Wednesday, 25 April 2012 12:22
April 25, 2012
Cargo ships of the future could could look a bit more like they did in the past.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan recently unveiled a concept design for a cargo ship that, if built, would be significantly more fuel-efficient than conventional vessels. CNET reports that scientists at the school worked to develop a blueprint for a cargo ship that would outperform current models without increasing fuel use and overall costs.
They recently unveiled their proposed scheme of a model of the UT Wind Challenger at the Sea Japan trade show, which took place in Tokyo this month. Employing a host of engineering tools, the scientists' proposed model features telescoping sails that extend from the ship's deck. Such sails would spring to life in the event of high winds, the researchers said.
Kiyoshi Uzawa, a professor at the University of Tokyo, noted that the he and his colleagues estimated that using sails in such a manner could potentially reduce a cargo vessel's fuel consumption levels by approximately 30 percent. He added that the sails would be durable, and would measure more than 160 feet in length and 65 feet in width.
Moreover, the scientists said that by constructing the sails from aluminum and fiber-reinforced plastic, they would help keep manufacturing costs low. A group of motors would be used to control the sails, which the engineering team said would be divided into five discrete sections. A computer system would also help ensure that the sails would be best positioned to capture strong winds, the scientists affirmed.
Modern cargo ships burn millions of gallons of low-grade fuel when they are transporting goods throughout the world, but the team of scientists said recent breakthroughs in engineering research, particularly in materials science, could help companies operating such vessels save money and improve efficiency. While each of the massive sails would cost roughly $2.5 million to develop, the team of researchers said fuel savings would help offset the initial investment.
The retractable sails would act much like wings on a plane, according to Uzawa. He added that in computer simulations the scientists had conducted, capturing wind energy through the use of the sails resulted in fuel savings of more than 35 percent compared to traditional vessels.
Still, the researchers acknowledged developing such advanced cargo vessels is not assured. Uzawa and his colleagues plan to build a prototype ship roughly half the size of standard vessels over the next few years, as the team hopes to begin sea trials as soon as 2016.