One interesting area of renewable energy receiving little attention is wave energy, even though the first known patent to utilize energy from ocean waves dates to 1799.
The first commercial wave farm-the Aguçadoura Wave Park in Portugal-operated briefly in 2008 and there are a handful of projects in development, including one in Oregon.
There are sections in the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, the North Sea in Europe, and ocean areas closer to the equator that exhibit less turbulence than open oceans and produce steady waves.
Proposals in the 1970s focused on large, expensive mechanical structures. Newer studies focus on smaller energy converters in large arrays.
Engineers at Bayer MaterialScience are exploring the potential for electroactive polymers to produce electricity from waves.
“Using the same technology that takes electricity and converts it into mechanical movement through a polymer, we can actually move the polymer with waves and generate electricity,” says Patrick Thomas, CEO of BMS. “So with the future this may well be a route towards achieving low-maintenance wave power.”
To work well as dielectric elastomers, polymers must have high electrical breakdown strength, a low modulus of elasticity for large or small deformations, and a high dielectric constant. One example of a candidate polymer is 4900 VHB acrylic from 3M Corp. A BMS subsidiary called Artificial Muscle is commercializing electroactive polymers.
Bayer has talked to partners about the potential development of plants that would generate electricity to liquefy natural gas at the wellhead.