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SBIR Phase I: River Electrical Energy Devices

Award Information

National Science Foundation
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2013 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
First Principles Engineering, Inc.
4182 Gorman Avenue Englewood, OH 45322-2622
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 1
Fiscal Year: 2013
Title: SBIR Phase I: River Electrical Energy Devices
Agency: NSF
Contract: 1248402
Award Amount: $150,000.00


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will investigate the harvesting of kinetic river energy to produce electricity using a morphing structure designed to exhibit hydroelastic gallop. Most hydroelectric harvesters require damming a river to create head, while the exceptions that exist are only productive in deep, well-behaved flows. River sites that are shallow and/or turbulent represent an untapped natural resource. The proposed approach to accessing this resource combines three well-studied but previously disconnected phenomena: (i) the dynamic, fluid-solid interaction described as gallop, (ii) shape morphing concepts derived from the smart materials community, and (iii) mechanical-to-electrical energy transduction. While most research into gallop has been aimed at minimizing undesired and potentially destructive structural oscillations, this project will invoke shape morphing of a control surface to optimize gallop. The goal of this Phase I program is to build a device that demonstrates conversion of kinetic energy of flowing water to electrical energy, and to establish the technical and commercial feasibility for 1 kilowatt harvesters with approximate dimensions of 1x1x0.5 meters. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project stems from its goal of harnessing an untapped renewable energy source, and an underserved market. Resource maps reveal that the best locations for wind and solar energy are generally sparsely populated, and thus complex and lossy transmission strategies must be invoked to deliver the harvested resource to much of the population. While initiatives to improve the efficiency of long-distance electrical energy transmission are underway, a superior strategy to increasing US access to renewable energy is identification of renewable resources that are collocated with the consumer. People have always lived near water by necessity; similarly, flowing water necessarily represents harvestable energy. Where significant river head (potential energy) exists, current off-the-shelf technology can be used to generate power. However, per a US resource assessment, there is currently no technology base for harvesting the kinetic energy available in low head and/or turbulent rivers and streams (estimated to be 14 GW). Thus, hydropower siting, including sites adjacent to many population centers, is a significant barrier to fully utilizing this renewable resource. This project specifically targets turbulent and/or shallow river flows and would therefore dramatically expand hydroenergy siting options, benefitting society economically and environmentally.

Principal Investigator:

Scott Kennedy

Business Contact:

Scott Kennedy
Small Business Information at Submission:

First Principles Engineering, Inc.
4182 Gorman Avenue Englewood, OH 45322-2622

EIN/Tax ID: 452546011
Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: Yes
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No