Robotic 'vacuum' offers shipping industry a cleaner solution

September 17, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- An automated robotic cleaning system that removes marine growth from the hull of a ship is being pioneered at Newcastle University.

Designed to reduce the carbon footprint of the world’s shipping industry, the robot offers a solution to spiralling fuel costs and marine related pollution while removing harmful, non-indigenous species that could be transferred to local waters.

Operating in a similar way to the automatic carpet cleaner, the robot has been developed out of an EU-funded project called HISMAR (Hull Identification System for Marine Autonomous Robotics) and is able to navigate its own way across the ship’s hull.

First a map of the hull is automatically charted, recording the location of every weld, thickness change, rivet and indentation on the ship’s surface.

The robot is magnetically attached to the ship’s side and sent off on its journey of the hull, following a planned route and cleaning as it goes.

Adjustable jets of pressurised sea water blast the marine growth off the surface of the ship which is then sucked up into the main chamber.

Here, 150 litres of water a minute is filtered and the bio-fouling removed and rendered harmless to the local environment.

In this way, the ship’s robotic ‘vacuum’ can continuously roam the ship’s hull, preventing the build up of slime and allowing it to travel through the water efficiently by cutting down on drag.

This significantly reduces fuel consumption and also pollution such as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Newcastle University’s Professor Tony Roskilly, leading the project, said: 'Marine growth on ships is a huge environmental and financial problem for the marine industry and HISMAR offers a unique solution to both of these – and more.

'What we have created is a system that works totally independently – in or out of the water – and not only keeps the ship clean but also feeds back vital information about the hull’s condition.

'Because the map it follows is so detailed, if there is a change to its path caused by corrosion or a crack in the steel then it feeds this information back. This means it can be used as an additional check on the seaworthiness of the ship’s hull or highlight potential future problems.

'And because the drive module and navigational system are separate to the cleaning tools we hope that ultimately we will be able to fit it with different tools to carry out different tasks – such as stripping and painting the hull.'

Led by Newcastle University, the international team of experts will present a prototype of the robot at the largest marine maintenance fair in the world - Shipbuilding, Machinery and Marine Technology in Hamburg - on September 23rd.

Until the beginning of this year, ships used antifouling paints to protect them from the corrosive environment, with Tributyltin (TBT) added as a biocide to also prevent marine growth.

However, it was found to contaminate the surrounding water – having a serious detrimental impact on other marine life - and this summer it became illegal worldwide to use TBT antifouling coatings.

Newcastle University’s Jonathan Heslop, a researcher on the project, explains: 'All other developed cleaning or inspection systems currently available are remotely controlled during their operation, requiring highly skilled and experienced operators to effectively clean the hull, while the ship is out of operation and usually out of the water.

'The advantage of the HISMAR robot is that it is an autonomous system so it can continue cleaning with the ship remaining in service – feeding back hull information as it does so – resulting in very little build up of slime, reduced fuel costs and much less pollution.'

The HISMAR robot uses a novel optical dead-reckoning system in conjunction with a magnetic system to identify the location of surface and sub-surface features to build up a detailed map of the ship’s hull. It is this navigation system which allows the robot to operate above and below the waterline whilst the ship is in port or at anchor.

Provided by Newcastle University

Explore further: New revelations from Superstorm Sandy data

Related Stories

New revelations from Superstorm Sandy data

September 20, 2017

Five years ago next month, four days before Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, Rutgers University-New Brunswick marine scientists launched a data-collecting, submersible robot glider in front of the massive storm.

UA engineer launches robotic planetary Lake Lander

March 19, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Wolfgang Fink of the University of Arizona department of electrical and computer engineering has developed an autonomous robotic lake lander that could be used to explore this planet and others.

Marine archaeologists excavate Greek Antikythera shipwreck

September 25, 2015

Archaeologists excavating the famous ancient Greek shipwreck that yielded the Antikythera mechanism have recovered more than 50 items including a bronze armrest (possibly part of a throne), remains of a bone flute, fine glassware, ...

New long-range undersea robot goes the distance

November 2, 2010

Over the past decade, the undersea robots known as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) have become increasingly important in oceanographic research. Today's AUVs fall into two groups: 1) propeller-driven vehicles that can ...

Recommended for you

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

US faces moment of truth on 'net neutrality'

December 14, 2017

The acrimonious battle over "net neutrality" in America comes to a head Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a "two-speed" internet.

FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

December 14, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit ...

The wet road to fast and stable batteries

December 14, 2017

An international team of scientists—including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory—has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Tre
not rated yet Nov 17, 2008
Pretty cool concept, is there any other updates?

Tre
Truck Mount Carpet Cleaning Forum
http://www.truckm...m/forums

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.