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Researchers Use 3D Printing, Sensors to Create Models for Hydropower Testing


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One of the three-dimensionally printed "fish."

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are testing the environmental impact of hydroelectric dams on fish population with sensor-equipped fake fish.

Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are using three-dimensional (3D) printers and sensors to create fake fish to help test the environmental impact of hydroelectric dams on fish populations.

Fish passing through such dams encounter pressure changes, turbulence, and spinning blades on turbines that can cause injury.

As part of its environmental assessment work for hydropower projects, ORNL developed a system to analyze the impact of turbine designs on high-value species.

The researchers used 3D printers to create molds for models of various fish species, which they created from ballistic gel, and embedded sensors in the models to measure acceleration and G-forces in a turbine simulator.

Said ORNL’s Ryan Saylor, "Mimicking biology is difficult. We’ve worked to get as close as we can to a good representation without the use of specialized equipment that could increase costs.”

From Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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