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Go to the The Hindu (Chennai, India) original

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London (PTI): Scientists have developed what they claim is a revolutionary device, which can generate energy from ocean currents, enough to power the entire world.

According to them, the technology can harness power in water flowing at a rate of less than one knot — about a mile an hour — meaning it could operate on most waterways and sea beds around the globe.

Professor Michael Bernitsas, who led an international team at University of Michigan, said that the device was based on the changes in water speed caused when a current flows past an obstruction.

“This is a totally new method of extracting energy from water flow. Fish curve their bodies to glide between the vortices shed by the bodies of the fish in front of them.

“Their muscle power alone could not propel them through the water at the speed they go, so they ride in each other’s wake,” professor Bernitsas was quoted by The Daily Telegraph as saying.

In fact, the device, called Vivace or vortex-induced vibrations for aquatic clean energy, has been inspired by the way a fish swims and consists of a system of cylinders that are positioned horizontal to water flow and attached to springs.

As water flows past, the cylinder creates vortices, which push and pull the cylinder up and down. The mechanical energy in the vibrations is then converted into electricity. Cylinders arranged over a cubic metre of the sea or river bed in a flow of three knots can produce 51 watts.

According to the researchers, the technology requires up to 50 times less ocean acreage than wave power generation. “If we could harness 0.1 per cent of the energy in the ocean we could support the energy needs of 15 billion people,” said Prof Bernitsas, whose study is published in the Journal of Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering.



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