(Closed) BlueEnergy – Large scale blue energy harvesting using hybrid triboelectric/photovoltaic systems for the long term deployment of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles


BlueEnergy proposed to develop the first hybrid energy harvesting system to be installed in the ocean and enable the long-term deployment of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles. Such an achievement was expected to foster the continuous monitoring of environmental and human activities in remote oceanic locations, a key objective of the Azores International Research Center.

Two recent complementary developments motivated the project’s ambitious goal. The first is the realization of triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs), a novel technology that can efficiently harvest low amplitude, low frequency wave energy. This marks a rupture from present wave farms based on low performance electromagnetic generators. The triboelectric effect is related with the build-up of static charges when two materials are rubbed together. By contacting and separating materials with oppositely charged surfaces, power densities above 500 W/m2 can be generated. The second is the discovery that motheye structures (arrays of vertical nanopillars), besides functioning as broad- spectrum, omnidirectional antireflective surfaces that increase the performance of photovoltaic cells by over 1.5x, also result in a high degree of hydrophobicity.

This exploratory project, which highlighted emerging areas of interest in micro- and nanomaterial transport phenomena, including spintronics, represents an important first step towards the implementation of large networks of hybrid generators to act as distributed power sources autonomous Ocean technology.


Title Large scale blue energy harvesting using hybrid triboelectric/photovoltaic systems for the long term deployment of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles
Reference UTAP-EXPL/NTec/0021/2017
Scientific Area Nanotechnologies
Funding € 99 737,00 plus matched funding at UT Austin
Leading Institution Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto (FCUP)
Participating Institutions The University of Austin at Texas (UT Austin)
Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Tecnologia e Ciência (INESC TEC)
Duration 18 months
Begin date October 1, 2018
End date March 31, 2020
Keywords Energy Harvesting, Triboelectric Nanogenerators, Solar Energy, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

Main Highlights

  • Enhanced and scalable triboelectric materials to be used in salt water environments by functionalizing and texturing their contact surfaces using nano-patterns;
  • Photovoltaic modules involving nanostructured motheye glass packaging that are corrosion-resistant, hydrophobic and self-cleaning;
  • Power conditioning electronics and dedicated power management systems able to cope with these energy harvesting technologies involving novel TENG prototypes generating electrical energy from wave motion;
  • One book to be published by Elsevier: Transport phenomena in micro and nanoscale functional materials and devices, J. B. Sousa, J. Ventura, A. M. Pereira.


  • 5 Published papers in peer-reviewed Journals and Conferences;
  • 1 Book accepted for publication;
  • 2 PhDs, 3 MSc. and 4 Undergraduate students involved in research work;
  • 3 Scientific events organized;
  • 2 Prototypes: Dry bench testing system and Bluetooth datalogger.

Papers and Communications

  • Rodrigues, C., Ramos, M., Esteves, R., Correia, J., Clemente, D., Gonçalves, F., Mathias, N., Gomes, M., Silva, J., Duarte, C., Morais, T., Rosa-Santos, P., Taveira-Pinto, F., Pereira, A., & Ventura, J. (2021). Integrated study of triboelectric nanogenerator for ocean wave energy harvesting: Performance assessment in realistic sea conditions. In Nano Energy (Vol. 84, p. 105890). Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nanoen.2021.105890
  • Transport phenomena in micro and nanoscale functional materials and devices, J. B. Sousa, J. Ventura, A. M. Pereira., Elsevier (2021).
  • Rodrigues, C., Nunes, D., Clemente, D., Mathias, N., Correia, J. M., Rosa-Santos, P., Taveira-Pinto, F., Morais, T., Pereira, A., & Ventura, J. (2020). Emerging triboelectric nanogenerators for ocean wave energy harvesting: state of the art and future perspectives. Energy & Environmental Science, 13(9), 2657–2683. https://doi.org/10.1039/d0ee01258k
  • Rodrigues, C., Kumar, M., Proenca, M. P., Gutierrez, J., Melo, R., Pereira, A., & Ventura, J. (2020). Triboelectric energy harvesting in harsh conditions: Temperature and pressure effects in methane and crude oil environments. Nano Energy, 72, 104682. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nanoen.2020.104682
  • Rodrigues, C., Gomes, A., Ghosh, A., Pereira, A., & Ventura, J. (2019). Power-generating footwear based on a triboelectric-electromagnetic-piezoelectric hybrid nanogenerator. Nano Energy, 62, 660–666. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nanoen.2019.05.063
  • Esteves, R., Rodrigues, C., Ventura, J., Pereira, A., Duarte, C., Correia, V., & Pessoa, L. (2019, June). Experimental Evaluation of TENGs for Energy Harvesting in Maritime Applications. OCEANS 2019 – Marseille. OCEANS 2019 – Marseille. https://doi.org/10.1109/oceanse.2019.8867376

Project Team

João Ventura

Principal Investigator in Portugal

Edward Yu

Principal Investigator in Austin