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Engineers design underwater turbine technology that could revolutionize what we know about tidal energy: 'Building the foundation of a research platform'

"We got hit by a lobster pot the other day."

"We got hit by a lobster pot the other day."

Photo Credit: Mason Bichanich, UNH

Two doctoral candidates partnered to create an underwater turbine to track tidal energy.

According to CleanTechnica, University of New Hampshire students Parviz Sedigh and Mason Bichanich had never seen their work implemented underwater. They did it through a partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in addition to funding from the Department of Energy's Water Power Technologies Office. 

They used the NREL's Modular Ocean Data Acquisition setup, enabling their turbine to collect data on tidal energy. The clean energy source could power up to 21 million homes in the United States. Since the country can't harness all that power, some will be reserved for water occupants such as fishers and boaters. 

The turbine is the size of a harbor seal and will not just collect data but also help power a drawbridge. It will support community education through UNH's Living Bridge Project and be placed under the Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth. 

The turbine will collect data on power output, environmental conditions, and strain on the turbine and track other equipment, such as the PNNL's acoustic camera. The camera will track floating perils and data on debris. 

"We got hit by a lobster pot the other day," Bichanich said.

Aidan Bharath, project lead at NREL, said, "Bichanich and Sedigh are building the foundation of a research platform that will allow future turbine components to be tested and comprehensively monitored."

Tidal energy works by turning a tidal stream into fast-flowing water and converting it into energy. It works similarly to how wind turbines use air to generate energy. 

According to PNNL, water is more efficient than solar or wind as an energy source because it is denser. In addition, it doesn't produce toxic gases or other waste.

Using a clean energy source will positively impact the community because it improves the community's health and reduces health care costs associated with polluting gases. 

The UNH students' partnership isn't the only tidal turbine getting implemented. Orbital Marine Power deployed a turbine in Orkney, Scotland, in 2021. Now, it's using the same technology to install one on the coast of Washington.

If you live by water, you can encourage your community to install tidal turbines by getting involved and demanding change. 

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