Doe Science news source
The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2008-02-07 13:45:00
  • Article ID: 537572

Researchers Give New Hybrid Vehicle Its First Test-Drive in the Ocean

media@whoi.edu

508-289-3340

Taking a page out of a science fiction story, researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Webb Research Corporation (Falmouth, Mass.) have successfully flown the first environmentally powered robotic vehicle through the ocean. The new robotic "glider" harvests heat energy from the ocean to propel itself across thousands of kilometers of water.

In December 2007, a research team led by oceanographers Dave Fratantoni of WHOI and Roy Watlington of the University of the Virgin Islands launched a prototype "thermal glider" off the coast of St. Thomas. The vehicle has been traveling uninterrupted ever since, crisscrossing the 4,000-meter-deep Virgin Islands Basin between St. Thomas and St Croix more than 20 times.

Engineers and researchers--including research associate John Lund and postdoctoral investigator Ben Hodges from WHOI, and engineers Clayton Jones and Tod Patterson of Webb Research--project that the thermal glider could continue its current, "green-powered" mission for as long as six months.

Unlike motorized, propeller-driven vehicles, gliders propel themselves through the ocean by changing their buoyancy to dive and surface. Wings generate lift, while a vertical tail fin and rudder allow the vehicles to be steered horizontally. Gliding underwater vehicles trace a saw-tooth profile through the ocean's layers, surfacing periodically to fix their positions via the Global Positioning System and to communicate via Iridium satellite to a shore lab.

"Gliders can be put to work on tasks that humans wouldn't want to do or cannot do because of time and cost concerns," said Fratantoni, an associate scientist in the WHOI Department of Physical Oceanography. "They can work around the clock in all weather conditions." The vehicles can carry a variety of sensors to collect measurements such as temperature, salinity, and biological productivity. Gliders also operate quietly, which makes them ideal for acoustic studies.

Though the thermal glider is not the first autonomous underwater vehicle to traverse great distances or stay at sea for long periods, it is the first to do so with green energy. Most gliders rely on battery-powered motors and mechanical pumps to move ballast water or oil from inside the vehicle's pressure hull to outside. The idea is to increase or decrease the displacement (volume) of the glider without changing its mass.

The new thermal glider draws its energy for propulsion from the differences in temperature—thermal stratification—between warm surface waters and colder, deeper layers of the ocean. The heat content of the ocean warms wax-filled tubes inside the engine. The expansion of the warming wax converts heat to mechanical energy, which is stored and used to push oil from a bladder inside the vehicle's hull to one outside, changing its buoyancy. Cooling of the wax at depth completes the cycle.

"We are tapping a virtually unlimited energy source for propulsion," said Fratantoni. The computers, radio transmitters, and other electronics on the glider are powered by alkaline batteries, which are, for now, the principal limit on the length of operation. Webb Research is working to reduce the electrical needs of the instruments, while also developing the capability to convert some of the thermal energy to power for the electronics.

The thermal glider concept was conceived in the 1980s by Doug Webb, a former WHOI research specialist who founded the Webb Research Corporation. Webb collaborated extensively with renowned WHOI physical oceanographer Henry Stommel, who championed the idea to the U.S. Navy and the oceanographic community. Stommel even penned a science fiction story—published in the journal Oceanography—about a fleet of Webb's gliding sentinels bobbing through the ocean. Webb and Stommel named the vehicles "Slocum" gliders for Joshua Slocum, the first man to single-handedly sail around the world.

Over the past decade, Fratantoni's Autonomous Systems Laboratory has become Webb's chief scientific partner in Woods Hole, testing and deploying the gliders in various underwater environments. Several battery-powered Slocum gliders have been deployed in shallower waters for coastal studies, for acoustics and marine mammal research, and for studies of currents and ocean circulation.

Recent funding for scientific missions and field testing of the glider system has been provided by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Grayce B. Kerr Fund.

"The current mission is an engineering test-drive, but it's also occurring in a scientifically compelling location," said Fratantoni. Swirling water currents, known as eddies, form upstream of the Virgin Islands. The data collected by the new glider system will help researchers understand how these eddies affect regional circulation and redistribute the larvae of coral reef fish and man-made pollutants.

The engineering trial for the thermal glider is the first step in a broader plan by Fratantoni and colleagues to launch a fleet of gliders for studies of the waters in the subtropical gyre of the North Atlantic, a key region for assessing the ocean's response to climate change. He plans to test the glider with a trip from St. Thomas to Bermuda later this spring.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization in Falmouth, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment.

