Innovation That Matters

A newly patented technology domain could build large, flexible structures from individual energy converters to create more cost-effective, highly efficient tools for generating clean energy from the ocean (and beyond) | Photo source Besiki Kazaishvili, NREL

Generating electricity from waves, buildings, cars, and clothing

Agriculture & Energy

Decentralised piezoelectric converters could revolutionise the way we harvest and use energy

Spotted: Most devices that use ocean energy to generate electricity or other forms of usable energy rely on a single, large generator. This centralised approach has a number of disadvantages, including the need for expensive infrastructure and the risk of catastrophic failure. DEEC-Tec, by contrast, is a distributed embedded energy converter technology that uses many small, flexible converters instead of a single large one.

DEEC-Tec is based on the principle of piezoelectricity – the ability of certain materials to generate an electric charge in response to applied mechanical stress. The technology is still in the early stages of development, but it holds promise for revolutionising the way we harvest and use energy. The first patent for DEEC-Tec was for applications in marine renewable energy to harvest energy from ocean waves. The structures, known as flexWECs, are designed to dynamically deform in the presence of wave energy, allowing them to convert the energy into electricity.

This approach has several advantages. First, it is much less expensive to build and maintain than traditional generators. Second, it is much more difficult for accumulating ocean wave forces to damage all of the converters simultaneously as the power is not concentrated on a single converter. Finally, DEEC-Tec can be used to harness energy from a variety of ocean locations and wave energy frequencies.

“DEEC-Tec gives researchers and developers an entirely new way of thinking about how to convert marine energy from ocean waves, tides, and currents into more usable forms of energy, such as electricity,” said Blake Boren a senior engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the lead inventor on the patent together with Jochem Weber, chief engineer for NREL’s water power programme.

Beyond marine applications, the same technology could be used in the future to generate energy from the friction created by moving cars, the vibrations of buildings in the wind, and the movement of clothing.

Marine energy is increasingly being seen as a game changer for renewable energy. Springwise has spotted an increasing number of innovations in this space, with developments such as a floating vertical axis wind turbine, a deep-sea turbine that generates power from ocean currents, and a two-bladed floating turbine

Written By: Katrina Lane



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