Scientists Develop First Underwater Robot Powered Entirely by Ocean’s Thermal Energy

by , 04/09/10

Solo-Trec, SOLO-TREC, Sounding Oceanographic Lagrangrian Observer Thermal Recharging, thermal recharging engine, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, US Navy, underwater robot, underwater robot powered by thermal energy, ocean thermal energy, submersibles, ocean monitoring

Everyone loves a cool robot, and this new one blows others out of the water. A team of researchers recently developed Sounding Oceanographic Lagrangrian Observer Thermal RECharging (SOLO-TREC), the world’s first underwater robotic vehicle powered entirely by thermal energy, a completely renewable resource. The robot is poised to revolutionize ocean monitoring: Because it is not limited by a depleting energy source, it can stay underwater for unprecedented amounts of time.

A team of researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the US Navy developed SOLO-TREC. The autonomous underwater robotic vehicle relies on a thermal recharging engine, which derives its power from the temperature differences found at varying ocean depths. The engine can produce about 1.7 watts of energy each dive, enough power to operate the robot’s science instruments, a GPS receiver, a communications device and a bouyancy control pump.

Robots used to be able to spend only a limited amount of time underwater because whatever power source they relied on would eventually run out. SOLO-TREC gets all its juice from the ocean water itself, meaning it can spend indefinite amounts of time beneath the waves. Based on SOLO-TREC’s technology, new underwater robots are sure to revolutionize ocean monitoring for climate and marine life studies, exploration and surveillance.

SOLO-TREC recently completed a three-month endurance test off the coast of Hawaii and is now on an extended mission. NASA and the US Navy say they plan to use thermal recharging engines in next-generation submersibles.

+ NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Via ScienceDaily

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  1. Yi Chao April 18, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    1.7 watt-hour or 6100 Joules are the numbers being quoted.

  2. cern741 April 10, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    1.7 watts per dive, thats got to be a misprint. At TTL 5 volts that translates to 340 milliamp’s, to run “a GPS receiver, a communications device and a bouyancy control pump” I’m impressed.

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