Bobber swims into action

Researchers at the University of Manchester are developing a new wave energy device known as the ‘Manchester Bobber’.

The device will be showcased at the New & Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) in Blyth, Northumberland, on September 19th.


The Manchester Bobber uses the rise and fall (or ‘bobbing’) of the water surface. This movement transmits energy, which is then extracted by the mechanics to drive a generator and produce electricity.


The researchers’  vision is to have a series of Bobbers working together to generate electricity. One concept which is currently being explored is the use of decommissioned offshore rigs as platforms for the devices.


“Energy from the sea may be extracted in many ways and harnessing the energy from the bobbing motion of the sea is not a new idea. It is the hydrodynamics of the float employed by the Manchester Bobber that provides the vital connection to generating electricity,” said Professor Peter Stansby, co-inventor of the Manchester Bobber and Professor of Hydrodynamics at The University of Manchester.


The Manchester Bobber has a number of unique features. The vulnerable mechanical and electrical components, for example, are housed in a protected environment well above sea level, which makes for ease of accessibility.


All mechanical and electrical components are readily available, resulting in high reliability compared to other devices with a large number of more sophisticated components.


What is more, the Manchester Bobber will respond to waves from any direction without requiring adjustment.


And the ability to maintain and repair specific ‘Bobber’ generators (independent of others in a linked group) means that generation supply to the network can continue uninterrupted.


The initial concept for the Manchester Bobber was conceived back in in January 2004 via a 12 month Carbon Trust award. The design, development and testing of the device has been carried out at the University of Manchester led by Professor Peter Stansby and Dr. Alan Williamson.


Phase One of the project (testing of 1/100th scale working model) was successfully completed in January 2005. Phase Two, which is commencing now, involves a 1/10th scale device that has been constructed and will be tested at NaREC over a two week period.


Industrial partners Mowlem and Royal Haskoning are also developing and costing conceptual designs for a full scale platform. Phase Three will involve a full scale prototype being constructed and tested in parallel with detailed costings and engineering design for the optimum full scale concept from Phase Two.


Lots of technical information about the Bobber can be found here.