Ships may be the lifeblood of the global economy, but they’re dirty and polluting. James McKenzie, for Physics World, reviews if a new generation of wind-powered vessels could be the answer.
Wind Powered Car Carrier project
Oceanbird – an odd-looking vessel is being developed by the Swedish freight firm Wallenius Marine and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Tests on a scale model are already being carried out and the ship could become a reality as soon as 2024.
With financial backing from the Swedish Transport Administration, Oceanbird forms part of the country’s Wind Powered Car Carrier project. It aims to build a sailing vessel that can transport 7000 vehicles across the Atlantic with 90% fewer emissions than a conventional ship running on “heavy” crude oil. Oceanbird certainly looks different, with four giant, 80 m-high sails that seem more like sleek aircraft wings.
Towering vertically above the ship’s deck, the wings are made from steel and composite materials. Together, they provide forward thrust and can rotate through 360º to make optimal use of the prevailing wind. Some 198 m long and weighing 32,000 tonnes, Oceanbird would – if built – be the biggest sailing vessel in the world. It could cross the Atlantic in 12 days at a top speed of 10 knots.
That’s 50% slower than today’s fuel-burning ships, which have an average transatlantic journey time of 7–8 days, but think of all the fuel saved. Of course, a backup engine (hopefully not powered by conventional fuel) would be needed when the wind is sluggish or the ship is passing through harbours. The wings are also telescopic, which means the ship can pass beneath bridges and reduce wing area under high wind conditions.
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Source: Physics World