Will Seafloor Carpets Be The Key To Harvesting Wave Energy?

By Meera Dolasia on February 27, 2014

CCSS NAS-2 Word Search

Anyone that has been tossed around by ocean waves can attest to their power. Unfortunately, scientists have had a hard time coming up with a way to harness this powerful source of free energy for commercial use. Now, some researchers from University of California, Berkeley, may have a solution - Seafloor carpets!

Assistant Professor Reza Alam, an expert in wave mechanics thought of this brilliant idea after reading about how fishermen caught in storms in the Gulf of Mexico, seek out areas where the ocean floor is known to be covered with a layer of thick mud. That's because the softer sub-surface absorbs a bulk of the energy, providing them protection from the large violent waves.

Armed with this knowledge the professor and his team created a 'carpet' under which lie a slew of hydraulic actuators, cylinders and pumps. The researchers envision that as the carpet gets tossed around by the waves, it will absorb their energy and transfer it to the cylinders that lie below. The energy collected can then be transported to shore and converted to usable power.

In laboratory tests conducted in wave tanks using a rubber carpet, the scientist were able to capture a stunning 90% of the energy released by the artificially created waves. This is a big improvement over solar panels which absorb only 10-20% of the sun's energy. To put it in perspective, just 150 square meters of the seafloor carpet would be capable of generating the equivalent of energy obtained from an entire soccer field (6,400 Sq.meters) covered with solar panels.

Since the mat would be on the sea floor, it would not impact boats or other human activity. Also, in order to ensure that there is no impact on marine life, the researchers are planning to place the seafloor carpets in near-shore 'dead zones' - areas with little oxygen and therefore no marine life.

While being able to harness the wave energy for everyday use is certainly exciting, what is even more so, is what Marcus Lehmann, a Ph.D. researcher working with Alam believes may also be possible using this system - powering desalination plants. The two methods - reverse osmosis and distillation currently used for desalination, require copious amounts of energy, which makes them too expensive for wide-scale use. A free source of power like the seafloor carpet located right next to a desalination plant, would prove to be a game changer for our ever increasing freshwater needs!

Professor Alam who first unveiled this exciting invention at the 10th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference held in Denmark, in September 2013, hopes to begin testing the system in the ocean within two years using a carpet made from longer-lasting elastic composite material, which can withstand saltwater disintegration. If all goes well, the researchers hope to provide the world with an extremely cheap source of energy, within a decade.

Resources: newscenter.berkely.edu, gizmag.com

Listen to the Article: Play Audio

Create MLA, Chicago, or APA Website Citation

Create a website citation for this article. We support MLA8, MLA7, APA, and Chicago citation formats.

VocabularyPlay Game

actuatorsattestcopiousdecadedisintegrationdistillationenvisionharnessperspectivereverse osmosisslewsub-surface
Name:
Date:

Reading Comprehension (3 questions)

  1. What was the inspiration behind the seafloor mat?
  2. Why is the seafloor carpet even more exciting than solar panels?

Critical Thinking Challenge

What is the biggest hurdle seafloor carpets will have to overcome when...

187 Comments
to use your custom avatar.
  • michaelFriday, October 31, 2014 at 6:59 am
    AWESOME I HOPE TO DO THAT WEN I GROW UP :) <3
    • sierraWednesday, October 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm
      thats so cool
      • catlover14
        catlover14Monday, September 29, 2014 at 5:37 am
        You guys may think it's cool,but it's really boring to write.
      • sillygirl10 Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 5:48 pm
        who thought of that
        • ImogenTuesday, July 22, 2014 at 6:30 pm
          this is cool what was the inspiration?
          • eepTuesday, May 27, 2014 at 2:36 pm
            cool
            • poofTuesday, May 27, 2014 at 2:35 pm
              i like it
              • jaySunday, May 11, 2014 at 10:14 pm
                real cool
                • poof Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 7:38 am
                  not cool
                  • ArawrTuesday, April 29, 2014 at 10:33 pm
                    So if there is a tsunami what would happen?

                    Recent Comments

                    Rayan wrote:

                    I wish I could have him I feel b...
                    Adorable Pooch Fired From Police...

                    Ocean lover😍😍 wrote:

                    Awesome I never new that I wish ...
                    Does It Really Rain Diamonds On ...

                    happyce
                    happyce wrote:

                    so cool ya
                    It's Summer!

                    Our Apps and Plugins

                    ALA