In this paper, we present a concept of near/off-shore Oscillating Water Column (OWC) Wave Energy Converter (WEC) that is equipped with a Power Take Off (PTO) unit based on Dielectric Elastomer Generators (DEGs). DEGs are soft/deformable generators with variable capacitance able to directly convert the mechanical energy that is employed for their deformation into electrostatic energy.
The proposed WEC is based on an existing tubular collector chamber of an OWC system designed by the company Sendekia, that is combined with an Inflatable Circular Diaphragm (ICD) DEG. This simplified design presents a very reduced number of moving parts showing potentially high efficiency, reliability and noise-free operation.
A multi-physics dynamic model of the system is built using time domain linear hydrodynamics coupled with an analytical non-linear electro-hyperelastic model for the DEG-based PTO. The power matrix of the system is calculated for both regular and irregular waves. Some design issues are introduced showing that the electro-elastic response of the DEG provides the system with an additional stiffness that adds up to the hydrostatic stiffness and affects the resonance of the WEC. As a consequence, the geometric shape/dimensions of the OWC chamber and the layout of the DEG diaphragm should be chosen using an integrated procedure aimed at tuning the overall response of the WEC to the spectra a reference wave climate.