The artist’s hair was wet, and he apologized for shivering. When I met Anthony Reale, he had just popped out of a tank of 60-degree water at the University of Michigan's Marine Hydrodynamics Lab.
This was the seventh time in three days he’d emerged from the chilly basin. The last four times, he wore a dry suit he borrowed from friends. But the first three dives he did in jeans and a t-shirt. He had no other choice.
|Anthony Reale plunges into the tow tank to adjust his prototype.|
“It took me 711 hours and 4,800 boards of wood to build my Strait Power,” Reale said. “Nothing was going to stop me from testing.”
Reale is not an engineer. In December, he finished an art degree at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit. The Michigan native got his bachelor’s in product design.
Strait Power, his studio project, is modeled after the basking shark. The fish swims with its mouth gaping, filtering water through its gills to catch bits of food. This filtering creates a slipstream that makes it easier for the shark to glide through the water.
Reale spent hours sketching the muscles of the fish's mouth to memorize its shape. Then he designed a machine that, like the fish, compresses and speeds up the flow of the water around it to extract more energy out of it.
|The Strait Power prototype|
In December, in the lab’s 100-yard-long, 22-foot-wide, 10-foot-deep tow tank, the first rounds of testing took place. They went well. Reale says his design improves the efficiency of a single turbine blade by 40 percent. A patent is pending.
Meadows is looking into taking the turbine to Alaska in the spring for field tests. And Reale envisions units suspended in the Detroit River, powering the Motor City.
“This,” Reale says, “is my art.”
In this in-depth video from Reale, he shows and explains the whole process of building and testing Strait Power. He updates his progress at the Strait Power blog.