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A high honor for harnessing ocean’s energy

Alexander Gorlov, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at Northeastern University, has been nominated for a 2011 European Inventor Award for designing an environmentally friendly water turbine.

The winner of the award — among a range of inventor honors launched by the European Patent Office and the European Commission in 2006 — will be named on May 19, at the Hungarian Academy of the Sciences, in Budapest, Hungary.

Gorlov is one of three nominees for the award honoring inventors from non-European countries. Other European Inventor awards honor those in industry, research, small and medium-sized enterprises and lifetime achievement. The awards honor groundbreaking contributions to innovation, economy and society in Europe.

His work on the Gorlov Helical Turbine — which won the 2001 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Thomas A. Edison Patent Award — dovetails with the University’s focus on use-inspired research that addresses global imperatives in health, security and sustainability.

Ocean currents and tidal action power the low-cost, environmentally friendly turbine, an example of damless hydro technology. Its vertical structure features blades twisted like strands of DNA. A Gorlov turbine currently powers some 500 homes on the Korean Island of Jindo.

“My turbine has no negative impact on the environment,” said Gorlov. “Conventional turbines that require dams interfere with migrating fish and other water habitats. Dams also cause flooding problems, which can destroy agricultural land.”

Gorlov started working on extracting power from tidal energy some 35 years ago. In 1976, he emigrated from Moscow and joined the faculty at Northeastern, where he created the renewable energy Hydro-Pneumatic Power laboratory.

Power from ocean and tidal currents, he said, is one of most reliable sources of energy. “In contrast to wind, solar and geothermal energy sources, potential ocean energy can be predicted for centuries.”

Gorlov retired from teaching in 2001, but continues to apply for grants and
 offer his expertise to student-researchers. He has published more than 100
 technical papers and books and holds 25 national and international patents.

“I’m always involved,” he said.

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