Experimental and computational analysis of elastomer membranes used in oscillating water column WECs

Abad, Farhad and Lotfian, Saeid and Dai, Saishuai and Zhao, Guangwei and Idarraga Alarcon, Guillermo and Yang, Liu and Huang, Yang and Xiao, Qing and Brennan, Feargal (2024) Experimental and computational analysis of elastomer membranes used in oscillating water column WECs. Renewable Energy, 226. 120422. ISSN 0960-1481 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2024.120422)

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The study investigates the structural characterisation of flexible membranes used in oscillating water column (OWC) wave energy converters (WECs). Four commonly utilised elastomers – natural rubber, nitrile rubber, silicone, and latex – were subjected to a novel hyperelastic model selection process. A custom bulge test setup enabled the selection of second-order Mooney-Rivlin (SOMR) and Yeoh models for relevant accuracy (RMSE<0.018MPa), stability and numerical validation. A 1:20 scale OWC model with latex was tested in a water tank to examine the effects of waves with a frequency range of 0.25–1.4 Hz and up to 0.24m amplitude. Water tank experiments demonstrated smooth frequency responses for OWC with membrane, beneficial for consistent power generation. A dry test rig was designed and built to replicate OWC inflation conditions and apply cyclic loadings up to 1.5 Hz, overcoming pressure limitations of the water tank, exploring wider material options, and validating numerical simulation. An optical motion capture system, Qualisys, supported the validation process by providing precise data on membrane deformation during experiments. Furthermore, finite element analysis (FEA) was utilised to conduct stress analysis and parametric studies, assessing the suitability of these materials for flexible OWC application.