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Low-Cost River Simulator for 100W Hydro-Kinetic Turbine Testing

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Energy Education and Industrial Partnership Needs

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1027.1 - 22.1027.15



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Paper Authors

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Edward Russell Forringer LeTourneau University


Matthew G. Green LeTourneau University

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Dr. Matthew G. Green is an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at LeTourneau University, Longview. His objective is to practice and promote engineering as a serving profession. Focus areas include: remote power generation, design methods for frontier environments, enhanced engineering learning, and assistive devices for persons with disabilities. Contact:

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Jesse J. French LeTourneau University


Paul R. Leiffer LeTourneau University

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Paul R. Leiffer, Ph.D., P.E., is a professor in the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology at LeTourneau University, where he has taught since 1979. He is
currently co-developer of the program in BioMedical Engineering. He received his B.S.E.E. from the State University of New York at Buffalo and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Drexel University. Prior to joining the faculty at LeTourneau, he was involved in cardiac cell research at
the University of Kansas Medical Center. His professional interests include bioinstrumentation, digital signal processing, and engineering ethics. Email:

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Low Cost Water Tunnel for 100W Hydro-Kinetic Turbine TestingIn a multi-year project our students are designing,prototyping,andtestinghydro‐kineticdevicesintendedtoprovideelectricalpowerinremoteregionsbyextractingenergyfromrivercurrents. The low-cost submergible devices must not disturb surface use of waterwayswhile producing between 20 and 100 watts of power for river currents between 1 and 3 m/s.These hydro-kinetic power systems must be tested in a full range of water flow velocities. Localriver testing does not readily provide a wide range of flow velocities and commercially availablewater tunnels start at $14,000 for a model with a maximum flow velocity of 0.3 m/s and a 70 in2test cross-section, much less than the 400 in2 test cross-section needed.This paper describes the conversion of a pre-existing 24 foot diameter 4 foot deep above-groundpool into a variable flow-rate water tunnel facility using $500 of additional equipment. Waterflow is generated by an 80 pound thrust trolling motor powered by a pulse-width-modulatedmotor controller. Steady state flow rates as a function of input power are measured with andwithout central vortex suppression. Suitability for hydro-kinetic testing is verified bycharacterizing the velocity cross-section of a test section and comparing it with velocity cross-sections found in a local river.Additional applications of low cost water tunnels are explored including: flow visualization,scale model testing of wind power systems, and fluid drag measurements on watercraft.

Forringer, E. R., & Green, M. G., & French, J. J., & Leiffer, P. R. (2011, June), Low-Cost River Simulator for 100W Hydro-Kinetic Turbine Testing Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18304

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