Advanced Ocean Energy @ Virginia Tech (EGT2)

Blacksburg and Hampton, VA

Team Photo for Advanced Ocean Energy @ Virginia Tech

Date Accepted

Fri 05 Jun 2015

Team Info

The Advanced Ocean Energy @ Virginia Tech team is led by George Hagerman.

This Virginia Tech team is a collaboration between the Advanced Research Institute and the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. Our team is distributed among three locations: the main campus in Blacksburg, the Northern Virginia Center in Arlington, and Virginia Tech’s facilities at the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton. Complementing our team’s academic expertise, ISCO Industries, Inc., based in Louisville, Kentucky, is providing technical support on structural performance and fabrication costs for large-diameter, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe, which is the basic structural building block of MULLET.

Virginia Tech’s MULti-body LinEar Terminator (MULLET) wave energy converter combines two fundamental findings published by British and American wave energy pioneers in the 1970s and 80s. MULLET’s linear terminators derive from the Bristol Cylinder modeled by Professor David Evans and his colleagues in the UK, benefiting from more than three decades of Bristol University’s published research about the behavior of and interactions among horizontal circular cylinders floating on or submerged beneath ocean waves. The Bristol Cylinder developed by this group in the late 1970s and early 1980s was a fully submerged, monolithic, reinforced concrete cylinder, with double-acting hydraulic pumps incorporated into rigid mooring struts connecting the cylinder to the seabed.

MULLET’s primary wave energy absorber differs from the Bristol Cylinder, in that it is floating, with single-acting power take-off (PTO) units incorporated into flexible tethers connecting the primary absorber to a fully submerged reaction plate. This enables Virginia Tech’s MULLET to realize the advantages of a single-acting PTO, demonstrated in the 1980s by the late C. Michael “Mick” Pleass and his former student at the University of Delaware, Douglas C. Hicks, for the DELBUOY point absorber. They showed that in the absence of PTO damping during the pump refill stroke, the buoy sinks more deeply into a wave trough, adding potential energy to be recovered as useful work on the next wave crest. MULLET’s floating, single-acting, primary absorber will behave similarly, in either heave or pitch or any combination of the two.

WEC Device Type

MULti-body LinEar Terminator (MULLET)

Team Quote

Our newest team photo (September 2015 update) is provided courtesy of Ed Ziegler Photography ( and was the grand prize winner of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine’s 2007 photo-competition. Taken on Bogue Banks, North Carolina, it shows a school of white mullet riding high on a steep wave, oriented parallel to the wave crest, much like our MULLET absorbers, although at an entirely different scale. This photo captures the ocean’s vitality that we hope can be restored as solar, wind, and wave power plants become the norm for our country and the world. Such a vision motivates us to engineer a wave energy converter that can attain energy cost parity with fossil fuel electric power generation. Note that these mullet are much smaller than the large adults shown in the Shutterstock photo submitted when we first registered in June … reminding us that all the Wave Energy Prize teams are now dialing back from the “big ideas” of Stage Gate 1 and building their smallest scale (1:50) models as we progress toward Stage Gate 2.

Team Bios

The Virginia Tech team has five members, who are listed below in alphabetical order by last name. Each member is responsible for a particular specialty, but all members will contribute to multiple aspects of our team’s approach to the Wave Energy Prize competition.

Philip Balitsky is a Research Associate at the Advanced Research Institute in Hampton, Virginia. He is co-inventor of the MULLET and our team’s specialist in power take-off modeling and wave energy device control. He has over six years’ experience in wave energy resource assessment, numerical modelling of wave energy converters, and dynamic control and layout optimization of wave energy converter arrays. Mr. Balitsky has an MEngSc from the National University of Ireland at Maynooth (2013), an MSc in Ocean Earth and Atmospheric Sciences from Old Dominion University (2008), and a BSc in Physics from the University of Virginia (2006). In October 2015 he will begin a PhD project on wave energy device modelling at Ghent University in Belgium, as part of the EU-funded WECwakes Project.

George Hagerman is a Senior Research Associate at the Advanced Research Institute in Hampton, Virginia. He is co-inventor of the MULLET and our overall Team Leader. He has more than 34 years’ experience researching marine renewable energy systems, including offshore wind power, wave power, tidal power, and ocean thermal energy conversion. In 2004 – 2006, he participated in the ocean wave energy and tidal stream energy studies led by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). In 2007 – 2009, he served as Research Director for the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium, coordinating three studies at five universities to evaluate the feasibility of offshore wind development off Virginia. In 2009 – 2010, he was Principal Investigator on an EPRI-managed project, funded by the Department of Energy, to assess the U.S. wave energy resource and is now updating that assessment with a comprehensive directional analysis. Since 2012 he has been a member of the design team for the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project led by Dominion Virginia Power. Mr. Hagerman has an MSc in Marine Sciences (1980) and a BSc in Zoology (1976), both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Michael Philen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering on Virginia Tech’s main campus in Blacksburg, Virginia. He has ten years’ experience in adaptive structures, smart materials, dynamics and control, and will be our team’s lead in PTO design and characterization. Dr. Philen is Director of the Aerospace Structures and Materials Laboratory, where our 1:50 and 1:20 scale model PTOs will be fabricated and bench tested. Dr. Phillen received his BSc in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University (1998) and his MSc (2005) and PhD (2006) in Mechanical Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University.

