15-Year-Old Develops $12 Machine That Converts Ocean Currents into Usable Electricity


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Categories: Hydro Power

Meet Hannah Herbst, a 15-year-old from Boca Raton, Florida, who just might be the nation’s top young scientist. Earlier this month, Herbst won a $25,000 prize with a very cheap invention: a prototype probe that converts the movement of the ocean’s currents into energy and costs just $12 to make. Out of nine other middle-school finalists, Herbst was awarded first place in the 2015 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

Herbst’s energy probe consists of a 3D-printed propeller, a pulley, and a hydroelectric generator, which converts the movement of the ocean into usable energy. Though the small probe does not create enough energy to power, say, an electric grid, Herbst says a system of her ocean-powered propellers could run a desalinization machine, which converts ocean water into drinking water.

Herbst’s project began with a pen pal. While writing to a 9-year-old living in Ethiopia, the young scientist learned that her new friend’s family did not have a reliable source of power or electricity. So Herbst turned to an energy source that surrounds her native Boca Raton: the ocean. 

I really want to end the energy poverty crisis and really help the other methods of renewable energy collection to generate more power and to make our world a better place for everyone,” Herbst says.

 

Though marine current power is still in its infancy, it has plenty of potential. Dense water generates impressive amounts of energy as its moves through the ocean. The U.S. Department of the Interior estimates that if just 1/1,000th of the energy available in the Gulf Stream were harnessed and converted, it could supply 35 percent of Florida’s electricity needs.

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