Hull Cleaning Underwater Robot To Reduce CO2 Emissions


  • Cargo ships are huge polluters that emit than 200 million metric tons of CO2.
  • Ships are harder to decarbonize but a relatively simple intervention from a new type of underwater robot can help significantly shrink emissions.
  • The robot, called the HullSkater, can travel over the hull, cleaning it with a motorized brush.
  • These underwater robots make cargo ship hulls so smooth that it reduces emissions.
  • Over five years, a single ship using the robot will be able to cut 22,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions—12.5% of its total emissions.

A recent news published in the Fast Company brings to the fore about a robot named ‘HullSkater’ that takes care of the biofilm of algae by collecting it on the cargo ship’s hull, thereby making the hull to function more effectively.

A small step to cleaner energy

This seemingly small change means that the ship uses more energy to move.  The technology has a side benefit of reducing the spread of invasive aquatic species from port to port.

“As the layer gets thicker and thicker, you get more and more drag or friction against the water when the ship is sailing,” says Hans Peter Havdal, a general manager at the Sweden-based technology consulting company Semcon, which partnered with a marine coating company called Jotun to design the new robot.

Earlier, cleaning happens less frequently  

As the ship stops at a port for loading, the remotely controlled robot can travel over the hull, cleaning it with a motorized brush.

Previously, cleaning happened much less frequently.

“In the past, you had to bring the ship to a dock for cleaning and potentially for repainting,” Havdal says.

“If you carry the HullSkater on board, you can launch this cleaning device while you’re waiting for the ship to be loaded. You can maintain the hull, clean it, and hence reduce the fuel consumption.”

Robot suits the hydrogen-powered ships 

The shipping industry looks for other ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050.

The industry leader Maersk pledging to completely eliminate them—it may turn to hydrogen-powered ships.

According to a recent report, routes across the Pacific for almost all trips could run on hydrogen if 5% of cargo space was used to store hydrogen fuel, or if each ship made an additional stop to refuel.

If the industry makes this possible change, the robot could be a useful way to make it possible to carry less hydrogen.

“Even if you have hydrogen or electric power, you still want to be energy efficient,” says Havdal.

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Source: Fast Company


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