MAE doctoral student selected for Department of Energy fellowship

A doctoral student from NC State University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering was selected earlier this month for a highly selective research fellowship with the Department of Energy.

Vinson Williams has been selected as a member of the prestigious DoE Marine Energy Graduate Student Research Program Fellowship, which will support his work both during his studies at NC State and during an on-site research residency at Navy Surface Warfare Center Carderock. Only 3 people in the country were selected for the fellowship in 2022.

Williams works under MAE Associate Professor Dr. Matthew Bryant in the Intelligent Structures and Systems Research Lab (iSSRL),where he worked to develop his proposal for the fellowship: “Dynamic Power Response Modeling for Marine Hydrokinetic Energy Harvesting Underwater Tethered Coaxial Turbines.”

“The research Vinson has proposed for this fellowship aims to create the modeling framework necessary to predict and control the operating points of a tethered coaxial turbine in realistic flows that include spatial non-uniformity and time-variation,” Bryant said about Williams’s research. “While this is a rich and ambitious problem, Vinson’s excellent research aptitude has already led to significant progress that lays the groundwork for his successful completion of these aims.”

At the iSSRL, Williams contributes to the “Coaxial Water Turbine System Modeling and Optimization” research project, which ultimately aims to develop methods by which to extract energy from the Gulf Stream, a wide and relatively fast current of warm water passing close to the Eastern seaboard. 

“Tethered coaxial turbines (TCTs) consist of two turbines that are attached to the rotor and stator of an electric generator, which is then attached to a tether and moored to the ocean floor,” Williams’s abstract states. “The turbines counter-rotate in response to flow and extracts energy via the generator. The construction of the TCT would allow the turbine to access the fastest surface flows while being moored to the ocean floor 3000m below. Due to the electromechanical and hydrodynamic coupling between the rotors, the power extraction capabilities of the turbine can be controlled and maximized by changing the characteristics of the generator and the skew angle of the turbine relative to flow.”

The Navy Surface Warfare Center Carderock features large-scale towing basins and water channels, which Bryant’s research group hopes to use for testing turbine prototypes that they have developed in collaboration with fellow MAE research groups under Dr. Kenneth Granlund and Dr. Andre Mazzoleni

“Overall, this research works towards proving the potential of this method for power extraction and lays the foundation for the implementation of TCTs as a robust and reliable addition to the American power grid,” Williams concludes in his abstract.