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Curtis Rusch

Senior Research Engineer






Curtis is a Senior Research Engineer in the Ocean Engineering Department at APL-UW. His research focuses on the generation of power from ocean waves, and the methods to apply this power for scientific research. This work has included field testing, numerical modelling, and experimental testing. Most recently, he has worked on a moored deployment of a wave energy converter that serves as a docking platform for a UUV, and has supported the development of a hardware interface to aid in autonomous docking and wireless recharge of an AUV. His PhD work focused on better understanding the hydrodynamics of heave plates for two body, point absorber wave energy converters.

Department Affiliation

Ocean Engineering


B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington, 2015

M.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington, 2019

Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington, 2021


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Effect of heave plate hydrodynamic force parameterization on a two-body wave energy converter

Rusch, C.J., J. Joslin, B.D. Maurer, and B.L. Polagye, "Effect of heave plate hydrodynamic force parameterization on a two-body wave energy converter," J. Ocean Eng. Mar. Energy, 8, 355-367, doi:10.1007/s40722-022-00236-z, 2022.

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12 Jun 2022

Heave plates are one approach to generating the reaction force necessary to harvest energy from ocean waves. In a Morison equation description of the hydrodynamic force, the components of drag and added mass depend primarily on the heave plate oscillation. These terms may be parameterized in three ways: (1) as a single coefficient invariant across sea state, most accurate at the reference sea state, (2) coefficients dependent on the oscillation amplitude, but invariant in phase, that are most accurate for relatively small amplitude motions, and (3) coefficients dependent on both oscillation amplitude and phase, which are accurate for all oscillation amplitudes. We validate a MATLAB model for a two-body point absorber wave energy converter against field data and a dynamical model constructed in ProteusDS. We then use the MATLAB model to evaluate the effect of these parameterizations on estimates of heave plate motion, tension between the float and heave plate, and wave energy converter electrical power output. We find that power predictions using amplitude-dependent coefficients differ by up to 30% from models using invariant coefficients for regular waves ranging in height from 0.5 to 1.9 m. Amplitude- and phase-dependent coefficients, however, yield less than a 5% change when compared with coefficients dependent on amplitude only. This suggests that amplitude-dependent coefficients can be important for accurate wave energy converter modeling, but the added complexity of phase-dependent coefficients yields little further benefit. We show similar, though less pronounced, trends in maximum tether tension, but note that heave plate motion has only a weak dependence on coefficient fidelity. Finally, we emphasize the importance of using experimentally derived added mass over that calculated from boundary element methods, which can lead to substantial under-prediction of power output and peak tether tension.

Influence of heave plate topology on reaction force

Rusch, C.J., A.R. Hartman, B.D. Maurer, and B.L. Polagye, "Influence of heave plate topology on reaction force," Ocean Eng., 241, doi:10.1016/j.oceaneng.2021.110054, 2021.

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1 Dec 2021


• Flat heave plates produce greater reaction forces than hexagonal conic topologies.

• Enclosing fluid in a previously open hexagonal conic reduces its reaction force.

• For KC = 1—2, vortex and force asymmetry depend on experimental initial condition.

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center