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Published May 21, 2008 09:29 AM

Mechanical Fin Power: Oceanic Power Generation

Tim Finnigan, a professor of ocean engineering at the University of Sydney in Australia designed a radical oceanic energy collector inspired by the design of shark tails. Mimicking the successful evolutionary design of the fish species, he constructed a device that seizes the power of the sea. “I realized the systems that function the best are the ones that already exist there,” said Finnigan.

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The BioStream design is modeled after the most efficient tailfins the sea offers, that of tuna and sharks. The fins are crescent-shaped and stiff and effectively generate a powerful and seamless thrust. The device works rather simply; it is anchored into place in the sea bed with 32-foot rock-bolt anchors. Utilizing a smart and effective cable and pulley system, the BioStream device is tugged toward the sea floor and latched into place via an autonomic latching mechanism. The installation process from start to finish takes less than three days to complete.

Where strong and consistent currents flow is where you might find a BioStream or BioWave. As the ocean current undulates the BioStream’s mechanical tail works on this force freely from side to side. A gearbox converts this oscillation into unidirectional motion to drive a magnet generator for power production.

The BioWave works in a similar fashion, inspired by kelp, it rests on the sea surface to harness the power generated from the rolling waves which uses a generator similar to that of the BioStream. The endless motion of the ocean is all that is needed to harness this power.

Both of these brilliant models shift accordingly to utilize the flow of the currents as they shift. An added note, these efficient and mimicked bio-designs are extremely hardy thanks to the time tested shapes that have weathered the seas for millennia.

BioPower Systems, founded by Finnigan is developing three different versions of each design for serious and varied sea-power generation. The goal was to begin supplying power to customers this year. The largest generator design is quite large, two megawatts. It is capable of producing enough power to service some 1600 plus homes, claims BioPower. The hitch is it is costly, speculating 8 to 15 cents per kw-hour. The electricity costs more than other energy sources but the benefit is that it is a developing technology, it harnesses power naturally, and it won’t pollute the environment or ruin beachfront views. The innovative Finnigan has founded a rather solid and promising green business enterprise.

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