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Capturing the same powerful forces that destroyed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge shortly after it was built in 1940, researchers at the University of Michigan are developing a new way of generating electricity with the slow moving currents found in most of the rivers and oceans of the world.

VIVACE is the first known device that could harness energy from most of the water currents around the globe because it works in flows moving slower than 2 knots (about 2 miles per hour.) Most of the Earth’s currents are slower than 3 knots. Turbines and water mills need an average of 5 or 6 knots to operate efficiently.
Michael Bernitsas

Michael Bernitsas, professor in the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, stands before a prototype of his VIVACE hydrokinetic energy device.

VIVACE stands for Vortex Induced Vibrations for Aquatic Clean Energy. It doesn’t depend on waves, tides, turbines or dams. It’s a unique hydrokinetic energy system that relies on “vortex induced vibrations.”

This technology is hoped to be easier to site than traditional windmills and hydropower generators. [Thanks, Amon!]

Chris Connors

Making things is the best way to learn about our world.


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Comments

  1. Nullkraft says:

    This guy has been working on *exactly* the same principle for several years.

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/industry/4224763.html

    Windbelt, Cheap Generator Alternative,
    Set to Power Third World

    2007 Breakthrough Awards
    /// The Innovators /// Shawn Frayne

  2. seanpatgallagher.myopenid.com says:

    There’s a good video on the subject at http://www.vortexhydroenergy.com

    -S

  3. clvrmnky says:

    I’m pretty sure it was a moderate wind, and not water currents, that caused the original bridge to fail. It was an example of moderate wind setting up standing wave oscillations that caused the bridge to tear itself apart.

    1. Wilson! says:

      Did you even read the post? Uses the same powerful forces, as in the oscillations you describe. Only set up by moving water, not wind. Understand? It’s not that hard…

  4. jeff-o says:

    What happens when it gets covered in barnacles, seaweed, silt, and other ocean life? Does someone have to go down there to clean off the generators?

  5. alandove says:

    This is certainly a clever approach to a problem dozens (hundreds)? of other engineers and scientists have bashed their heads against for decades. The downfall of all of these water-power systems has been the brutal fact that the world’s oceans, bays, estuaries, and rivers are incompatible with machinery. Between the biofouling, the corrosion, and the pressure, moving parts are doomed underwater. The key is to come up with a design where parts and/or whole assemblies are cheap enough to be swapped out frequently as they fail – which they will.

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