Novel sensors aid tidal turbine development
Irish company OpenHydro is using surface acoustic wave (SAW) sensors to accurately measure rotational speed and frictional forces in a simulator for the turbine bearings, thereby allowing it to optimise the performance and reliability of its innovative products.
OpenHydro's vision is to deploy farms of tidal turbines under the world's oceans, where they will dependably generate electricity with no cost to the environment. This method of producing electricity has many benefits.
Because the turbines are submerged, they are invisible and they produce no noise. And because they are submerged at a considerable depth, they present no hazard to shipping. An advantage that is possibly the most important, however, is that the tides are completely predictable, which means that the energy output of the turbines is equally predictable. There are no large seasonal variations and no dependence on the vagaries of the weather, as there are with many other renewable energy sources.
Reliably and efficiently harvesting energy from the tides, however, requires the use of novel technology and, in the case of OpenHydro, this takes the form of open-centre turbines that can be deployed directly on the seabed. Clearly, installation in such an inaccessible location makes reliability a prime consideration in the design and construction of the turbines. For this reason, OpenHydro carefully and comprehensively evaluates the performance of all of the components used in its turbines.
For the bearings, this evaluation involves the use of a simulator that allows the company's engineers to determine how frictional forces in the bearings vary with different loads and rotational speeds. Central to the operation of this simulator is the measurement of torque in a shaft from the motor that drives the bearing under test. With conventional sensors, it is hard to carry out this type of torque measurement accurately and reliably, but OpenHydro found that Sensor Technology's TorqSense RWT320 series sensor provided an ideal solution. OpenHydro uses the RWT320 sensor in conjunction with Sensor Technology's TorqView software.
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