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Unstoppable: Tapping the Entrepreneurs of the Waves to Water Prize DESIGN Competition

June 18, 2020

Many people worldwide lack access to clean water. In fact, more than 2.6 billion people are without adequate sanitation and more than 1.1 billion people do not have safe water to drink.

To help fill that gap, the American-Made Challenges Waves to Water Prize invites innovators to demonstrate small, modular, cost-competitive desalination systems that use the power of ocean waves to provide clean drinking water for disaster recovery and remote and coastal communities.

On June 8, the U.S. Department of Energy's Water Power Technologies Office selected 17 winning teams in the DESIGN Stage, who will share $800,000 in cash prizes for their ideas.

“Innovations from these entrepreneurial teams could help advance wave-powered desalination systems, as well as other wave energy systems,” said Scott Jenne, NREL’s principal investigator for the Waves to Water Prize. “As this competition unfolds, we’re seeing more creative solutions designed to serve water-stressed populations.”

During the DESIGN Stage, competitors had 120 days to develop design and modeling documentation, specifically describing their systems, important technical details and plans, and any model simulation or theory accurately capturing the performance of their wave-powered desalination systems. Among the winners are eight entrepreneurs who proposed the following award-winning systems:

  • J. Kloepfer and E. Baade of JPW, along with R. Costello, B. Kennedy, and D. Padeletti of Wave Venture, developed the Canvasback Desalination System. Their system is an inflatable buoy wave energy conversion device made of whitewater raft material. It features a mooring system, direct-current pump, and an onshore reverse osmosis desalination system.
  • Aaron Cosby of Marine Systems, along with a team of entrepreneurs from Sea Potential LLC, Pure Marine, and Colloide Engineering Systems, designed the DUO-Powered Waves to Water system, a dual-body wave energy conversion device. The design consists of an inflatable body that floats on the wave’s surface and is connected by a mooring chain to a sand-bagged weight on the ocean floor. A power take-off system drives one reverse osmosis membrane on the inflatable buoy.
  • Mirko Previsic, who finished third in the 2016 Wave Energy Prize, developed the MetaMorph H20. This device features an inflatable absorber float that uses a power take-off system to pressurize seawater to enter a reverse osmosis system.
  • Sam Beyenne of CIRAMAX LLC won for the AQUACEANO system that features a three-oscillating-buoy design. Connected to a central hull with hydraulic pumps, the buoys’ actuating arms feed water into a pressurized reverse osmosis unit.
  • Michael Kelly, along with eight students from the University of California, teamed up with Etienne Droz from Lausanne, Switzerland, and Zach Scheuffle of Ames, Iowa, to create the SD CAL Desalination Backpack WEC. This design features an inflatable buoy that operates a four-piston pump, similar in design to a reverse osmosis system, to pressurize a reverse osmosis membrane.
  • Developers from Wave Energy and Spectra Watermakers, a company focused on small-scale, energy-efficient desalination systems for marine applications, received two awards for their designs:
    • Water Duck is an innovative, easily deployable, and robust wave-driven pump with an onboard reverse osmosis desalination system.
    • Surge Seeker uses a double taut-moored point absorber to operate an onboard Spectra Watermaker reverse osmosis system.
  • Team Project 816, comprising United States Air Force test flight pilots, physicists, and engineers, submitted their design, Ballast, Buoys, and Borrowing from Archimedes. This system provides electrical power to a reverse osmosis system by utilizing a raft as a buoy with a pulley, spring reel, and generator system.

In the next stage, ADAPT, participants will have 180 days to design flexible desalination systems to meet the specific site conditions at Jennette’s Pier on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

This prize is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Security Grand Challenge, which is focused on advancing transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for secure and affordable water.

Check back for an in-depth look at the industry and academia winning teams of the Waves to Water Prize DESIGN Stage. You can also stay updated on competition news and progress by following @AMCprizes on Twitter.