2, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, United States
We have developed a new soft wave energy converter (SWEC) platform by combining soft material and piezoelectric fibers, and demonstrated 30 µW power generation from the waves. With the abundance of ocean coverage on the earth, wave energy conversion platforms can provide a high percentage of green energy demands. However, it would only be viable if the low efficiency of energy conversion can be overcome. Currently, there are multiple types of wave energy converters (WEC), such as point absorber buoys, surface attenuators, oscillating water columns, and overtopping devices. Nearly all of these converters are very large, require a high cost of deployment and maintenance and hence degrade their real-world applicability. To decrease the maintenance cost and increase the power generation efficiency, we propose to develop a SWEC by integrating soft material with piezoelectric fibers as a low cost, no maintenance device. A Piezoelectric Fiber Composite energy converter and bubble wraps, for floatation, are integrated into a soft elastomer ecoflex sheet. The power generation efficiency of the device has been investigated by testing the SWEC in a wave tank and demonstrating its energy harvesting ability from water waves. The promising wave energy harvesting capability combined with the low cost, no maintenance advantage could potentially generate an impact on the SWEC platform development and its real-world wave energy harvesting applications.