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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Technical development and field-testing of a self-contained, inexpensive wave energy converter device

PI: Tho Nguyen (Tan Tao University)
U.S. Partner: Brian Bingham (University of Hawaii)
Project Dates: August 2013 to July 2015

 Vietnam Partnership Picture A
Instruments for the SEAWEED project are lowered into the housing (Photo courtesy Dr. Nguyen).

This project seeks to further the technical development of an inexpensive, long-term-field-deployable wave energy converter device (named the SEAWEED for “self-efficient, adaptable wave energy extraction device”). The primary purpose of the SEAWEED is to provide for the basic electrical needs of people living in underdeveloped and remote coastal communities in Vietnam and around the world. Wave energy converter technologies exist around the world today, mostly via large-scale projects requiring high amounts of government and corporate resource commitments and capital investments. This leaves a gap where underdeveloped and remote communities around the world are yet able to benefit from this source of energy. This research project focuses on developing the SEAWEED by increasing its mechanical and electrical efficiency through design and testing, reducing the cost of the device through testing various material or component supplementations, exploring potential capability expansion and uses (for example, as an ocean sensor platform), and conducting long-term field testing to explore the feasibility of widespread application.
The SEAWEED project is an innovative and novel endeavor to take wave energy conversion technologies from massive large-scale implementations to cheap, simple, small-scale applications that benefit the underserved sectors of the world. SEAWEED is a concrete effort toward combating global climate change through the use of renewable energy resources. While inroads have been made with developed countries’ initiatives into harnessing wave energy, these efforts have yet to reach underserved communities where the technology is, arguably, more needed. There is very strong potential for follow-up investigations into using the SEAWEED devices as distributed, self-sufficient sea buoys for the purposes of ocean surface monitoring and communication relays. Widespread ocean data collected from implementation of the SEAWEED worldwide may prove valuable to the broader ocean engineering and climate science community as a whole.
Summary of Recent Activities
Since the project started in September 2013, the PEER project has spurred the creation of a renewable energy lab at Tan Tao University. Four undergraduates joined the lab as research assistants, and five others signed on to help out on a part-time basis, demonstrating the great interest and enthusiasm this opportunity for practical lab experience has attracted. The first major test of the self-efficient, adaptable wave energy extraction device, or SEAWEED, failed due to physical damage from Typhoon Hayian. A second field test done a month later to observe mechanical and electrical performance yielded good results. The project team met with five members of the College of Environment at Can Tho University to discuss collaboration opportunities. The team also introduced themselves to the Planet NI team, which provides hardware and Labview training sessions to the research assistants and to selected Tan Tao University students.
The next phase of the project is expected to yield at least three field tests and a redesign of SEAWEED to lower costs.  Other improvements, such as add-on sensors, could be made before submission of a paper on the final version of SEAWEED. It is hoped that SEAWEED could be used in Tan Tao University recruitment activities, as well as to be the center of a campaign using a brochure and a video documentary. Further outreach plans include presenting the project to Can Tho University and at the 2014 International Workshop on Environmental Protection Toward Sustainable Development.
Back to PEER Cycle 2 Grant Recipients