OREM, Utah – Feb. 25, 2014 – US Synthetic Corporation, a leading provider of polycrystalline diamond products for the energy industry, announced today that its diamond bearing technology achieved the least amount of wear and lowest coefficient of friction in a recent research study on renewable energy in hydrokinetic device design conducted by the University of Alaska. US Synthetic has also teamed up with business and non-profit organizations to support a hydrokinetic energy project in a remote Himalayan village—working to provide villagers with clean, continuous, sustainable power.
“The purpose of this empirical study was to characterize wear performance of various bearing designs and materials,” reports researchers from the University of Alaska at Anchorage in a recently published journal on renewable energy (Renewable Energy, Experimental study of abrasion characteristics for critical sliding components for use in hydrokinetic devices, Volume 66, Pages 205-214).
From the report, promising bearing technologies were identified for further study in fluid environments that contain high concentrations of corrosive sediment that commonly occur at sites identified for clean energy projects in Alaska. The study focused on the bearing material used in hydrokinetic projects that can harness renewable power from rivers, tidal currents, and artificial channels. The study compared PCD bearings against a thermoplastic bearing, a laminated composite bearing, and a woven-fiber, resin-bonded bearing.
The study’s findings were conclusive. “The experimental data showed that the PCD bearings experienced the least amount of wear,” reports researchers. “The fresh water test conclusively recommends the PCD bearings as a favorable candidate for further study.”
Himalayan Hydrokinetic Renewable Power
Much like the research study conducted by the University of Alaska, the biggest challenge facing renewable energy projects in the Himalayas is abrasive sediment passing through underwater hydrokinetic turbine rotors. To address this challenge, US Synthetic began working with business and non-profit organizations to develop a local, sustainable, clean energy hydrokinetic system that can capture continuous, renewable power for Himalayan villagers that live in mountainous areas far from the power grid.
“Life isn’t easy in a tiny Himalayan community that doesn’t have reliable power,” explains Lynn Tessier, engineering advisor, Advantage Products, Incorporated. “Small rural schools are limited in their ability to educate students because of the lack of consistent electricity.”
As a humanitarian project, Advantage Products, Incorporated is donating the 5 kW EnCurrent power generation system designed by New Energy Corporation. New Energy Corporation is providing project support to design the flume and weir system. US Synthetic is donating an environmentally friendly, grease-free PCD bearing. Himalaya Currents Incorporated is providing funding to transport and install the equipment. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is providing project coordination with local government and communities, permit applications for the project, and travel coordination for the project team. Local community members from the Himalayan village are also helping out with the project—gathering rock and constructing wire mesh gabions to form the flume and weir in the river and installing the generator.
The first system will be installed in the remote mountain village of Ringmo, Nepal. Ringmo is located on the shores of Lake Phoksundo in the Shey Phoksundo National Park, high in the Dolpa region of the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal. A suitable location along the river was chosen in April 2013. Ringmo villagers were very enthusiastic about the possibility of having electricity for the village. “They were so excited that as soon as they were shown the sketches of the gabion and weir design that was required, they wanted to go down to the river and begin construction immediately,” says Tessier.
The clean energy project utilizes the flow of a nearby river to keep the hydrokinetic turbine rotors constantly spinning—supplying power 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. The generator’s simple design provides clean and continuous power with an extremely small environmental footprint. An above-water, direct-drive generator is being coupled with water-lubricated PCD bearing technology from US Synthetic. The underwater PCD sliding-element bearing runs in the sediment-laden river current and allows the generator turbine rotor to turn. The open-water PCD bearing is not sealed and does not require environmental contaminates like grease or oil used in many traditional bearings.
Fortunately, PCD bearings from US Synthetic are uniquely suited for operation in harsh process fluid environments where abrasive particles can cause accelerated wear. As water moves down the turbulent Himalayan river channel, it picks up more and more debris and sediment—turning the water brown from all of the mud, gravel and sand churning up from the river bottom. The abrasive sediment-laden runoff from melting glaciers also adds to the challenging conditions.
In initial testing, the PCD bearings excelled in these harsh conditions. “In our initial testing, we threw sand and gravel into the PCD bearing to see how it would perform. It seemed to like it—just ground up the particles with no problem. In some ways, it actually worked better,” says Clayton Bear, president, New Energy Corporation.
Once completed, the project will generate 24-hour power, easily handling fluctuating energy loads without losing much energy in the transmission process. The PCD bearing technology used in the underwater turbine will make the generator virtually maintenance free. And, the small, environmentally friendly hydrokinetic system will provide power for needed light and satellite connection to the outside world for an isolated, ecologically sensitive area of the world.
“It’s exciting to imagine the life-changing possibilities of this clean energy project,” explains Jair Gonzalez, general manager, US Synthetic Bearings. “Although giving back to the community and improving lives has always been a part of what we try to do, it’s fun to think that our technology might literally keep the lights on in a classroom and help a child learn something new online.”