Wave energy has a great potential as renewable source of electricity. Studies have demonstrated that significant percentage of world electricity could be produced by Wave Energy Converters (WECs). However electricity generation from waves still lacks of spreading because the combination of harsh environment and form of energy makes the technical development of cost effective WECs particularly difficult.
PolyWEC introduces a new class of Polymeric WECs (PolyWECs), characterised by the employment of Dielectric Elastomer (DE) transducers.
The goal is to introduce a radical change in the traditional architecture of WECs that usually includes three basic components: mechanical wave absorbers, a mechanical transmission and a power take-off system. Due to their nature, PolyWECs can be conceived in a way that such three components are integrated into a single deformable lightweight and low-cost polymeric element. DEs have been largely investigated in the form of actuators for robotics and ICT applications. Preliminary studies on energy generation through DEs demonstrated their great potential in terms of cost effectiveness, efficiency and reduced complexity. Due to their intrinsic low mass, flexibility and resilience, as well as their capacitive nature and high voltage operation, DE technology perfectly matches the requirements of WECs.
PolyWEC investigates on new concepts and mechanisms for wave energy harvesting that are based on DEs through a multidisciplinary approach that includes competencies on WEC design/tests, fluid dynamics simulation/test, control/mechatronics and material science. The aim of the Project is to develop new knowledge and new technologies aiming at:
- optimising DE materials for WEC applications,
- conceiving new electro-mechanical configurations for PolyWECs,
- studying the fluid-DE interaction through numerical simulations,
- performing wave-tank tests of small scale prototypes,
- providing economic and environmental assessment.