In this project, we are optimizing the energy production and distribution to operate the vessel with renewable energy.  The vessel is equipped with water turbines, solar panels, and fuel cells to takes on the challenge of a 100% emission-free vessel operation. We try to come up with a microgrid design that optimally harmonizes power generation and energy storage to tackle the main problem of green power technology: its irregular power yield. 

We aim to smooth out intermittent generation patterns to provide constant, reliable power at any time, any location, and in any condition.
At the moment, we are developing the overall system, we might be able to do some testing with similar, smaller-scale, components in the spring semester 2021.

The gripper project aims to develop a gripper to sort the collected waste and safely manipulate it as required by the river cleaning process. We are using a two-finger gripper with a gantry arm to conduct the above-mentioned tasks. The system is actuated electro-mechanically which allows better control and does not require additional resources for pneumatics on the boat. We found that the gantry arm is the only feasible solution regarding the dimensions of the boat.

To test various designs and evaluate whether a design would meet the requirements to sort a big variety of waste. The company Schunk has lent us an electro-mechanical two-finger gripper (PEH 30) for early testing of different finger designs. For this, a test setup has been designed and built. On this test station, the gripper remains in a fixed position and, various fingers will be tested, with respect to their ability to grasp different waste particles that are typically found in rivers.

The concentration stage of the Autonomous River Cleanup (ARC) system aims at blocking and concentrating plastic particles at a specified location to facilitate collection of the plastic waste. To this end, bubble curtains or bubble barriers represent a promising tool for particle concentration using flow shaping techniques.

The basic idea is simple! Air is pumped through a perforated tube lying at the bottom of the river, which induces bubbles at the orifices rising to the surface. This induces a vertical upward current and symmetric horizontal surface currents away from the bubble curtain. These currents are responsible for lifting submerged plastic particles and for blocking them at the surface.

The greatest advantages of bubble barriers are their promising ability to tackle submerged plastic beneath the surface next to floating waste and that they are unlikely to harm fish and allow the passage of boats.

As simple as the basic idea sounds, bubble curtains for plastic particle concentration are not well investigated. This makes designing such a system very challenging, but also very interesting, as many parameters must still be investigated and tested to understand how it can be used most efficiently. The current main challenge is to adjust all possible and interdependent system configurations by testing the bubble barrier in the water channel using standardized plastic particles. 

Further work on bubble barriers includes scaling up the system to the real-life application for testing in the Limmat and the Danube river including investigation of the interaction with all other ARC subsystems. Hopefully, bubble barriers are soon helping the Autonomous River Cleanup project working towards a cleaner tomorrow!

In February 2020 the ARC team met with its sponsor in Austria to work on potential concepts to clean river environments from plastic debris. We worked three days on ideation, concepts, and prototyping. Prof. Dr. Marco Hutter, Hendrik Kolvenbach, Karen Bodie, Giorgio Valsecchi, and Phillip Arm supported the team with their expertise

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