FlexWave: flexible responsive systems in wave energy

Innovation in wave energy

Wave energy converters (WECs) offer opportunities for niche (powering aquaculture and offshore stations) and grid-scale applications. But they require innovation to accelerate their development and unlock the potential of wave energy, reduce energy costs and prove wave energy as a competitor against other renewable energy options.

The project

FlexWave seeks to improve the design, manufacture and survivability of flexible WECs. It will investigate intelligent design concepts to explore whether types of rubber, composites and polymers can be effective in improving performance, reliability and reduce costs compared to current available materials. Testing will also include how materials hold up against extreme storms and sea conditions, which present a significant challenge to existing WEC designs.

The project will unite experts in hydrodynamics, materials and deployable structures and conduct extensive design analysis and numerical modelling simulations of flexible fabric WECs, alongside physical tests in the COAST Laboratory.

The researchers will also work closely with the advisory board and wider industry to ensure any technology developed can be applied in real-world settings.

Press release: Research investigates effectiveness of flexible materials in wave energy devices

<p>Professor Deborah Greaves<br></p>

Professor Deborah Greaves OBE

Professor Deborah Greaves OBE, Head of the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics at the University of Plymouth, and Director of the EPSRC-funded Supergen Hub, is the project’s Principal Investigator. She said:

“Marine wave energy has the potential contribute around 15% of the UK’s present electricity demand. However, despite a number of technical advances in recent years, it is still an emerging technology, especially when compared to other areas of the ORE sector such as offshore wind. This project is very timely as we can explore new innovations which may make wave energy more reliable and cost effective. It also presents an opportunity to look into synergies across the sector, and how wave energy could be integrated with offshore wind installations or used as a power supply for offshore installations, aquaculture, and remote and island communities.”

Professor John Chaplin, from the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Southampton, said:

“A key issue in this project is that of survivability. Many concepts for wave energy devices have been found to be vulnerable to the effects of extreme loading in storm conditions. We aim to address this problem in exciting new ways, exploiting the properties of flexible membranes in novel geometric constructions.”

Professor Zhong You, from the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford, added:

“The project tries to create enclosures made from flexible materials inspired by origami to harvest marine wave energy more effectively. It is probably the first application of origami in marine engineering. I am extremely grateful to the EPSRC for its support, which will enable us to explore potentially ground-breaking concepts.”


Partners and collaborators

  • University of Oxford
  • University of Southampton
  • Bombora Wave Power Europe
  • Griffon Hoverworks Ltd
  • Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult
  • Seawind Ocean Technology Ltd
  • Wave Venture Ltd

  • BP
  • London Offshore Consultants Group
  • Single Buoy Moorings Inc
  • Checkmate Flexible Engineering
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • Rod Rainey & Associates
  • Wave Energy Scotland


Sunset Offshore Wind Turbine in a Wind farm under construction of England coast, UK. Image courtesy of Getty Images. &nbsp;<br></p>

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