Design of a novel energy harvesting mechanism for underwater gliders using thermal buoyancy engines

Hongbo Hou, Abel Arredondo Galeana, Yang Song, Gang Xu, Yunxin Xu, Weichao Shi

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Underwater gliders (UGs) are becoming popular in ocean exploration. However, the main limitation for their development is their supply of energy. This paper proposes a novel energy harvesting mechanism for an underwater glider equipped with a thermal buoyancy engine. The thermal buoyancy engine changes the buoyancy of the glider, due to the difference of temperature of the ocean, and it drives the glider up and down in the water. These manoeuvres drive a turbine behind to harvest energy. Based on this harvesting mechanism, first, a new type of thermal buoyancy engine with high ballast capacity is presented. Secondly, a dedicated turbine, mounted behind the glider, is optimally designed based on the Blade Element Momentum Theory (BEMT). In order to consider the un-uniform inflow generated by the wake of the glider, an upgraded version of the BEMT model has been developed. With the results obtained in this paper, enhanced energy efficiency for a self-sustainable underwater glider can be achievable.
Original languageEnglish
Article number114310
Number of pages14
JournalOcean Engineering
Early online date5 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2023


  • energy harvesting mechanism
  • underwater glider
  • thermal buoyancy engine
  • turbine optimization
  • BEMT


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