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Brian Polagye

Faculty Photo

Mechanical Engineering

Senior Mechanical Engineer
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Affiliate Investigator
Applied Physics Laboratory

Pronouns: He/him


Brian Polagye is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. His research focuses on marine renewable energy conversion and its environmental effects, with the ultimate goal of developing cost-effective, sustainable approaches. He is also an Affiliate Investigator with the Applied Physics Laboratory and holds a dual appointment with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.


  • Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington, 2009
  • M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington, 2005
  • B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Princeton University, 2000

Research Statement

Brian Polagye's research group focuses on the conversion of marine renewable energy resources (river, tidal, and ocean currents, as well as waves) to mechanical power. One thrust area is optimizing the hydrodynamics and control of turbines and wave energy onverters, primarily through laboratory experiments. A second thrust area is developing and applying instrumentation necessary to characterize marine energy sites, with emphasis on underwater sound.

Current research topics include:

  • Studying the hydrodynamics of cross-flow current turbines to increase individual turbine and array power yields
  • Studying the hydrodynamics and control of single-body wave energy converters
  • Developing low-cost drifting instrumentation packages for volumetric swarm sensing
  • Measuring the acoustic characteristics of marine energy converters

Current projects

Confinement-exploiting Cross-flow Turbines
With support from ARPA-E, a team of researchers from UW, University of Wisconsin, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are exploring whether confinement (the ratio of turbine projected area to channel cross-sectional area) can be used to substantially reduce the cost of energy for arrays of tidal current turbines. It is well established that confinement increases a turbine's power coefficient, allowing it to exceed the Betz limit, but confinement also increases structural forces, which is an economic penalty. The project combines experiments with turbine arrays, flow-field characterization, numerical simulation, and techno-economic modeling.

Select publications

  1. Snortland, A., Scherl, I., Polagye, B. and Williams, O. (2023) Cycle-to-cycle variations in cross-flow turbine performance and flow fields. Experiments in Fluids, 64 (128).
  2. Ross, H., & Polagye, B. (2022). Effects of dimensionless parameters on the performance of a cross-flow current turbine. Journal of Fluids and Structures, 114, 103726.
  3. Strom, B., Polagye, B., & Brunton, S. L. (2022). Near-wake dynamics of a vertical-axis turbine. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 935.
  4. Dillon, T., Maurer, B., Lawson, M., Jenne, D. S., Manalang, D., Baca, E., & Polagye, B. (2022). Cost-optimal wave-powered persistent oceanographic observation. Renewable Energy, 181, 504-521.
  5. Cotter, E. and Polagye, B. (2020) Automatic classification of biological targets in a tidal channel using a multibeam sonar. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology. doi:10.1175/JTECH-D-19-0222.1
  6. Polagye, B., Joslin, J., Murphy, P., Cotter, E., Scott, M., Gibbs, P., Bassett, C., and Stewart, A. (2020) Adaptable Monitoring Package development and deployment: Lessons learned for integrated instrumentation at marine energy sites. Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, 8, 553. doi:10.3390/jmse8080553
  7. Harrison, T., Thyng, K., and Polagye, B. (2020) Comparative evaluation of volumetric current measurements in a tidally-dominated, coastal setting: a virtual field experiment. Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 37 (4): 533–552. doi:10.1175/JTECH-D-19-0131.1
  8. Ross, H. & Polagye, B. (2020) An experimental assessment of analytical blockage corrections for turbines. Renewable Energy, 152. doi: 10.1016/j.renene.2020.01.135
  9. Polagye, B., Strom, B., Ross, H., Forbush, D., and Cavagnaro, R. (2019) Comparison of cross-flow turbine performance under torque-regulated and speed-regulated control, Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, 11(4). doi: 10.1063/1.5087476
  10. Strom, B., Brunton, S., & Polagye, B. (2017). Intracycle angular velocity control of cross-flow turbines. Nature Energy, 2, doi: 10.1038/nenergy.2017.103.
  11. Forbush, D., Polagye, B., Thomson, J., Kilcher, L., Donegan, J., & McEntee, J. (2016). Performance characterization of a cross-flow hydrokinetic turbine in sheared inflow. International Journal of Marine Energy, 16, 150-161.
  12. Cavagnaro, R. & Polagye, B. (2016) Field performance assessment of a hydrokinetic turbine. International Journal of Marine Energy, doi: 10.1016/j.ijome.2016.01.009.
  13. Bassett, C., Thomson, J., Dahl, P. H., & Polagye, B. (2014). Flow-noise and turbulence in two tidal channels. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 135(4), 1764-1774. doi:10.1121/1.4867360.
  14. Polagye, B., & Thomson, J. (2013). Tidal energy resource characterization: methodology and field study in Admiralty Inlet, Puget Sound, WA (USA). Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part A: Journal of Power and Energy, 227(3), 352-367. doi:10.1177/0957650912470081
  15. Bassett, C., B. Polagye, M. Holt, & J. Thomson (2012). A vessel noise budget for Admiralty Inlet, Puget Sound, Washington (USA). J. Acoust. Soc. Am., 132(6), 3706-3719.
  16. Thomson, J., B. Polagye, V. Durgesh, & M. Richmond (2012). Measurements of turbulence at two tidal energy sites in Puget Sound, WA (USA), IEEE J. Ocean. Eng., 37(3), 363-374.
  17. Polagye, B., M. Kawase, & P. Malte. (2009). In-stream tidal energy potential of Puget Sound, Washington, Proc. IMechE, Part A: J. Power and Energy, 223(5).
  18. Polagye, B., P. Malte, and K. Hodgson. An economic analysis of bio-energy options using thinnings from overstocked forests, Biomass and Bio-energy, 31(2-3), 2007.

Honors & awards

  • College of Engineering Junior Faculty Award, 2015