Energy Systems

Wave Carpet – Harnessing Wave Energy

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.

Further Reading:

Ravindra Krishnamurthy

Ravindra Krishnamurthy is a freelance science writer covering science, tech, the environment, health, food, and culture.


  1. A big issue with these systems is how to get them to withstand the corrosive effects of salt water. Also, given humanity’s unreasonable desire for unlimited energy, I suspect that if they do find a way to make this work, they won’t stop with just ocean dead zone installations.

    1. You have identified the problem. All energy generation has waste and the associated mfg of components have their energy requirements, wastes, etc., and new energy sources reinforce this. I am still hopeful, especially since there is increased awareness of the limits of solutions that generate more when we need less. Energy can be extracted from the waves and either exported to shore or perhaps utilized to oxygenate the water more efficiently, either mechanically or biologically, reinvigorating dead zones. hope waits in the wings.

  2. But the dead zones shouldn’t be dead. Build a wave powered gen. on top and there’s no chance of regenerating that part of the ocean.

  3. Well, there is a sucker born every minute, and this looks like a great system to extract a little energy from said suckers. I especially like the “potential to provide 15% of global energy demand”. Centralized electrical production is not sustainable, nor is it likely that the biosphere can survive centralized power generation and distribution.

  4. Is this what the brightest minds now have come up with after all these years in search of clean energy? When looking @ the prototype my 3 year old could probably have build it.

  5. The entire power of all waves in the whole ocean is around 2TW (
    The total electrical power consumption of the world equates to around 2.3TW (, of which those 15% they mention would be 345GW.
    Assuming 100% efficiency both in generation and transmission, which would obviously not be possible, this means at least 17% of all wave energy of all oceans around the globe would have to be captured.
    Just on dead zones? No way.
    Not to mention, how would these generators behave in the presence of a large storm event?
    Still, I must say I was surprised to learn just how much energy is in waves. It’s a lot more than I thought! Those two US households per square meter actually seem more or less possible!

  6. Looks good on paper (and on YouTube), but how is this going to deal with the problem of fouling? What if the inlet ports get clogged? Won’t the plastic “pillows” eventually fail? How much maintenance will be required? Also, isn’t the pressure difference created pretty small, unless you have really large waves? Without a large pressure difference, will the power convergence be efficient enough to make it worthwhile?

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