UK scientists have built a giant rubber snake which can generate electricity by harnessing the power of waves.
The Anaconda device consists of a rubber tube closed at both ends and filled completely with water.
It is designed to be fixed below the sea's surface, with one end facing oncoming waves.
Waves hitting the end squeeze the tube and cause a current to form which turns a turbine fitted at the far end of the device.
According to its inventors, the simple design makes it cheap to manufacture and maintain, enabling it to produce clean electricity at a lower cost than other types of wave energy converter.
Because it is made of rubber, the Anaconda is much lighter than other wave energy devices (which are primarily made of metal) and dispenses with the need for hydraulic rams, hinges and articulated joints.
This reduces capital and maintenance costs and the scope for breakdowns, the scientists note.
The project has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in collaboration with the inventors and developer Checkmate SeaEnergy.
Engineers at the University of Southampton are now embarking on a programme of larger-scale laboratory experiments and mathematical studies designed to determine whether the design is commercially viable.
Each full-scale Anaconda would be 200 metres long and seven metres in diameter, and deployed in depths of between 40 and 100 metres.
Initial assessments indicate that the device would be rated at a power output of 1MW (roughly the electricity consumption of 2,000 houses) and might be able to generate power at a cost of 6p per kWh or less.
"The Anaconda could make a valuable contribution to environmental protection by encouraging the use of wave power," said Professor John Chaplin, who is leading the project.
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