Available Technology

Underwater vehicle propulsion and power generation

An underwater vehicle includes a shaft with a propeller disposed thereon; a generator/motor having a stator and a rotor, the rotor being operable to rotate with the propeller; at least one energy storage device connected to the generator/motor; and a controller for setting the generator/motor in a charge mode, a propulsion mode and an idle mode.
Patent Abstract: 
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed an autonomous underwater vehicle that uses thermally generated buoyancy changes to generate electricity and recharge batteries and, therefore, can remain underwater for years at a time. Like many state-of-the-art underwater vehicles, this vehicle is propelled using the temperature differentials in ocean water. Unlike conventional vehicles, however, JPL's vehicle extracts energy from the vehicle's gliding movement by turning a propeller turbine while in motion. This energy can be used to recharge the vehicle batteries. In addition, the propeller can be turned off to reduce drag while gliding, and it can operate as a motor to drive the vehicle faster than would be possible with thermal gradients alone.

Reduces maintenance, retrieval, and refitting costs by allowing autonomous vehicles to stay underwater for years at a time


Autonomous underwater vehicles - ocean study, earth sciences, and underwater surveillance


Yi Chao

Jack A. Jones

Patent Number: 
Internal Laboratory Ref #: 
Patent Status: 
Patent Issue Date: 
May 8, 2008
Far West
Lab Representatives
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Google Plus Share to Linkedin