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Directory:Vortex-Induced Vibrations for Aquatic Clean Energy (VIVACE)

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Page first featured December 31, 2008

Fish-Inspired, Low-Speed Water Current Harvesting

VIVACE, which stands for Vortex Induced Vibrations Aquatic Clean Energy, is ideal for converting natural vibrations in slow-moving ocean, river, and tidal currents into affordable and reliable energy.

This hydrokinetic energy device by Vortex Hydro Energy LLC (VHE), invented by a University of Michigan engineer, is ideal for harnessing the energy of slow-moving water at the competitive price of around 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour. It can work in currents of less than 2 knots (~2 mph), giving it an advantage over most all other water-flow-harnessing technologies that work best at 5-6 knots, inasmuch as most of the natural water flows on earth are slower than 3 knots.

While it can effectively harness slower currents, it can also handle high-speed currents. VIVACE is also highly scalable. These attributes make it an ideal candidate for a wide range of applications.

Vortex-induced vibrations are an extensively-studied phenomenon, first noted more than five centuries ago by Leonardo DaVinci, who named them "Aeolian Tones." Due to their amplifying effect, which usually results in a destructive force, the vibrations are usually avoided by engineers in designing offshore structures and equipment, but in this case they are enhanced and utilized. Fish use the vibrations to their benefit, enabling them to propel themselves upstream and up waterfalls with relatively little effort. They actually curve their bodies to glide between the vortices shed by the bodies of the fish and other obstacles in front of them.

It was this effect that is the basis for the VIVACE design. While it does not presently resemble the shape of fish, it may more so in the future, integrating the equivalent of a tail as well as utilizing the surface texture of scales.

The present iteration of the machine entails a cylinder that hangs horizontally across the flow of water. The presence of the cylinder causes alternating vortices to form above and below it, and they push the passive cylinder up and down and create mechanical energy which is then converted into electricity.

These cylinders can be stacked like a ladder, rest on a river bed, or be suspended under the surface of the water. The company predicts that a running-track array of VIVACE converters about two stories high could power about 100,000 homes. [1]

From an environmental impact perspective, the design also has advantages inasmuch as the machine components move relatively slowly, and thus would be unlikely to harm marine life.



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Official Website

How it Works

Quoting from

"A novel approach to extract energy from flowing water currents. It is unlike any other ocean energy or low-head hydropower concept. VIVACE is based on the extensively studied phenomenon of Vortex Induced Vibrations (VIV), which was first observed 500 years ago by Leonardo DaVinci in the form of “Aeolian Tones.” For decades, engineers have been trying to prevent VIV from damaging offshore equipment and structures. By maximizing and exploiting VIV rather than spoiling and preventing it, VIVACE takes this ‘problem’ and transforms it into a valuable resource for mankind.
Vortex Induced Vibrations (VIV) result from vortices forming and shedding on the downstream side of a bluff body in a current. Vortex shedding alternates from one side to the other, thereby creating a vibration or oscillation. The VIV phenomenon is non-linear, which means it can produce useful energy at high efficiency over a wide range of current speeds."


(22 seconds)

  • Vivace - VIVACE converter model operating in the Low-turbulence Free Surface Re-circulating Water Tunnel. Flow Speed: 1.6 knots (0.823 m/s) (Google Video; Jul 12, 2007)

- - - -

(3 seconds)

  • Williamson Lab Sequence - Lab picture sequence generated by Williamson (Google Video; Jul 12, 2007)

- - - -

(2 seconds)

  • VIVACE render - Artist's rendition (Google Video; Jul 12, 2007)


Projected to produce at around 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.


Quoting from

VIVACE devices have many potential advantages, which improve installation survivability in the hostile underwater environment and enable low-cost power production by decreasing capital cost and minimizing maintenance.

  • High energy density - permits low cost energy to be produced from relatively small installations - requiring up to 50 times less ocean acreage than wave power concepts.
  • Simple and rugged moving parts - allows for robust designs that can operate for long periods in the underwater environment with minimal maintenance.
  • Low dependence on ocean/river conditions - application of non-linear resonance permits useful energy to be extracted over a wide range of current speeds.

