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An image of Bernardo Luiz Rocha Ribeiro
November 11, 2022

Graduate student receives Grainger Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship

Written By: Samantha Vold


Engineering mechanics PhD candidate Bernardo Luiz Rocha Ribeiro received a prestigious Grainger Fellowship for graduate researchers.

Ribeiro received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the Federal Fluminense University in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2017, he began his PhD work in the Computational Flow Physics and Modeling lab led by Assistant Professor Jennifer Franck.

Graphic depicting a two-foil array configuration for energy harvesting.
Two-foil array configuration for energy harvesting.

The primary project Ribeiro works on involves harvesting energy from tidal or river flows using oscillating foil turbines. With a foil under water, heaving and pitching with the motion of the flow, it is possible to extract energy from the mechanical motion of the water and convert it into electrical energy. The proposal Ribeiro wrote to earn the fellowship focuses on analyzing these foils in arrays with the challenge being how to synchronize the motion of the foils to maximize energy harvesting.

“What is cool about this project is that it gives a very interesting way to harvest energy that is not well-known. People think about wind turbines and other traditional turbines. But this one is nice because it’s easily expandable in arrays,” Ribeiro says. It is easy to put one foil behind another to extract energy from the same oncoming flow, something that is not easily done with wind turbines. The foil turbines could also be used in a variety of water sources, including shallow rivers and tidal channels.

As Ribeiro is preparing to finish his PhD, the fellowship really allows him to focus in on wrapping up the research he has been working on for the last six years. “This fellowship will allow me to [apply machine learning techniques] to see if I can explain the physics and the research around this project,” he says.  

In preparing to wrap up his project and defend his PhD, Ribeiro is very happy about his project and excited for what comes next as he is interested in pursuing a career in academia. He thoroughly enjoys the work he does and appreciates having had the opportunity to work with his advisor, Jennifer Franck. Ribeiro says, “I’m very grateful to my advisor for allowing me to do this and for providing such a nice environment to do what I want to do.”