Internal Reaction Mass Taxonomy and Narrow-Down Study

Calum Kenny, Jim McNally

Research output: NRELPresentation


Internal reaction mass (IRM) wave energy converters (WEC) capture wave energy by reacting against a moving mass that is suspended within their hulls. Due to their hermetically sealed Power Take Off (PTO), compact form factor and relatively simple mooring requirements, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has identified IRM WECs are good candidates for applications such as ocean observation. A literature review of existing IRM mechanisms lead to the classification of IRM WECs based on their principal method of energy capture and principal axes of operation. The IRM categories include sliding mass, pendular and gyroscopic devices. A narrow down study was conducted to ascertain the most promising mechanisms for further investigation; devices were evaluated based on a decision matrix of weighted criteria that included device power output, prototypability and power to mass ratio. The narrow down study identified the issue of achieving resonance with pendulum-based designs, as well as the poor response produced by reaction to long period waves. Chaotic pendula and methods to multiply agitation were identified as a means to increase power output. Alternative methods of power generation, such as triboelectric nanogenerators, were also identified as a technology that would benefit from multiplied agitation and chaotic motion. This work was funded under the U.S. Department of Energy's Water Power Technologies Office's Powering the Blue Economy portfolio.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the University Marine Energy Research Community (UMERC) and the Marine Energy Technology Symposium (METS), 13-14 September 2022, Portland, Oregon

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5700-83992


  • gyroscope
  • internal reaction mass
  • pendulum
  • Powering the Blue Economy
  • sliding mass
  • taxonomy
  • wave energy converter
  • WEC


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