R. Vertechy, M. Fontana, G.P. Rosati Papini, and M. Bergamasco – SPIE Smart Structures and Materials+ Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring, April 2013
Dielectric Elastomers (DE) have been largely studied as actuators and sensors. Fewer researches have addressed their application in the field of energy harvesting. Their light weightiness, low cost, high corrosion resistance, and their intrinsic high-voltage and cyclical-way of operation make DE suited for harvesting mechanical energy from sea waves. To date, the development of cost-effective Wave Energy Converters (WECs) is hindered by inherent limitations of available material technologies. State of the art WECs are indeed based on traditional mechanical components, hydraulic transmissions and electromagnetic generators, which are all made by stiff, bulky, heavy and costly metallic materials. As a consequence, existing WECs result in being expensive, difficult to assemble, sensitive to corrosion and hard to maintain in the marine environment. DE generators could be an enabling technology for overcoming the intrinsic limitations of current WEC technologies.
In this context, this paper focuses on Polymer-based Oscillating-Water-Column (Poly-OWC) type WECs, and analyzes the viability of using DE generators as power-take-off systems. Regarding paper structure, the first sections introduce the working principle of OWC devices and discuss possible layouts for their DE-based power-take-off system. Then, a simplified hydraulic-electro-hyperelastic model of a twodimensional
Poly-OWC is described. Finally, preliminary simulation results are shown which provide insights on the potential capabilities of Poly-OWC.