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First ocean float prototype with highly efficient nanogenerators created with INEGI's help

14 December 2020
INEGI is one of the partners of InanoWEC, a project that is developing a new system for converting wave energy into electrical energy to be installed in ocean buoys, and that can be a more efficient alternative to the use of batteries or solar panels.

It is another project that relies on INEGI's skills to harness the energy available in the ocean. This time it is about the incorporation of triboelectric nanogenerators in signalling buoys. The technology is being developed by a consortium that includes INEGI, the inanoEnergy company, and the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto.

One of the main advantages of this technology lies in the fact that it is a modular solution for use "in a variety of buoys, regardless of the geometry and function of the buoy, to meet in-situ electricity consumption needs, increasing the residence time in sea ​​without human intervention”, explains Tiago Morais, responsible for the project at INEGI.

Buoys are floating devices that can serve many purposes, from signalling navigation routes to collecting environmental and meteorological data. However, traditionally, they are powered by batteries or solar panels, whose disadvantages are related to the need to replace the batteries or the lack of sunlight.

Wave energy, whose presence is constant, is the natural response to this challenge. However, unlike its solar and wind "competitors”, marine renewable energy still requires further technological maturity. As Tiago Morais explains, "the technology used in the signalling buoy model is a triboelectric nano-generator (TENG), which is based on the contact between two triboelectric materials with different polarities to generate electrical energy”.

To determine the dimensioning of the TENG system and prove the functionality of the prototype, INEGI's team of specialists "studied the predominant movements of signal buoys and proceeded to the hydrodynamic analysis of the buoy-mooring system, based on several TENG positions interior, maximizing, through the determination of the best location, the energy output ”, explains Nuno Mathias, navel engineer at INEGI.

The prototype, built on a 1:8 scale, is being tested under different oceanic conditions, namely conditions representative of Portuguese coastal environments. The next steps include studies in a real context, to prove the viability of the technology and the potential for future commercialization.

This work is being carried out under the i.nano.WEC - Innovative nano-technology for Wave Energy Conversion project, and is co-financed by Fundo Azul, a financial incentive mechanism of the Portuguese State.