Scientists from Cranfield University in the UK are developing an innovative “wave devouring” propulsion technology inspired by whales, aiming to cut emissions from ships, a sector responsible for substantial greenhouse gas emissions.
The technology developed by Waivefoil involves a flapping foil system installed at the bottom of a ship’s hull, resembling a whale’s tail fin. This system harnesses the kinetic energy of waves to achieve propulsion without fuel, automatically flapping up and down as the ship moves through the water. While an initial engine is needed to provide power, the foils reduce the overall effort required to propel the ship, potentially reducing fuel use by up to 15%.
Key Facts about Wavefoil:
Whale-Inspired Propulsion: The wave devouring propulsion system mimics the tail fin of a whale, utilizing the up and down motion to generate thrust. The technology aims to make shipping more sustainable by harnessing the energy of waves for propulsion.
Flapping Foil System: The system involves a flapping foil system installed at the bottom of a ship’s hull. As the wing flows through the water, it automatically flaps up and down, reducing the overall effort needed to push the boat forward.
Fuel Efficiency: Lab-scale test models at Cranfield University’s ocean laboratory indicated that the wave-devouring propulsion system could reduce fuel use in ships by up to 15%. This relatively simple technology could be retrofitted onto existing vessels.
Commercialization Efforts: Companies such as Wavefoil from Norway and Liquid Robotics from the US have shown promise in commercializing wave devouring propulsion. Wavefoil has installed retractable bow foils on ships, while Liquid Robotics developed an autonomous surface vehicle called Waveglider.
Multiple Applications: The researchers envision the technology being used for various maritime applications, from waste-collecting robots to giant cargo ships. The simplicity and potential fuel savings make it an attractive solution for the shipping industry’s transition to net zero emissions.
While this innovative startup is still in the early stages of growth, the wave devouring technology holds promise for contributing to the decarbonization of the shipping industry, aligning with global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in maritime transportation.