Researchers from the Concrete Technology Unit at the University of Dundee are to work with Pelamis Wave Power Ltd, one of the world's leading wave energy companies, on a study that aims to reduce the costs of wave energy generators and make them more efficient.
Professor Rod Jones and Dr Moray Newlands from the Concrete Technology Unit have won a £250,000 grant from the Technology Strategy Board's Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme to work with Pelamis on the three-year project.
The project will consider the use of concrete as a primary material for the energy developer's machines, the tubes of which are currently made from steel. Steel accounts for almost half of the 1350-tonne weight required for optimal submergence of the generator and the rest is mostly made up of sand ballast.
'The incorporation of concrete into wave energy devices appears commercially and technically attractive, but we have to develop and test the concrete to make it possible,' said Professor Jones.
'With this project we are looking to develop concretes which will have the required stiffness and strength whilst being able to undergo extreme wave loading conditions. These concretes will also be highly durable against chemical attack from seawater and other forms of deterioration as well as being environmentally friendly. The work will also examine the cost implications of building in concrete as well as the production and manufacturing processes required.'
Jon Benzie, Structural Engineer at Pelamis Wave Power, said 'Using concrete to manufacture the tubes of Pelamis machines, in conjunction with steel fabrications, could significantly reduce the cost of energy for future wave farms. This cost reduction is vital for our industry to reach commercialisation and begin harnessing the phenomenal wave power potential around the UK and further afield.
'Concrete presents additional advantages, by better catering for non-circular tube shapes that we are currently considering. Non-circular tubes offer better stability and power capture for Pelamis machines, and could be cost-effectively mass produced from concrete using existing manufacturing techniques. Therefore this project could help us make a step forward to commercialising Pelamis technology.'
The project will allow the appointment of two new full-time posts.
The Concrete Technology Unit at Dundee is a world-class research centre which has links to industry around the world. It has a broad research base covering concrete science, environment, technology and construction; durability, repair and maintenance strategies; recycling/reuse of materials and sustainability issues; novel construction applications; and risk assessment and whole life cost analysis. Funding for research is widely based, coming from research councils, government and industry.