Susan Sorlie is a Research Administrator at the Advanced Research Institute in Hampton, Virginia. She is our team’s Media Representative and also responsible for data dissemination, intellectual property management, and internal cost accounting. She has more than 20 years of project and data management experience and is well-versed in social media. Ms. Sorlie is a certified Project Management Professional (2014) and has an MSc in Geography/Climatology from the University of Delaware and a BA in Physical Geography from San Diego State University.

Heng Xiao is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering on Virginia Tech’s main campus in Blacksburg, Virginia. He has ten years’ experience in hydrodynamic modeling and will use WEC-Sim and OpenWARP-Nemoh to simulate MULLET’s performance at both model and full scales. As our team’s lead numerical modeler, he will be responsible for ensuring that the simulated model-scale sea states accurately reproduce the 1:50 and 1:20 model wave basin test conditions, thus validating the numerical model’s ability to simulate full-scale performance. Dr. Xiao has a PhD in Civil Engineering received from Princeton University in 2009, an MSc in Mathematics received from the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in 2005, and a BSc in Civil Engineering received from Zhejiang University in 2003.


Virginia Tech is Virginia’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, offering 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and managing a research portfolio of more than $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice by exercising technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia. Through a combination of its three missions of learning, discovery, and engagement, Virginia Tech continually strives to accomplish the charge of its motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). See more at

ISCO Industries, Inc. is an employee-owned company specializing in high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe and fittings. With its headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, ISCO offers total piping solutions from more than 30 facilities in the United States, Canada, Australia, Chile, and other global offices, inventorying large stockpiles of pipe, usually within a one-day delivery of most projects. ISCO Industries sells a wide variety of piping materials and provides piping solutions for various environmental, geothermal, golf, industrial, landfill, mining, municipal, waterworks and culvert-lining applications throughout the United States and around the world. ISCO also offers custom HDPE fabrications including the fabrication of various HDPE structures such as manholes, tanks, fittings, geothermal vaults and more. See more at

  • [email protected] travels to testing by plane, train and automobile

    Posted on Thu 11 Feb 2016

    The [email protected] MULLET was successfully tested at Stevens Institute (, in spite of an historic snowstorm delaying travel and closing the campus. Team members were all set to arrive in Hoboken on Sunday, January 24 for our week of scheduled Wave Energy Prize testing, but Mother Nature had other plans. Luckily, the folks from Blacksburg were able to reschedule their flights, and our Team Leader took the somewhat unorthodox move of driving to Hoboken in the snow, with his cat! All arrived to begin testing Tuesday. Unfortunately someone got left behind. Sue Sorlie, scheduled to take the train, was twice thwarted by Amtrak and had to concede defeat, unable to get to Hoboken at all.

    Aqua image of the eastern US after Blizzard 2016. This visible image from the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite on Jan. 24 at 1830 UTC (1:30 p.m. EST) shows post-storm snow on the ground across eastern United States. Credits: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response
    Aqua image of the eastern US after Blizzard 2016. This visible image from the MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite on Jan. 24 at 1830 UTC (1:30 p.m. EST) shows post-storm snow on the ground across eastern United States. Credits: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response

    Additionally, the Virginia Tech Daily Email Message, which circulates to all faculty, staff, and students at the university, recently featured the [email protected] team. This was orchestrated by the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS), who provided all the funding for the team’s internal labor and travel in Stage 2.

    Team MULLET is now “on ice” awaiting the DOE finalist selection announcement, and like our fellow competitors on the East Coast, gearing up for the plunge of polar air this weekend (

  • [email protected] Makes Waves in Hampton

    Posted on Mon 18 Jan 2016

    As detailed on our main page, the [email protected] team is distributed geographically across Virginia. Team leadership and structural model assembly takes place at the Advanced Research Institute in Hampton, while the Power-Take-Off (PTO) physical modeling group and integrated Numerical Modeling group are based in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering on our main campus in Blacksburg.

    The Advanced Research Institute in Hampton is located on the campus of the National Institute of Aerospace ( Our facilities include a high-bay lab with a still water tank that has a molded depth of 5 ft and a waterplane area of 7ft by 7ft. We inherited the lab and its tank from former Virginia Tech Associate Professor Leigh McCue, who last year was appointed Executive Director of the American Society of Naval Engineers ( While here, Dr. McCue used the tank in her research as well as giving local middle schoolers hands-on experience building and testing remotely operated vehicles in summer STEM camps.

    By adding synchronized, pulsating pumps to the tank (commercially sold to simulate wave flow in saltwater aquariums for coral-growing enthusiasts), we’ve been able to create a quite respectable standing wave having a height of 8 to 9 cm and a resonant period of 1.2 sec, which approximates one of the 1:50 monochromatic waves used in Stage 2 of the Wave Energy Prize competition. See our standing wave tank in action at

DISCLAIMER: The team information provided on this page is provided solely by Advanced Ocean Energy @ Virginia Tech. The Wave Energy Prize is not responsible for its accuracy, legality, decency of material or intellectual-property compliance.

Back to Teams

EERE. Wave Energy Prize. U.S. Department of Energy. Nov, 2017, 09:08 EST. Available at: Accessed Nov, 2017.

EERE. "Wave Energy Prize." U.S. Department of Energy, November. 2017. Web. November. 2017.

EERE. "Wave Energy Prize,", U.S. Department of Energy, (accessed Nov, 2017).

EERE. Wave Energy Prize [Internet].; 2017 November, 09:08 EST [cited 2017 November]. Available from:

@ONLINE{U.S. Department of Energy:2017:Online, author = {EERE}, title = {Wave Energy Prize [email protected]}}, year = {2017}, url = {}, note = [Online; accessed Nov-2017] }