By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Design
Piranha is an unmanned vessel that's an unheard of 400 percent more fuel efficient than similar models.
With all the buzz around efforts to make cars and planes more fuel efficient, it's easy to forget that boats have a lot of room for improvement as well.
On April 11, at the premiere of the Sea Air Space show in Maryland, a tech firm named Zyvex Technologies drove that very point home when they unveiled the Piranha, an unmanned vessel that's 400 percent more fuel efficient than similar models.
Developers achieved the record-breaking milestone after subjecting it to a 600-mile test across a stretch of the Pacific Ocean near Puget Sound, where the boat reached a cruising speed of 25 knots while using 12 gallons of fuel per hour. A similar boat traveling at the same speed would have completed the course while consuming at least 50 gallons of fuel per hour.
With a full tank of gas, Zyvex says that the 54' Piranha can log up to 2,800 nautical miles under open-ocean conditions with waves that exceed 12 feet.
"The most expensive part of operating a boat can be the fuel costs. Since the Piranha gets 2.5 miles per gallon going 25 knots, its operators would only spend one fourth as much on operating costs," said Russell Belden, vice president of Zyvex Technologies.
Much of this improvement is owed to the Piranha's ultra-lightweight nano-enhanced body, which is comprised of a specially-designed carbon fiber infused with carbon nanotubes. Even though the material allows the boat to weigh a nimble 8,400 pounds -- almost five times lighter than a boat of comparable size -- it's reportedly 40 percent stronger than common ship metals.
Defense contractors have begun evaluating the Piranha for potential use in a variety of applications, which include anti-piracy, harbor patrol, and oceanographic surveying.
(via PR Newswire)
Photo: Zyvex Technologies
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Any sailboat easily beats this record. Of course if you are going to have a sailing supertanker, the labor costs would far exceed the value of the fuel savings. Then there is the matter of ariving on a predictable schedule, which in large part was responsible for steam displacing sail a hundred- some years ago.
That's all well and good, but which of those 9 boats has a displacement of 4 tons or better, and is suited to the stated missions?
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_sailing_record for 9 boats that covered up to 908 nmi, over 24 hours for speeds ranging from 26 to 36.8 knots. Oh, yeah: Zero gallons of fuel.
Oh, and a note to Trapper: The clipper you mentioned not only can travel 30,000 miles with no fuel, it also looks a hell of a lot better while doing so!
Possibly you could build a larger vessel with composite hull technology, but it would not have the same impact on fuel economy. The wave-making resistance of a displacement hull is proportional to the square root of the hull's waterline length. Traditionally this is expressed as the "hull speed", the rule of thumb speed beyond which the energy required for further speed increases becomes prohibitively large. Hulls with a longer waterline can operate efficiently at faster speeds than a similar shorter hull. A small boat as described in this article operating at 25 knots would be a planing hull, rather than displacement. In that case, the effect of reduced weight would be more significant. I don't claim to be a naval architect, and understanding of hull dynamics has increased dramatically since I last studied the subject - if my explanations are unclear or otherwise unsatisfactory, I encourage you to search for "hull speed" or "wave making resistance", and "planing hull vs displacement hull" for further information.
The piece mentions a new hull material but doesn't discuss the engine or anything else about propulsion. The implication is that the boat uses less fuel because it's lighter than an ordinary 1 of comparable size. It follows that the tech will only scale up so much because the weight of the contents doesn't go down, just the weight of the hull.
Thanks for an interesting post. Any idea whether this sort of technology can be adapted to larger vessels?
The original source quotes a fuel consumption rate of 12 gallons/hour at 25 kts. That compares favorably to the 50 gallons/hour required by a comparable craft. http://zyvextech.com/news/
at 2.5 miles per gallon, it would take more than 240 gallons not 12 gallons to go 600 miles. so which number is wrong?
Big deal. This one will go 30,000 miles on no gasoline at all: http://www.essentially-england.com/images/tea_clipper_small.jpg