After a series of experiments we have built the first Energy_Animal001. The first prototype has a very low efficiency, this a concept design so far.
Watch the video below :
Get the 3D model on Google 3dwarehouse to edit with Sketchup or any other 3D software.
The Energy_Animal is a device that produces renewable energy from the wind, the sun, and the waves.
The Energy_Animal can produce energy is a variety of irregular weather conditions, producing a reliable output.
Mostly made of free recycled materials, attracting and concentrating marine life instead of repelling it.
One Energy_Animal can be part of an energy farm, or it can drift on its own.
It is going where there is more energy to be collected, or where energy is most needed.
It is cheap to build, the design of the Energy_Animal is open-source, so there can be many concurrent or merging versions of different Energy_Animals. There is no development time, generation after generation a better design is emerging.
The idea is to produce cheap reliable green energy evolutive devices for a rapidly changing world.
We need a green energy revolution now, and we are responsible for it.
Concept characteristics of Energy_Animal001
Cesar Harada, Open_Sailing, Royal College of Art, Design Interactions
Film : Antonia Nottebohm, University of Munich, 2010
Science : Dr. Heller, Prof. Chaplin, Southampton University
Thanks to : Jessica Spurrell, Soumik Sengupta, Aga Wypychowska,
Fiona Raby, Anthony Dunne, Tim Olden, Vamessa Rolf, Helen Bailey, Jennifer Indovina.
Commissioned by :
EPSRC (Engineering and Physical sciences Research Council).
NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts).
Design Interactions, RCA (Royal College of Art), London.
Energy_Animal is very different from regular energy generators:
DIVERSIFY : instead of building one expensive device that has one irregular input, we build a cheap device that has several irregular inputs to provide a more regular output.
RECYCLE : Instead of dedicating a big industry to this, we fabricate mostly from recycled materials, a few off-the-shelf existing components
PROBIOTIC : Instead of using antifouling materials which are usually pollutive, we attract and concentrate marine life. Good for fish, good for us.
DISTRIBUTED INTELLIGENCE : Instead of concentrating energy generation in isolated areas and loose a lot of energy and cost on the infrastructure, we distribute the energy generating devices
- where there is more energy available : most wind, most sun, most waves
- where there is more energy needed : more people, more activity
The energy available in nature changes, the energy demand also changes, so the machine must change location and how they work.
OPEN-SOURCE EVOLUTION : Instead of patenting this cool new idea, we share it under an open-source hardware IP, which means you are invited to produce your own device and share your design with everybody, collaborate. Generation after generation, natural selection happens, some good ideas merge, devices migrates or adapts to the local conditions.
Hit the tube at one end, and you can see the shock wave of your impact propagate along the tube.
In the water, the same bulging phenomenon happens. The crest of the wave is a high pressure column, the trough a low pressure column. The pressure moves along the tube and builds up internal pressure and speed. We can also observe the shock wave coming back over, like an "echo". We can calculate the diameter, length, and extensibility of the material in order to maximize the bulging phenomenon combining the wave and the resonant wave, like an amplifying echo.
The inventor Prof Francis Farley, the experimental physicist John Chaplin and Valentin Heller set up a 7m long, 0.25 diameter rubber tube, under tension attached at both ends to fixed chambers.
- pressure in different immersed locations in the tube
- pressure in the "dry" areas of the machine
- speed of bulge movement
- water elevation (mass) in the vertical column
- distension of the tube
they found out that the size and speed of waves did correlate with the mathematical model they predicted.
Cesar Harada tried to replicate a simplified version of the previous experiment.He set up a 3.5m long, 0.08m diameter highly distensible latex Flexible Wave Energy Converter, let's call it FWEC.
The evolutive prototype would go through 3 successive modification, 3 stages of "freedom", to compare how much energy is being produced. We measure and compare the different stages of the prototype by the displacement of mass of water in the vertical column.
Very similarly to the previous experiment by Prof Farley, Chaplin and Heller : the tube is tensed between 2 columns of water : the waves pressurize the tube, the tube bulges, the water column goes up and down the column. Works reasonably well.
We set free the entire board that holds both chambers to float on the waves, supporting both chambers on the same anchored board. We observe a greater amplitude of water displacement in the column. Works better.