********************************************************

Related Links

WHOI Autonomous Systems Laboratory

http://asl.whoi.edu/home.html

Webb Research Corporation

http://www.webbresearch.com/thermal_glider.htm

Tracing a Eureka Moment

http://www.webbresearch.com/Eureka.Moment.pdf

Oceanus: Monitoring Baleen Whales with Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=10547

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles at WHOI

http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=10078

Oceanus: Robo-Sailors

http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=3781

X
X
X
  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

Innovative Design Using Loops of Liquid Metal Can Improve Future Fusion Power Plants, Scientists Say

Article describes proposed design for production of steady-state plasma in future fusion power plants.

Scientists Create Most Powerful Micro-Scale Bio-Solar Cell Yet

Researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York have created a micro-scale biological solar cell that generates a higher power density for longer than any existing cell of its kind.

ESnet's Science DMZ Design Could Help Transfer, Protect Medical Research Data

As medicine becomes more data-intensive, Berkeley Lab & ESnet's Medical Science DMZ eyed as secure solution for transferring data

Breakthrough Cuttable, Flexible, Submersible and Ballistic-Tested Lithium-ion Battery Offers New Paradigm of Safety and Performance

Breakthrough Cuttable, Flexible, Submersible and Ballistic-Tested Lithium-ion Battery Offers New Paradigm of Safety and Performance

Chemical Treatment Improves Quantum Dot Lasers

One of the secrets to making tiny laser devices such as opthalmic surgery scalpels work even more efficiently is the use of tiny semiconductor particles, called quantum dots. In new research at Los Alamos National Laboratory's Nanotech Team, the ~nanometer-sized dots are being doctored, or "doped," with additional electrons, a treatment that nudges the dots ever closer to producing the desired laser light with less stimulation and energy loss.

Neutrons Observe Vitamin B6-Dependent Enzyme Activity Useful for Drug Development

Scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have performed neutron structural analysis of a vitamin B6-dependent protein, potentially opening avenues for new antibiotics and drugs to battle diseases such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria and diabetes. Specifically, the team used neutron crystallography to study the location of hydrogen atoms in aspartate aminotransferase, or AAT, an enzyme vital to the metabolism of certain amino acids.

Scientists Decode the Origin of Universe's Heavy Elements in the Light From a Neutron Star Merger

On Aug. 17, scientists around the globe were treated to near-simultaneous observations by separate instruments that would ultimately be confirmed as the first measurement of the merger of two neutron stars and its explosive aftermath.

PPPL Takes Detailed Look at 2-D Structure of Turbulence in Tokamaks

Article describes study of cross-correlation of turbulence in tokamaks.

New Method to Detect Spin Current in Quantum Materials Unlocks Potential for Alternative Electronics

A new method that precisely measures the mysterious behavior and magnetic properties of electrons flowing across the surface of quantum materials could open a path to next-generation electronics. A team of scientists has developed an innovative microscopy technique to detect the spin of electrons in topological insulators, a new kind of quantum material that could be used in applications such as spintronics and quantum computing.

Purple Power: Synthetic 'Purple Membranes' Transform Sunlight to Hydrogen Fuel

Argonne researchers have found a new way to produce solar fuels by developing "synthetic purple membranes." These membranes involve an assembly of lipid nanodiscs, man-made proteins, and semiconducting nanoparticles that, when taken together, can transform sunlight into hydrogen fuel.


  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

NIH Awards $6.5 Million to Berkeley Lab for Augmenting Structural Biology Research Experience

The NIH has awarded $6.5 million to Berkeley Lab to integrate existing synchrotron structural biology resources to better serve researchers. The grant will establish a center based at the Lab's Advanced Light Source (ALS) called ALS-ENABLE that will guide users through the most appropriate routes for answering their specific biological questions.

LIGO Announces Detection of Gravitational Waves From Colliding Neutron Stars

The U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory and the Virgo detector in Italy announced on Oct. 16 that all three of their detectors had picked up the ripples, or gravitational waves, from two neutron stars that collided 130 million years ago. Among other discoveries, the detection allowed scientists to use gravitational waves to directly calculate the rate at which the universe is expanding.

WVU Energy Conference to Address State's Economic Opportunities

West Virginia University will look at the state's emerging energy economy through industry experts, public policy organizations, environmental groups and academic institutions at the sixth annual National Energy Conference Oct. 20.

