximate the HexDEEC as a parallel plate variable capacitor - simplifying from six to two opposing plates with a constant dielectric volume between those two plates. To account for the elastic HexDEEC material properties, software such as SolidWorks and STAR-CCM+ have been used to generate hyperelastic models; notably, Mooney-Rivlin based models. Individual HexDEECs have been fabricated by drawing uncured liquid silicon rubber into molds via vacuum pressure. To simplify manufacturing, HexDEEC sub-components - e.g., electrodes, wires - can be placed within those molds such that they are directly embedded into the hexagonal housing during the curing process. Furthermore, DEEC-Tec metamaterials can be created by interweaving or sequentially layering multiple HexDEEC strands together. The HexDEEC based metamaterial could then generate electricity through its gross deformations. Ultimately, HexDEECs represent a specific type of energy transducer that can be leveraged, by the DEEC-Tec domain, to create metamaterials used to construct novel flexWECs.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the International Conference on Ocean Energy, 18-20 October 2022, Basque Country, Spain

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5700-84076


  • DEEC-Tec
  • electrostatic
  • flexWEC
  • hyperelastic
  • variable capacitance
  • wave energy


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