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International accolades for Tassie engineers

Edition 195_UTASResearch

University of Tasmania (UTAS) research team has won a prestigious international maritime award for ground-breaking work that could help reduce sea-sickness on high-speed vessels.

The team, led by marine engineering lecturer Dr Javad Alavimehr, has been awarded the Medal of Distinction for best research paper from England’s Royal Institution of Naval Architecture.

In collaboration with Tasmanian shipbuilder Incat, they have been experimenting ways to reduce vessel movement on high-speed wave-piercing catamarans. This improves passenger comfort and is one of the keys to reducing motion sickness. 

The experiments are now complete, and Dr Alavimehr said results show they have been able to cut vessel motion by half.

“These results are really significant and far beyond any of our expectations,” Dr Alavimehr said.

“There is little side-to-side rolling on high-speed catamarans, instead any sea sickness tends to be caused by the up-and-down motion – or the pitch – and our modelling has been able to reduce this movement by 50%.

“This in turn was found to have a significant impact on our Motion Sickness Index.”

Using complex algorithmic formulas, the UTAS team has created a new Ride Control System (RCS) to program the ‘T-foils’ at the bow of the catamarans. These are similar to flaps on an aeroplane wing and are moved up and down to dampen vessel motion.

Dr Alavimehr said his RCS would help ensure optimal usage of these crucial T-foils.

“It takes a number of factors into account, including weather, wave size and vessel motion, as it ensures the T-foils are operated with maximum effect,” Dr Alavimehr said.

The UTAS research has been given a helping hand by Tasmanian shipbuilder Incat, whose wave-piercing catamarans are in great demand across the globe.

In fact, Dr Alavimehr’s work involved scale-model experiments based on a 112-metre Incat catamaran, which were conducted at the towing tank at the Australian Maritime College in Launceston.

Incat is one of Tasmania’s great success stories.

The 550-strong work-force at its Hobart shipyard builds the largest high-speed catamarans in the world, and it has the capacity to deliver two new vessels every year.

The company also pioneered the use of RCS in catamarans, as it continually strove to improve passenger comfort.

“Incat began the study of ride control in catamarans in 1990,” said Pierre Denneulin, General Manager of Revolution Design, the Incat engineering team.

“In conjunction with American company, Maritime Dynamics, we introduced the first ride control version in 1991… Constant developments have been incorporated in all Incat production vessels right up to today.”

Meantime, exactly where – and how – the work of Dr Alavimehr and his team fits in, is yet to be determined.

With modelling now complete, sea trials are the next step. And as Incat has demonstrated,  incorporating new innovations – such as the research of the UTAS team – is on on-going and vital process.

“Incat vessels have incorporated trim tabs and T-foils for decades, however it welcomes all efforts to further improve the good ride of modern catamarans,” Mr Denneulin said.

“It is clearly of interest to forecast how a specific design will react to the encountered seas, and how different RCS will contribute to damp the ship motion and consequently reduce the Motion Sickness Index.”

And while all this may sound like high science, the end result really is quite simple.

Dr Alavimehr sums it up succinctly: “Our research will have a very practical application resulting in less sea-sickness – and that is good news for passengers.”

Image courtesy of the University of Tasmania

12 June 2018, Edition 195

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