VIVACE and other renewable energy technologies also face regulatory hurdles. Again, VIVACE is advantaged by salient benefits over other technologies.

  • Non-obtrusiveness - installations can be positioned beneath the surface, thereby avoiding interference with other uses, such as fishing, shipping and tourism.
  • Compatibility with marine life - VIVACE utilizes vortex formation and shedding, which is the same mechanism fish use to propel themselves through the water.


  • Harnessing energy from river flows
  • Harnessing energy from ocean currents
  • Harnessing energy from tidal flows
  • Harnessing wave energy
  • Underwater applications

Independent Testing

A "prototype, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Office Naval Research, is currently operating in the Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory at the University of Michigan. This device has met and often exceeded expectations; thereby, providing strong evidence to proceed to the next scale, a multi-kilowatt field demonstration." [2]


list here


Company: Vortex Hydro Energy LLC (VHE)

Founded in 2004, Vortex Hydro Energy LLC (VHE) is a Michigan based company dedicated to providing cost effective, clean, renewable electricity and fresh water to the people of the world. Their technology, nicknamed VIVACE, uses the extensively studied phenomenon of vortex induced vibrations to extract useful energy from ocean, river, tidal and other water currents. VIVACE installations are non-obtrusive, environmentally friendly, and have an extremely high energy density compared to other renewable technologies.

Researchers recently completed a feasibility study to see if the device could draw power from the Detroit River. They are working to deploy a pilot project there by the Summer of 2010. [3]

Several of institutions and government organizations have supported the development of this technology, including The U.S. Department of Energy, the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation and the Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative. [4]

Inventor: Dr. Michael M. Bernitsas

Michael Bernitsas, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Michigan's Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. He spent around 25 years trying to suppress induced vibrations, until he shifted his focus in the VIVACE invention.

He received his Ph.D. in Ocean Engineering in 1979 from MIT.

He serves as the CEO and CTO of Vortex Hydro Energy.


In the News

  • Vortex-induce Vibrations - VIVACE, which mimics the way fish swim in currents, is to debut next year in the Detroit River, powering the light for a new wharf between Hart Plaza and the Renaissance Center. (Hasslberger Blog; Jan 26, 2009)
  • Power for the planet? - Actually, he says, securing permits for the VIVACE test should be relatively easy, since it is considered a scientific instrument. ... (Michigan Messenger, MI - Dec 23, 2008)
  • Water currents tapped as renewable energy - Bernitsas has invented a device, named VIVACE, that converts river and ocean currents into electricity. Like fish, the device takes advantage of powerful ... (MSNBC - Dec 15, 2008)
  • 'Fish Technology' Creates Clean Energy - The machine is called VIVACE, which stands for Vortex Induced Vibrations Aquatic Clean Energy. The design is based on the extensively studied phenomenon of vortex induced vibrations -- first observed over 500 years ago by Leonardo DaVinci. (, HI - Dec 2, 2008)
  • Ocean Currents Can Power the World - A revolutionary device that can harness energy from slow-moving rivers and ocean currents could provide enough power for the entire world, scientists claim. The technology can generate electricity in water flowing at a rate of less than one knot - about one mile an hour - meaning it could operate on most waterways and sea beds around the globe. (Telegraph; Nov. 29. 2008)
  • Vortex Hydro Energy - VIVACE (Vortex Induced Vibrations Aquatic Clean Energy) extracts energy from ocean, river, tidal and other water currents over a wide range of current speeds. It is non-obtrusive, environmentally friendly, and has an extremely high energy density (50x less acreage required than wave power). A working prototype has met expectations, leading to a multi-kilowatt field demonstration. (Video)


See Discussion page


Vortex Hydro Energy LLC:
2512 Carpenter Road, Suite #101-C
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Telephone: (734) 223-4223
Fax: (734) 944-4072


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