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Energy and Motion Lab

Energy and Motion Lab

The energy and motion lab uses the tools of rigid-body and non-linear dynamics to design novel systems related to the production or conservation of energy.

-High altitude winds are an enormous untapped resource for renewable energy production. The largest modern wind turbines have a peak tip height of about 300 meters, however, the power in the wind does not have a peak at 300 m, the wind's power density increases with higher elevations. This means that the winds are stronger and more constant at elevations that are higher than our tallest wind turbines can reach. It is currently too technically difficult and costly to make a conventional wind turbine that can reach these higher elevations. The tethered airfoil systems that we are studying can easily reach the faster more consistent winds at altitudes of 200 meters or more. These kite systems are cost effective since they require only approximately 10% of the material used to build conventional turbines. In addition, foundations for conventional offshore windpower are difficult and costly to build due to the large overturning moments required at their bases. Since kite systems have primarily tension loads applied almost directly to the ground, offshore foundations are much simpler and cheaper to construct.

-Large scale hydropower is completely exploited in the United States. In addition, there are strong environmental concerns when a river is dammed and the upstream area flooded. Even traditional micro-hydro systems divert a portion of the river flow in a tube or penstock. New technology must be developed to acceptably exploit small to medium scale river with minimal environmental impact. The translating hydrofoil systems that we are developing for low-head hydropower applications require no diversions of river flow. Like the tethered airfoil systems, they can be designed to use less material than conventional hydropower systems and are able to efficiently harness energy from a wide area of the river flow.

-We also are working on project which exploits the natural motion of a system to conserve energy. We are designing and building a prototype semi-walking robot which, if successful, will the most energy efficient semi-walking robot to date. Most current walking robots use much more energy than we do to move around. For efficient walking robots, collisions between the feet and the ground are the mechanism by which the most energy is lost. One way to avoid the energy loss of these plastic, or sticking, collisions is to carefully design the system so that the foot contacts the ground with zero relative velocity. This way, contact can be made without the loss of energy. Our collisionless rimless wheel is our attempt to build the simplest possible device which demonstrates this mechanism of energy-efficient locomotion.

We have a mix of undergraduate students and graduate students working in the lab on these research projects. The work varies from Senior design projects to Master’s thesis work, to freshman students who want to get exposed to research at an early stage in their education. We also work with several undergraduates who use the CNC foam cutter and tow-tank in their Thermofluids II lab experiments. Some students work on writing and analyzing computer simulations, in Matlab and other languages, to help design and control our systems. Students also design, build, and test new components. Other students devise and conduct experimental tests, run data acquisition hardware, collect data, and analyze that data.

Major Equipment in the Lab

  • 16 foot tow tank
  • Computer workstations for simulations
  • CNC foam cutter
  • Vinyl cutter

The lab has been supported by the EPA P3 program, the RIT boot camp grant, and the RIT FEAD grant.

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