Harnessing the Sea's Energy

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Adam's Apple, Dec 7, 2005.

  1. Adam's Apple

    Adam's Apple Senior Member

    Apr 25, 2004
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    NASA Scientist Works to Pry Electricity from the Sea
    By Tom Webb, Knight Ridder/Tribune Media
    December 6, 2005

    It started with a rocket scientist, a Slinky and the first energy crisis of the early '70s. Now, a generation later with a new energy crisis, the son of that rocket scientist thinks he is close to perfecting that spare-part dream: a machine that might make cheap, clean electricity from the ocean.

    "I believe it'll change the world," said second-generation inventor Tom Woodbridge, a NASA engineer. The renewed interest in finding cheap, plentiful and renewable energy has rekindled interest in the work of Woodbridge and others. He knows about 20 other companies trying to get energy from the sea.

    Alternative energy is in the forefront again as high fuel costs after Hurricane Katrina wreak havoc on the nation's oil refineries and Americans' wallets. Federal officials estimate that all types of fuel will cost Americans one-third more this winter if temperatures are average.

    But Woodbridge is chasing an elusive prize that his father, David, now 84 and retired, never caught. It is one that countless would-be inventors have squandered fortunes and careers on: failed efforts to pry electricity from Poseidon's kingdom.

    In theory, the idea is simple. Almost any eighth-grader can tell you that spinning copper wires through a stable magnetic field makes electricity - lots of electrons jumping off the magnetic field and zooming through a conductive metal. And since the ocean waves are already moving, why not cobble together a machine to harness that energy?

    "The sea is very powerful; there's a lot of energy out there. But the sea is a very hostile environment," said professor Elias K. "Lee" Stefanakos, director of the University of South Florida's Clean Energy Research Center in Tampa.

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