Exploring the Exotic World of Quarks and Gluons at the Dawn of the Exascale

As nuclear physicists delve ever deeper into the heart of matter, they require the tools to reveal the next layer of nature's secrets. Nowhere is that more true than in computational nuclear physics. A new research effort led by theorists at DOE's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) is now preparing for the next big leap forward in their studies thanks to funding under the 2017 SciDAC Awards for Computational Nuclear Physics.

Matthew Latimer Receives 2017 Lytle Award

A staff member at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Acceleratory Laboratory, Matthew Latimer is in charge of seven spectroscopy beamlines at SSRL. He was recently selected for the 2017 Farrel W. Lytle Award, established by the SSRL Users' Organization Executive Committee. The award promotes accomplishments in synchrotron science and supports collaboration among visiting scientists and staff who conduct research at SSRL.

Jefferson Lab Completes 12 GeV Upgrade

Nuclear physicists are now poised to embark on a new journey of discovery into the fundamental building blocks of the nucleus of the atom. The completion of the 12 GeV Upgrade Project of the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) heralds this new era to image nuclei at their deepest level.

Sunderrajan to Lead Science and Technology Partnerships and Outreach Directorate

Suresh Sunderrajan has been named the associate laboratory director (ALD) for the Science and Technology Partnerships and Outreach (STPO) Directorate at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

Career Awards Advance Research for Jefferson Lab Researchers

Two researchers affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility have received 2017 Early Career Research Program awards from the DOE's Office of Science.

U.S. Department of Energy Awards Danforth Center $16M to Enhance Sorghum for Bioenergy

This project aims to deliver stress-tolerant sorghum lines, addressing DOE's mission in the generation of renewable energy resources.

Four Los Alamos Scientists Named as 2017 Laboratory Fellows

Four Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have been named 2017 Fellows.


  • Filters

  • × Clear Filters

Discovering the Genetic Timekeepers in Bioenergy Crops

A new class of plant-specific genes required for flowering control in temperate grasses is found.

New Technology Illuminates Microbial Dark Matter

Demonstrating the microfluidic-based, mini-metagenomics approach on samples from hot springs shows how scientists can delve into microbes that can't be cultivated in a laboratory.

Tiny Green Algae Reveal Large Genomic Variation

First complete picture of genetic variations in a natural algal population could help explain how environmental changes affect global carbon cycles.

A Complex Little Alga that Lives by the Sea

The genetic material of Porphyra umbilicalis reveals the mechanisms by which it thrives in the stressful intertidal zone at the edge of the ocean.

Precise Radioactivity Measurements: A Controversy Settled

Simultaneous measurements of x-rays and gamma rays emitted in radioactive nuclear decays show that the vacancy left by an electron's departure, not the atomic structure, influences whether gamma rays are released.

OLYMPUS Experiment Sheds Light on Inner Workings of Protons

Seven-year study explains how packets of light are exchanged when protons meet electrons.

Explorations of the Universal Glue

The newly upgraded CEBAF Accelerator opens door to strong force studies.

Understanding the Rice Genome for Bioenergy Research

Genome-wide rice studies yield first major, large-scale collection of mutations for grass model crops, vital to boosting biofuel production.

Bringing Visual "Magic" to Light

Scientists create widely controllable ultrathin optical components that allow virtual objects to be projected in real environments.

Speeding Materials Discovery Puts Solar Fuels on the Fast Track to Commercial Viability

In just two years, a process that was developed by Molecular Foundry staff and users has nearly doubled the number of materials with the potential for using sunlight to produce fuel.


Spotlight

Tuesday October 03, 2017, 01:05 PM

Stairway to Science

Argonne National Laboratory

Thursday September 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

After-School Energy Rush

Argonne National Laboratory

Thursday September 28, 2017, 10:05 AM

Bringing Diversity Into Computational Science Through Student Outreach

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Thursday September 21, 2017, 03:05 PM

From Science to Finance: SLAC Summer Interns Forge New Paths in STEM

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Thursday September 07, 2017, 02:05 PM

Students Discuss 'Cosmic Opportunities' at 45th Annual SLAC Summer Institute

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Thursday August 31, 2017, 05:05 PM

Binghamton University Opens $70 Million Smart Energy Building

Binghamton University, State University of New York

Wednesday August 23, 2017, 05:05 PM

Widening Horizons for High Schoolers with Code

Argonne National Laboratory

Saturday May 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Monday May 15, 2017, 01:05 PM

ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday April 07, 2017, 11:05 AM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jonathan Kirzner

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Wednesday April 05, 2017, 12:05 PM

High-Schooler Solves College-Level Security Puzzle From Argonne, Sparks Interest in Career

