The HexDEEC is a small, characteristic length approximating a centimeter, energy transducer that converts the dynamic deformations of its elastomer housing into electricity through a variable capacitance charging-discharging cycle. This device is a type of Distributed Embedded Energy Converter Technology (DEEC-Tec), a new domain for marine renewable energy research that utilizes a conglomeration of small distributed embedded energy converters (DEECs) that, in aggregate, form larger metamaterial frameworks. These resulting DEEC-Tec metamaterials can then, in turn, be used to construct flexible ocean wave energy converters called flexWECs, which can utilize a broad band of ocean wave frequencies and lack highly loaded rigid bodies. These systems also provide new avenues of wave energy harvesting such as actively transforming topologies (e.g., shape and form) and morphologies (e.g., stiffness and damping throughout its entire structure) in real time. Presented, is one specific type of DEEC: the HexDEEC, which is currently being developed by the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This transducer shows promise in aiding the adoption and further development of the DEEC-Tec domain. The following presentation focuses on the promise of this technology and current work being done to analyze the performance of an individual HexDEEC design.
The HexDEEC is composed of a hyperelastic hexagonal housing, nominally silicon rubber, with six electrodes on its inner faces. The upper three electrodes share the same charge while the lower three electrodes oppose the upper electrode charges. Externally, the HexDEEC has two arms extending away from the middle vertices of the hexagon. Via principles governing the relationship between electrical capacitance and electrical potential (voltage and charge), electricity is generated when the HexDEEC’s arms are dynamically pulled or released under tensile loading, as doing so causes the distance between the upper and lower sets of electrodes to change – varying the energy converter’s overall capacitance.
Analytical and numerical modeling is being used to evaluate the mechanics and electrical energy generated by the HexDEEC. Equations to describe the capacitance and electrostatic forces acting on this unique system have been developed and implemented into the numerical modeling software STAR-CCM+, along with models to describe its hyperelastic material, such as the Mooney-Rivlin 3-parameter model. So far, an initial design has been analyzed and we plan to further optimize it to increase power production.
Individual HexDEECs have been fabricated by drawing uncured liquid silicon rubber into molds via vacuum pressure. To simplify manufacturing, HexDEEC sub-components – e.g., electrodes, wires – can be placed within those molds such that they are directly embedded into the hexagonal housing during the curing process. Furthermore, DEEC-Tec metamaterials can be created by interweaving or sequentially layering multiple HexDEEC strands together. The HexDEEC based metamaterial could then generate electricity through its gross deformations. Ultimately, HexDEECs represent a specific type of energy transducer that can be leveraged, by the DEEC-Tec domain, to create metamaterials used to construct novel flexWECs.