We know that bike riding and jump roping can generate enough energy to power our gadgets. But what about other forms of clean, kinetic energy that are currently being wasted? Yinger ‘Eagle’ Jin, a sophomore at Wake Forest University, saw the potential for power in an unlikely place: the campus swimming pool. As an avid swimmer armed with an undergraduate research grant, Jin wondered if there might be enough waves in the campus pool to generate a small amount of electricity.
According to the university, Jin created an “oscillating water column” to test how much electricity would be produced by the waves during one day at the pool. Here’s how it works: The moving water acts as a piston, forcing air out of the column as a wave rises. and drawing fresh air in as it falls. This movement turns a turbine connected to the top of the column, which ultimately converts the wave energy to electricity.
Jin estimated that swimmers generated 10-kilowatt-hours of electricity — enough to keep the lights on at Wake Forest’s Reynolds Gym pool for a full day. “We are talking a very small scale, but recreational swimmers produce a decent amount of waves,” Jin told the university news center. “The concept is similar to the idea that at a regular gym you have exercise bikes that are powered by someone spinning the pedals.”
Now, with the help of Jin’s mathematics professor Sarah Mason, who has been assisting him with the project, they plan to take his method to a much larger water source: the Atlantic Ocean. “There is certainly room for continuation in Eagle’s project; in particular one publishable goal is to calculate how much energy could be produced through wave energy off the coast of North Carolina,” Mason says. If their predictions are correct, the amount of easily accessible energy will be a whole lot more than just a drop in the pool.