ANNAPOLIS, Md., Nov. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've taken a page from the humpback whale's book to design more efficient underwater turbines for generating electricity.
The turbines are an integral part of the technology that attempts to convert ocean tidal flow energy into electricity.
Researchers at the United States Naval Academy in Maryland have been tackling one of the serious challenges of the technology, the low velocity associated with many tidal flows and the difficulty of extracting useful energy from low speed flows using current designs, a release from the American Institute of Physics says.
"We designed a novel blade modification for potential turbine performance improvement, which was inspired by humpback whale flippers, with the addition of tubercles, or bumps, to the leading edge of each blade," Mark Murray, a Naval Academy engineering professor, says.
The modified blades proved to be more effective in extracting energy at low speeds without degrading performance at high flow speeds or increasing the mechanical complexity of the turbine.
The protuberances are an example of biomimetics, technology that mimics nature, the researchers say.