Professor Reza Alam and his PhD students in Mechanical Engineering Department, University of California, Berkeley, are testing out a prototype of a device which can produce electricity and provide clean drinking water for coastal communities throughout the world.
Called a ‘wave carpet’, it harnesses the predictable wave power to obtain usable energy. As the waves roll through, the carpets motion produces hydraulic pressure energy. This energy can to used to turn turbines and generate electricity or to produce fresh water by reverse osmosis. Pressurised salt water is pushed through the membranes that extract the salt and provide fresh water.
In order to avoid negative impacts on marine ecosystem, the researchers want to plant wave carpets in coastal dead zones — i.e. regions which do not have enough oxygen to support marine life.
This technology has the potential to meet 15 percent of the global energy demand. It is estimated that one square meter of carpet can generate enough electricity to power two US households.
The wave tank experiment in the lab has been very successful and actual ocean tests are scheduled for 2016.