Washington: Underwater turbines have long been thought to be sources of alternative energy – now the ocean`s largest mammals have inspired scientists to tackle one of the serious challenges of this technology: the low velocity associated with many tidal flows and the difficulty of extracting useful energy from low speed flows using current designs.
“We designed a novel blade modification for potential turbine performance improvement, which was inspired by humpback whale flippers, with the addition of tubercles, or bumps, to the leading edge of each blade,” said Mark Murray, a Naval Academy engineering professor.
The researchers’ modified blades proved to be more effective in extracting energy at low speeds. Importantly, the blades did not degrade performance at high flow speeds or increase the mechanical complexity of the turbine.
Applications of this research may include the development of turbine designs that are more effective in converting low velocity tidal flow energy into useful electricity and more economically feasible to deploy.
The team will present its findings today at the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) meeting in Long Beach, CA.