Tim Finnigan Featured in the Sydney Morning Herald

7 December 2006

The Sydney Morning Herald on 7 Dec 2006 included a feature article on 'Learning from the experts'

Extract below credited to Deborah Smith of the SMH

The ocean also provided the inspiration for Dr Tim Finnigan, a Sydney marine engineer, in his quest to build underwater power generators that harness the renewable energy of the waves and tides.

bioWAVE - Artists impression (graphic from
bioWAVE - Artists impression (graphic from

His innovative devices are modelled on the stiff, high fins of sharks and the swaying motion of forests of kelp.

Both researchers are part of a trend called biomimicry, in which scientists learn from the greatest inventor of all: nature. Good ideas that have evolved over millions of years are being used to develop new materials and products.

"Biological species in the ocean have already solved many of our design problems," says Finnigan. "So we can copy them and benefit from their achievements."


Tim Finnigan, founder of BioPower Systems, says he was inspired by sharks because they are among the most efficient swimmers in the ocean. About 90 per cent of the body energy they use is converted to forward motion, thanks to their streamlined contours and stiff, high fin.

The movement of sharks inspired Tim Finnigan (graphic from
The movement of sharks inspired Tim Finnigan (graphic from

To capture the energy of tides he has designed a biomimetic tail 15 metres long with a 12-metre-wide fin. Driven by the water, it moves back and forth against an electrical generator to produce about one megawatt of power.

The movement of forests of kelp as waves come and go has also prompted Finnigan's team to develop a plant-like device, with a series of flexible blades, to capture the energy of waves.

Both designs, which will be tested in the ocean in 2008 after studies on prototypes, are attached to the seabed with a small, plant-like anchor.

Visit Tim Finnigan's homepage.