Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Hydropower Anywhere

PostedMarch 27, 2011

Download File (mp3)


Randy Atkins: Engineers have long known that cylindrical objects in the path of moving water can create strong swirls that often need to be suppressed to prevent damage. But Michael Bernitsas, a University of Michigan engineer, saw things differently.

Michael Bernitsas: It dawned on me that we can possibly do exactly the opposite – enhance these kind of destructive phenomena, control them, and harness the energy.

Randy Atkins: Bernitsas built ladder-like devices attached to electromagnets. When placed in a stream, the “rungs” both create spinning currents of water and are allowed to move in the turbulence, generating electricity. Then he lined the devices up in a way that mimics schools of fish which...

Michael Bernitsas: …basically glide between vortices generated by the fish ahead of them.

Randy Atkins: Bernitsas says such positioning can amplify power generation, even in gently flowing rivers. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.