We split the board in 2 independently floating parts, the water inside the tube makes it dive due to internal pressure higher than external pressure. Bad idea. The extensible tube is far too deep in the water : the waves make the tube bulge in an almost insignificant way : too deep to capture the energy of waves in surface. Doesn't work.
The 2 independently floating chambers are floating at the surface. We add a tail at the end of the tube, creating a lot of drag : when the tail pulls back the tube, the tube goes up towards the surface and bulges intensely at the surface, where more energy is to be collected. We add weight to the head of the tube : the head dives up and down deeper, smoothing the ondulation and increasing the amplitude of the water in the column. Brilliant!
We build a 50 meter long Flexible wave energy converter. In order to replace the properties of one material, rubber: water-tightness and extensibility,
we use 2 materials : a flexible mesh for the outside, and an inner larger watertight folded pocket inside. This combination acting similarly as a bicycle inner tube protected by a tyre.
At sea, the 50 meter long flexible wave energy converter seems to bulge in small waves, we cannot measure it, but it seems to work.
The outside mesh prevents the tube from exploding in case of large waves.
An equivalent size rubber tube would have cost at least £6000 ; the one we made with PET and PP instead cost about a £100 : at this scale our experiment costs about 60 times cheaper than the the lab rubber one. The Flexible Energy Wave converter doesn't have to be made of rubber, it can be made of other materials.
Rubber is extensively used in maritime devices and usually repels biofouling, algae and seashells ; I think we should use material that attract biofouling instead. What we found out is that the efficiency of our FWEC increases when parasite life fixes itself on the device, adding drag.
The real scale flexible wave energy converter engineered at the University is optimized to be about 200 meters long : that's bigger than the biggest fish in the ocean. Look at these beautiful whales in Mexico : what if we designed the wave energy converter to look and feel like a whale? Maybe the local animals would like it much better. The flexible wave energy converter would become part of the natural environment instead of polluting it. Too often renewable energy modules constitute in themselves a form of pollution to the environment they are being installed in.
(the tube is folded on itself on this picture to be exhibited in an art show. In reality, the tube is much longer once deployed and tensed)
- wave energy : a latex Flexible wave energy converter lifting a float in a column of water, hooked on a linear dynamo (magnet + coil), from a shake torch.
- sun energy : a solar parabola, concentrating the sun rays on a small surface solar cell : cheaper and allowing the solar cell to be upside : minimizing the dust covering the cell. The regulator and the battery come from the solar panel kit.
- wind energy : a tower fan converted into a vertical turbine dynamo.
Generally, we cannot rely on renewable energies as a continuous supply of energy because the weather conditions are changing. But if we combine several renewable sources of energy in a single module, we can guarantee a more continuous and reliable output. Energy_Animal harnesses the energy of waves, sun and wind.
Now we must acknowledge that associating these technologies reduces the optimal efficiency of each, ideally :
- the solar cell would need to follow the course of the sun
- the wave energy converter would need intense movements
- the wind turbine would need to face the wind and oscillate only vertically and tilt as little as possible.
So, combining these 3 technologies we do not exploit the optimum energy output of each, so we choose, average
The module is called energy_Animal because like an animal it can also be totally off grid and independent. Storing energy is too expensive and inefficiant, so let's distribute the energy network. I like to take the metaphor of wild goat in the mountain : it doesnt need you, it is eating and drinking on its own, but if you need its milk, whool or meat you can always go and catch it, help yourself. The Energy_Animal would work with the same principle : being independent, going where there is the most energy to be made, and if you need energy you call it, or go and get it. Energy is everywhere available, why would we have to pay for it?
The energy_Animal would be a very important device for this new spaces of international cooperation.
- enrich local biological presence
- serve environmental data
- become a mesh networking device
- provide safety at sea utilities
The cost of Energy_Animal and the energy it produces can be quickly offset by the secondary functions it provides to the environment or the community. In financial terms, a positive environmental impact is also a very interesting marketing added value in the commercial competiton.
I like to take the example of medicines : if a drug was discovered to cure AIDS or any other mortal pandemic, as a specie we must share that knowledge, of course. We are in a situation of equivalent emergency for energy : if we discover a reliable, cheap way of providing clean energy for everyone, we must share it. We can make that choice now.