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Researcher proposes 'synthetic seabed' to turn waves into energy from the ocean floor

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A researcher at the University of California, Berkeley has published a paper suggesting a viscoelastic seabed carpet could be deployed on the sea floor, using the pull of passing waves to generate energy.

Ocean waves (FLICKR - jeffrowley)
Ocean waves (FLICKR - jeffrowley)

Turning the surface movement of ocean waves into an energy source isn't a new concept, but a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley is proposing a system that would take a different approach — by utilizing the effects waves have on the ocean floor. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Mohammad-Reza Alam writes that as ocean waves move, they pull on the mud of the seabed. By creating what he calls a "viscoelastic seabed carpet," made up of vertical springs and generators, that pull can be harnessed and transferred into energy.

Even better, the system could be contained completely on the ocean floor, getting rid of the eyesore that many other wave-conversion systems — which use floats or buoys resting on the ocean's surface — bring to the table. Of course, there's the issue of destruction to the wildlife on the seabed to contend with, and Alam's system is admittedly a concept at this point rather than a fully-functioning product. Still, we can't help but get excited as researchers continue to develop new methods of generating energy using the steady, constant tide of one of Earth's most renewable of resources.