Prototype and Codesign of Nascent Flexible Wave Energy Converter Concepts

Research output: NRELPresentation


Prevailing mainstream ocean wave energy converter (WEC) archetypes are often relatively large monolithic rigid bodies with singular means of power take-off (e.g., relative motion between rigid bodies) and solo prime mover mechanisms (e.g. a rotary generator, a hydraulic piston). These mainstream WEC archetypes have existed for decades with some having histories spanning more than a century of significant investments and interests. As an alternative to the domain of mainstream WEC archetypes is the domain of distributed embedded energy converter technologies (also known as DEEC-Tec). Use of DEEC-Tec to create WECs - often called flexWECs - is a nascent domain of research and development that centers itself upon the interconnection of many relatively small energy converters - very small energy transducers - that interconnect and combine to create a much larger, overall, energy converting structure. The DEEC-Tec domain enables promising possibilities such as: direct in situ ocean wave energy harvesting and conversion throughout the volume of an entire flexWEC; inherent broad-banded ocean wave energy capture and conversion arising from near semi-continuous structural degrees of freedom; an innate absence of focusing and concentrating of ocean wave energy into a single prime mover and/or transmission system; and built-in implicit redundancy. As such, the DEEC-Tec domain could revolutionize how we conceptualize ocean wave energy conversion - both in terms of ocean wave energy converter design and what we view as viable environments and circumstances for ocean wave energy conversion. The research and development opportunities for the DEEC-Tec domain, therefore, are vast compared to the prevailing mainstream ocean wave energy converter domain. Correspondingly, there are ample opportunities to invest time and money into the DEEC-Tec domain with an aim to enable a paradigm shift in how ocean waves can be utilized as a more viable form of renewable energy. To that end, two seedling efforts have been enacted providing a very cursory investigation into the DEEC-Tec domain: (1) a preliminary simple fabrication/prototyping effort and (2) a preliminary co-design effort. The prototype seedling centers upon the design of a fabrication and evaluation rig for individual DEEC-Tec transducers; e.g., dielectric elastomer generators. The co-design seedling centers upon the analysis of those methods suitable for DEEC-Tec, ocean wave energy conversion, and fluid-structure interaction co-design efforts.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages6
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePresented at the R&D Seedling Showcase, 11 August 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5700-80625


  • co-design
  • DEEC-Tec
  • distributed embedded energy conversion technologies
  • fabrication
  • flexible transducers
  • FlexWEC
  • manufacture
  • marine renewable energy
  • materials
  • ocean wave energy conversion
  • prototyping
  • wave energy converter
  • WEC


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