Using ocean wave energy to recharge underwater vehicles

August 11, 2020 // By Rich Pell
Using ocean wave energy to recharge underwater vehicles
Ocean wave energy technology company Oscilla Power says that it has received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) to further develop technology that enables autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to recharge themselves using ocean waves.

In this Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) project, says the company, it will collaborate with aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin, through their Rotary and Mission Systems group, to explore how this capability can be incorporated into their AUV and UUV systems. AUVs are now seeing significant use across a wide range of marine applications, however, the capability of an AUV - particularly the ability for longer duration missions - is limited by its battery capacity.

"The development of a capability that can be integrated into commercial AUVs to provide enough power to recharge the on-board batteries," says Balky Nair, President of Oscilla Power, "could be potentially game-changing for ocean science and military operations."

Previously solar panels have been used for AUV recharging. However, this approach suffered from very low power and constrained operations to daytime only.

A significant advantage of using waves for this purpose, says the company, is that ocean waves are more than 100 times more energy dense than solar, allowing for much higher power to be produced. AUVs spend the majority of their time working at depth so higher power is advantageous to minimize surfacing and recharging time.

The company expects to demonstrate a fully working laboratory prototype early next year. If successful, says the company, it plans to work with Lockheed Martin to progress to a full ocean demonstration shortly afterwards, with the ultimate objective of transitioning the technology to commercial and military platforms.

Founded in 2009, the company is currently progressing two primary wave energy converter products, the Triton and the Triton-C. The Triton-C is a 100-kW rated power system designed for remote or isolated communities, or small coastal facilities, while the Triton is a 1-MW rated power system that is designed to be installed in large arrays to provide utility-scale power.

Oscilla Power

Related articles:
Wireless underwater charging of UUVs under test by U.S. Navy
Underwater communication system uses battery-free sensors

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