Since we last heard from him, Summer Scholar Brian has made progress on his wave energy device model, but that progress has in turn revealed more work to be done:

“With the successful design of the ”Pelamis” prototype it’s now time to reconstruct it using materials that are more durable and can stand up to the wear and tear of public use.  The next step for me is to actually incorporate a working public-friendly version of the Pelamis into the wave tank.  The first design used wood to attach the hinges to and after a few weeks in the water the wood has started to mold and disintegrate.  This upcoming Tuesday I hope to find a replacement material such as PVC or aluminum that won’t corrode in water.  Another material that I have to replace is the pipe insulation foam inside the PVC that keeps the whole thing afloat.  I have noticed that the foam is getting more and more saturated with water so the buoyancy of the entire device is decreasing.  Luckily for me ping pong balls bit perfectly in the 1 ½ in pipe so I am going to try and use those for floatation because they will hopefully never lose their buoyancy.

I am really impressed with the way the model moves in the water right now and I am hoping that the new materials won’t impede or hinder the movements seen with the first prototype.  This model does not actually create any energy from the motion of waves. The idea behind the whole design is that the public will be able to create waves in the tank and see how this particular WEC captures the energy of the waves through the snake-like movement.  As long as the motion is consistent, it should be fairly simple for anyone to understand how energy is captured.”

Today our HMSC VC Intern Brian Verwey gives us an update on his work for the summer:

“This summer the Visitor Center is working on opening three new exhibits explaining three separate aspects of wave energy on the Oregon Coast.  Part of our internship for the summer is tackling these new displays and making them “public friendly.” Diana is working on erosion due to wave action along the beach.  Nick is creating tsunami proof structures.  I am designing wave energy converter (WEC) models. Tuesday is our project day at the Visitor Center so instead of working on the floor we spend most of the day in the new wave energy section of the VC (closed to the public for now).

The idea behind the WEC exhibit is to demonstrate how energy is created from waves.  To do this we are simplifying a working WEC design called a point absorber.  A point absorber works by moving a magnet through as coil of wire that then creates an electromagnetic current.  It’s a pretty basic concept that has proven very difficult to show in our wave tank in the VC.  The most challenging part of the exhibit so far is getting our version of the point absorber to create electricity that can be displayed on a computer monitor and in turn will be easily recognized and understood by the public. As of yet it isn’t easy to understand. So for now I’ve focused my efforts on creating other models of WECs that don’t actually create energy but give the public an idea of how they work [such as the one below].



Last Tuesday I worked on creating an attenuating wave energy device similar to the Scottish “Pelamis.” It’s about 36” long and fits perfectly in one of our wave tanks.  It works pretty well and for the next few project days I will be working out some kinks in the design. The main kink is creating an anchor system to attach it to the tanks so it doesn’t float away when waves are produced, and the other big kink is somehow orienting the model so when waves hit it, it doesn’t flip onto its side.”


We put water in the wave tanks today. After a few small adjustments, they seem to be operating very nicely. The process of filling and testing them drew a decent-sized crowd of curious youngsters.

At Mark’s urging, I tried to create an impressive tsunami in the smaller tank. A single, mighty heave barely produced a ripple.  This is good, as it means visitors with this goal will need to spend a few seconds fine-tuning their timing and rhythm to meet it. It is satisfying when you get a nice, even stream of deep waves marching down the trough.

Alan is in the process of testing out his wave energy demonstration device, which is essentially one of those electromagnetic flashlights you shake up to charge, with a float attached. It’s simple but effective, and it seems like common sense once you see it in action.


Two of our wave tanks arrived this morning.  The largest wave tank needs a little more time in the oven, so it should be arriving in a week or two.  I’ve spent more time crawling around in acrylic tanks than I have moving them, so I was a little surprised at the weight of the things.  They definitely feel solid.  With summer approaching, I’m sure they’ll get a thorough durability test in their first few months of service.


Today we met with a consulting engineer to puzzle out the basics of our wave tank. We’ll use the wave tank for two main purposes: modeling tsunami damage and demonstrating wave energy buoys. This means we’ll need to create both breaking waves and swells. This may entail two tanks or a convertible system of some sort.

The wave energy element of the exhibit will use working scale-model wave generators with LED lights to show the output. What better way to demonstrate wave energy than to actually let visitors produce it and see the results? We’ll be able to use this setup to host student design challenges, wherein participants engineer and test their generator arrays for power and efficiency.

We expect visitors (and ourselves) to have a lot of fun with the tsunami modeling aspect of the wave tank. This will feature scale-model buildings and a shore on which waves can break. We’re still exploring the design possibilities. This part of the exhibit will also lend itself to design challenges, as visitors and students will create buildings to test their tsunami resistance.

Tsunami modeling has immediate implications for a town like Newport, which sits right next to an offshore fault. Here at HMSC, we’re at sea level. Regular drills and the presence of emergency supply “bug-out bags” on the walls ensure that everyone here has at least an imagined scenario of what he or she would do in case of a quake. Pat Corcoran is our coastal natural hazards extension agent, and he has lots of info on the subject of “The Big One” and how to prepare.

When the earthquake hit Japan earlier this year, folks on the Oregon coast learned how real this scenario could become. For those of us on the Oregon coast, the local evacuations were a wake-up call. In Japan, the nightmare continues. We imagine great disasters befalling “other people,” but actual disasters tend to remind us that there are no “other people”—only some of “us.” Nobody is immune, and nobody is untouched.

With this unsettling fact in mind, why do we so enjoy the concept of using model waves to smash a miniature coastal town not unlike our own? Back in my own home state of Florida, why do visitors enjoy “Disasterville” at MOSI? Why bring to mind the things that frighten us most? We do so for the same reason we watch horror movies, ride roller coasters or listen to Slayer. That is, as long as we have popcorn to eat, a lap bar to hold us in our seats or a buddy to pull us out of the mosh pit, we can look down upon danger and laugh. We banish the ugly and the frightening to the realm of fiction, if only for a moment. If we learn something useful in the process, all the better.