Ocean Energy Bionics


Ocean Energy BionicsBioPower 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.

Tidal Power

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.

Wave Power

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 engineered structure.

O-DRIVE Generator

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 AC power.

System Advantages

  • 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.

Environmentally Benign

  • 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.

High Performance

  • 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.

The Company

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 technologies.

For more information please contact: BioPower Systems Pty. Ltd.