Harwood Marine managing director Ross Roberts provides a simple example of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability phenomenon, a crucial part of his invention to reduce shipping emissions.
Harwood Marine managing director Ross Roberts provides a simple example of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability phenomenon, a crucial part of his invention to reduce shipping emissions.

Is this the key to global shipping woes?

COULD penguins and fish hold the key to reducing a ship's environmental impact?

For the past ten years Harwood Marine managing director Ross Roberts, along with a Japanese colleague, have been quietly working on an innovative project designed to significantly reduce a ship's environmental footprint.

"We've taken our inspiration directly from mother nature in order to solve a major problem for the shipping industry," he said.

According to the International Maritime Organization, burning bunker fuel used to power large freight ships generate close to 90 per cent of all sulphur emissions globally.

"To put that into perspective, 15 of the world's largest ships produce more sulphur emissions than all of the cars in the world," Mr Roberts said.

 

BRIGHT IDEA: Harwood Marine managing director Ross Roberts provides a simple example of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability phenomenon using water, oil, and a good shake of the bottle.
BRIGHT IDEA: Harwood Marine managing director Ross Roberts provides a simple example of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability phenomenon using water, oil, and a good shake of the bottle.

 

Thankfully, he has a solution to dramatically decrease this dirty disaster using a device which reduces a ship's turbulence, therefore decreasing its fuel consumption.

"It replicates what penguins and fish are doing," Mr Roberts said.

"Just before a penguin jumps out of the water, it traps air in its feathers and releases that air at the right moment to propel itself out of the water.

"Meanwhile fish create their own form of turbulence to reduce the drag and allow them to slip through the water."

"What's going on with these two animals is something called Kelvin - Helmholtz instability*."

The device, nicknamed GILS (Gas Injected Lubrication System), replicates this phenomenon to create far less friction for a ship as it moves through the water.

"When you breakdown technology on a ship you can have a 20 per cent reduction in fuel and for every tonne of fuel used that's three tonnes of CO2 generated," he said.

Mr Roberts said he hoped to see the technology adopted by shipping companies around the world in future.

 

*Kelvin - Helmholtz instability is an instability at the boundary between two parallel streams with different velocities and densities (e.g. water and air).



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