For much of human history we have explored and lived in some of the most extreme environments on the planet—mountains, jungles, deserts. However, the largest environment on Earth composing 70% of the Earth’s surface, the ocean largely remains a mystery to us.
Only about 20% of the ocean bed has been mapped.
A fuller picture of the ocean would bring many benefits including safer navigating ships, creating more accurate climate models, laying new telecommunication cables, the building of offshore windfarms and of course protecting marine species.
Many refer to this as the “blue economy” and it could be worth an astonishing $3 trillion by 2030.
While underwater robotic vehicles equipped with various equipment have been in service for quite a while and have increased the amount of data we collect and at a lower cost, many of these robots rely on batteries and have to return to the shore or a boat to recharge making it impossible for them to ever map the most remote parts of the ocean.
Yi Chao’s Seatrec startup is working on solving this challenge by channeling the natural temperature differences in ocean waters.
The technology can be attached to existing robots or Seatrec’s own ocean explorers. The device is a float that moves between warm and cold parts of the ocean. The materials inside the module the either solidifies or melts. This causes pressure that turns to thermal energy that power’s the robot’s generator.