James van der Walt

Social Entrepreneur, Ugesi Gold

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Open-source wave generators for rural African communities. Can you help?

I've had this idea for a long time to build a very simple wave generator that can bring electricity to coastal communities that have no power. Naturally friends and family told me to patent the idea so others can't steal it but that goes against the very goals of the project - to help as many as I can.

In comes open sourcing. I believe that there's enough smart people around that want to make a difference and act in a compassionate manner that together we can solve almost any problem the world is facing today.

So I'm posting you my basic design and how I intend to use it to make a social impact for rural communities.
Here's the current design:

And here is how I intend to use the technology once it's ready.

I've build a prototype and the basics work but there are some question marks on how it will withstand the harsh climate at sea. It is here that I hope a bit of open sourcing can help fine tune the concept. It's for the greater good after all.

There are 2 areas that I'm stuck on and maybe you might have creative ideas on how to address them.

1) The ropes or cables
They are under water and are moving all the time. This makes for a haven for barnacles and other algae to grow on. This in turn will cause drag. The drag will put extra strain on the pulleys as well as major energy loses.

2) Pulley's
There things need to be made to last under water so most metals are out of the question. Stainless steel is an option by way to expensive for rural communities to afford. Hard plastics are another option but will it stand up to the pressures?

So if anyone has any good ideas on how to improve on the design or maybe on the business model as a whole, please feel free to post your replies. I'm cautious to see if open source really works.

Thanks for your help!

Ps. all the design notes are online http://www.ugesigold.co.za/my-project

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    Nov 23 2011: Nice initiative James.
    If I'm correct your first two links go to the same page.

    I've heard about a new nano material that can be put on evry surface to make it like the floating leaf of a waterlilly in that nothing, not even water stays attached. It can't be wet not even under water.

    I've seen models of your idea years ago presented as alternative energy sources. If I remember it well one is operative somewhere, maybe Ireland or somewhere around that area. I'll try and look for it.
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      Nov 23 2011: Oh dear. Copy and paste error. Thanks for the warning Frans. I've updated the link so now it should take you to the design section.

      Yeah, there are a few wave generators currently being explored but none are economical. Plus they are all designed for first world countries where they have access to advanced materials and teams of engineers. Take a look and let me know what you think. :)
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    Nov 23 2011: After watching the open-source talks again one thing is very clear. You always need payment in some for or fashion to spend your time on something. For open-source the payment is the satisfaction of contributing. If the project does not grab your attention then why do it at all.
    Some people will help because they want to change the world. Others because the find the a unsolved puzzle irresistible. Some get a kick out of getting credit and being part of a community. We all have our reasons and it does not have to involve a pay check. In fact, any work done through internal motivation is much more powerful than anything else.
    So the real question is how to I promote for open-source? How do I make this project more fun?