Mitsubishi Builds a Bubble Boat For Better Efficiency

via Wired: Autopia by Keith Barry on 10/26/11

Grain conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland has ordered three dry bulk carriers that blow bubbles to improve fuel efficiency.

The boats, to be completed by 2014, rely on Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ proprietary Mitsubishi Air Lubrication System (MALS). The setup uses massive blowers to create a layer of bubbles underneath an already streamlined hull in order to further reduce friction.

Mitsubishi claims that MALS can reduce CO2 emissions by a quarter compared with conventional dry bulk carriers. Considering the ships will carry about 100,000 tons including cargo, fuel and crew, that’s a significant reduction.

Serious plans to install MALS on an oceangoing carrier began just over a year ago, when Mitsubishi got some help from the Japanese government and private foundations to put MALS on module carriers — ships that bring heavy equipment to industrial development sites, like the one shown above. Back then, the company estimated that carbon emissions could be reduced 10 percent.

The grain carriers will gain additional efficiencies from a unique propulsion system that puts its fins ahead of the propellers. The ship’s bow reduces the amount of waves it makes for even smoother sailing that doesn’t disrupt the bubbles beneath.

The three ships ordered by ADM will be 131 feet wide and 777 feet long and will be built by Oshima Shipbuilding. It’s the first time another shipbuilder has been selected to install MALS on a boat not built by Mitsubishi.

Image: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries


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