The Hydrokinetic Energy Transfer System – Promising New Alternative Energy?

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The same NASA developer who created a method to power robotic underwater vehicles have proposed a new technology aimed at converting ocean energy into electrical power. Water based electricity generation is nothing new. Hydroelectric power is a significant source of energy for many nations, as is evident from China’s ambitious dam projects.

Jack Jones and Yi Chao from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory invented a method for underwater devices to help power themselves. The technology involves using the differences in temperatures around them to create energy. This involves a phase change material which changes from a solid to a liquid when temperatures go from cold to warm. The pressure on the liquid is used to generate electricity, which helps charge the battery.

The researchers realize the high-pressure liquid could be applied on a larger scale. Eventually Jone and Chao along with Caltech proposed a system that would utilize fresh water in a closed cycle, so that there would be no harm to the environment in the process. As an added bonus, the design also “eliminates all submerged electrical components, which are subject to corrosion” says Jones. This is another added benefit of the system, as in conjunction with a low cost electrical generation system, could mean that this entire system could be developed at a lower budget, and be safer than the tidal generation system currently being used in Manhattan’s East River.

The system also allows energy to be generated on command, which would help meet peak usage times when energy demands are higher. Other environmental technologies do not operate in a similar fashion, and often produce energy at unpredictable times. The benefits of this are enormous, especially in the event that the traditional polluting methods of energy generation which help satiate demand during peak hours should ever be eliminated or banned.

Ultimately, the cost efficiency will be the main question. Will this technology become economically practical? Scientists at NASA claim that current research on that aspect is only in the beginning stages and can make no promises. Many such promising technologies are being put forward. With energy being such an important aspect of our economy, it has become vital for researchers such as these at NASA to get the proper funding and backing. In the midst of trillions being handed freely to bankers and homeowners who bought houses they couldn’t afford, less than 1% of it is headed towards promising projects such as this.

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