Power waves: transforming sea movement into energy for ships

Gianluca Riccio


An innovative system on ships uses the movement of waves to generate energy, tackling the challenge of decarbonisation in the maritime sector.

A team of Shanghai Ship and Shipping Institute is opening new frontiers in the maritime sector. Chinese researchers have proposed a revolutionary “wave oscillator” system that not only turns ships into powerful generators of renewable energy thanks to the movement of waves, but also promises to improve safety at sea.

The device, perfectly integrated under the deck of a merchant ship, respects the cargo space but exploits the natural energies of the sea in an ingenious way. How does it work? Let's see calmly.

Energy from waves: a floating idea

The idea behind this innovation is surprisingly simple but extremely effective. Ships, traveling the seas, are constantly in motion due to the waves. This movement, often seen as an inconvenience or danger, has been reviewed by researchers as a valuable source of renewable energy.

In short? The proposed oscillators exploit the vertical and horizontal movements of the ship, transforming the kinetic energy of the waves into electrical energy.

The system consists of a frame securely attached to the vessel, with an oscillator body that can move along the frame, a spring to suspend the oscillator, and a hydraulic cylinder connected to the bottom of the oscillator. This setup allows the oscillator to move in response to sea movements, pumping oil through a hydraulic power draw device to generate power.

the positioning and elements of the generator.

A helping hand towards maritime decarbonisation

The wave oscillator proposal comes at a crucial time, when the maritime sector is facing immense challenges in the race to decarbonisation. A race that sharpens ingenuity, also leading to new solutions for using natural elements (such as in the case of wind). This technology not only offers a renewable energy source but also helps reduce the dependence of ship engines on fossil fuels, pushing the industry towards a greener future.

In addition to power generation, this system offers an additional benefit: it acts as a shock absorber for the ship's movements. By reducing roll, pitch and yaw, oscillators can significantly improve safety at sea, especially in adverse weather conditions with high waves.

The team calculated the forces exerted by the generator on the structure of the ship.

Future perspectives

The research, published in the journal Renewable Energy (I link it to you here), is still in its early stages. The researchers conducted several simulation tests to refine the design and optimize efficiency. The next step will be testing in a wave tank, a crucial step to evaluate the practical feasibility and energy efficiency of the system in real conditions.

The innovative approach of wave oscillators represents a promising revolution in the field of renewable energy and maritime safety. With the right implementation and further development, this technology could make ships more energy self-sufficient, but also make a significant contribution to the fight against climate change, paving the way for a more sustainable and secure maritime future.

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