“This usually involves an array of sensors, actuators and control processors, adding complexity to the system that can cause underperformance, as well as reliability and maintenance issues,” Wang said.
RMIT’s prototype, developed in collaboration with researchers from Beihang University in China, includes two turbine wheels stacked on top of each other and rotating in opposite directions. These wheels are connected to a generator through shafts and a belt-pulley driven transmission system.
“It needs no special synching technology, as the device naturally floats up and down with the swell of the wave, which maximises the energy harvested,” Wang said.
“The generator, transmission and electrical components are contained inside the floater above the waterline and protected from the corrosive ocean water.”
The lab prototype, which is about 150 cm long and 50 cm wide has been successfully tested at lab scale. The research team is keen to collaborate with industry partners to test a full-scale model, and work towards commercial viability.
“Once the electricity has been generated, we could use undersea cables to transmit it to the grid, or try to use the electricity to electrolyse seawater and generate hydrogen, which could also be used for energy,” Wang said.
Smart adaptations to climate change
Tapping into Australia’s wave energy resource could not only help reduce carbon emissions and create new green energy jobs, it also has the potential to address other environmental problems, Wang said.
“For example, as the frequency of drought increases, wave energy could be used to power carbon-neutral desalination plants and supply fresh water for agriculture — a smart adaptation to the challenge of a changing climate,” he said.