|Ocean Energy Bionics |
November 22, 2006
BioPower Systems is developing a new ocean energy technology in Australia that
will use bionics to mimic natural systems in order to produce energy. Both
bioSTREAM and bioWAVE technologies use biomimicry, which refers to the
adaptation of biological traits in engineered systems. BioPower Systems has
copied many of the beneficial traits from natural systems in the development of
the new ocean energy conversion systems. The company is researching this new
technology for application. Laboratory testing will be completed in 2007, and
full-scale ocean-based prototypes will be tested in 2008. Commercial units are
expected to reach the market by the end of 2009.
The propulsion systems of Thunniform mode swimming species such as shark, tuna,
and mackerel have been optimized by natural selection and are known to be up to
90% efficient at converting body energy into propulsive force. The bioSTREAM
tidal energy conversion system is a fixed device in a moving stream, mimicking
the shape and motion of natural species. The propulsion mechanism is reversed
and the energy in the passing flow is used to drive the device motion against
the resisting torque of the O-DRIVE electrical generator. Due to the single
point of rotation, this device can align with the flow in any direction, and can
assume a streamlined configuration to avoid excess loading in extreme
conditions. Systems are being developed for 500kW, 1000kW and 2000kW capacities
to match conditions in various locations.
The bioWAVE is a wave energy conversion system based on the swaying motion of
sea plants in the presence of ocean waves. The hydrodynamic interaction of the
blades with the oscillating flow field is designed for maximum energy absorption
over the full water depth. The bioWAVE captures a wide swath of incident wave
energy without using a large rigid structure, and continually self-orients with
the wave direction. For safety, the system is programmed to cease operating and
lie flat against the seabed during extreme and stormy wave conditions. Instead
of resisting the forces of the ocean, the bioWAVE moves with the wave forces and
thus converts energy continuously without requiring a heavy and costly
The bioWAVE and bioSTREAM systems both convert ocean energy to mechanical energy
via oscillation about a single axis. BioPower Systems has developed a unique
electrical generator module to convert the low-speed large-torque oscillations
to AC power. This unit is modular, self-contained, and easily detached and
retrieved for infrequent servicing. The O-DRIVE combines a simple single-stage
reciprocating gear mechanism with a direct-drive synchronous permanent magnet
generator and high-inertia flywheel, resulting in continuous delivery of smooth
Autonomous, unmanned, low insurance and overhead costs.
Simple two-part installation requires no special equipment or vessels.
Device lies flat against seabed during extreme conditions, allowing for low
design load tolerances.
Zero visual impact.
Small footprint and minimal seabed disturbance.
Slow, natural movements, silent operation, and no harm to sea life.
No significant modification to natural currents, salinity or turbidity.
No dispersal of any pollutants or foreign substances into the environment.
Continuously self-orienting to align with direction of wave propagation.
Large swept area to maximize power capture (up to 2MW per unit).
Direct-drive power conversion.
Hydro dynamically optimized.
Naturally adapted for survival.
BioPower Systems is a renewable energy company based out of Australia. It was
founded by Dr. Timothy Finnigan, a marine engineer at the University of Sydney
and former Technical Director of Energetech Australia. The company uses bionics
to commercialize award-winning biomimetic ocean energy conversion technologies.
Like wind and solar energy, ocean energy has potential to grow into a
billion-dollar industry. BioPower Systems is in a unique position to capture
significant portions of both the wave energy and tidal energy markets. While
these markets have yet to be fully defined, there are many indicators of the
potential for rapid market expansion following introduction of commercial
For more information please contact: BioPower Systems Pty. Ltd.