Argonne National Laboratory

Tuesday March 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jenica Jacobi

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Friday March 24, 2017, 10:40 AM

Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Wednesday February 15, 2017, 04:05 PM

Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

Argonne National Laboratory

Friday January 27, 2017, 04:00 PM

Haslam Visits ORNL to Highlight State's Role in Discovering Tennessine

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Tuesday November 08, 2016, 12:05 PM

Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday May 13, 2016, 04:05 PM

More Than 12,000 Explore Jefferson Lab During April 30 Open House

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Monday April 25, 2016, 05:05 PM

Giving Back to National Science Bowl

Ames Laboratory

Friday March 25, 2016, 12:05 PM

NMSU Undergrad Tackles 3D Particle Scattering Animations After Receiving JSA Research Assistantship

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

Tuesday February 02, 2016, 10:05 AM

Shannon Greco: A Self-Described "STEM Education Zealot"

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Monday November 16, 2015, 04:05 PM

Rare Earths for Life: An 85th Birthday Visit with Mr. Rare Earth

Ames Laboratory

Tuesday October 20, 2015, 01:05 PM

Meet Robert Palomino: 'Give Everything a Shot!'

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Tuesday April 22, 2014, 11:30 AM

University of Utah Makes Solar Accessible

University of Utah

Wednesday March 06, 2013, 03:40 PM

Student Innovator at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Seeks Brighter, Smarter, and More Efficient LEDs

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday November 16, 2012, 10:00 AM

Texas Tech Energy Commerce Students, Community Light up Tent City

Texas Tech University

Wednesday November 23, 2011, 10:45 AM

Don't Get 'Frosted' Over Heating Your Home This Winter

Temple University

Wednesday July 06, 2011, 06:00 PM

New Research Center To Tackle Critical Challenges Related to Aircraft Design, Wind Energy, Smart Buildings

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday April 22, 2011, 09:00 AM

First Polymer Solar-Thermal Device Heats Home, Saves Money

Wake Forest University

Friday April 15, 2011, 12:25 PM

Like Superman, American University Will Get Its Energy from the Sun

American University

Thursday February 10, 2011, 05:00 PM

ARRA Grant to Help Fund Seminary Building Green Roof

University of Chicago

Tuesday December 07, 2010, 05:00 PM

UC San Diego Installing 2.8 Megawatt Fuel Cell to Anchor Energy Innovation Park

University of California San Diego

Monday November 01, 2010, 12:50 PM

Rensselaer Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center Announces First Deployment of New Technology on Campus

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Friday September 10, 2010, 12:40 PM

Ithaca College Will Host Regional Clean Energy Summit

Ithaca College

Tuesday July 27, 2010, 10:30 AM

Texas Governor Announces $8.4 Million Award to Create Renewable Energy Institute

Texas Tech University

Friday May 07, 2010, 04:20 PM

Creighton University to Offer New Alternative Energy Program

Creighton University

Wednesday May 05, 2010, 09:30 AM

National Engineering Program Seeks Subject Matter Experts in Energy

JETS Junior Engineering Technical Society

Wednesday April 21, 2010, 12:30 PM

Students Using Solar Power To Create Sustainable Solutions for Haiti, Peru

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Wednesday March 03, 2010, 07:00 PM

Helping Hydrogen: Student Inventor Tackles Challenge of Hydrogen Storage

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Thursday February 04, 2010, 02:00 PM

Turning Exercise into Electricity

Furman University

Thursday November 12, 2009, 12:45 PM

Campus Leaders Showing the Way to a Sustainable, Clean Energy Future

National Wildlife Federation (NWF)

Tuesday November 03, 2009, 04:20 PM

Furman University Receives $2.5 Million DOE Grant for Geothermal Project

Furman University

Thursday September 17, 2009, 02:45 PM

Could Sorghum Become a Significant Alternative Fuel Source?

Salisbury University

Wednesday September 16, 2009, 11:15 AM

Students Navigating the Hudson River With Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Wednesday September 16, 2009, 10:00 AM

College Presidents Flock to D.C., Urge Senate to Pass Clean Energy Bill

National Wildlife Federation (NWF)

Wednesday July 01, 2009, 04:15 PM

Northeastern Announces New Professional Master's in Energy Systems

Northeastern University

Friday October 12, 2007, 09:35 AM

Kansas Rural Schools To Receive Wind Turbines

Kansas State University

Thursday August 17, 2006, 05:30 PM

High Gas Prices Here to Stay, Says Engineering Professor

Rowan University





Showing results

0-4 Of 2215