CSL professor works to improve maritime efficiency


Allie Arp, CSL

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, more than 70 percent of internationally traded goods in the United States will be moved on water. Water transport is a cost-effective way to move cargo along the U.S. rivers and across oceans. Because it is such a large part of the economy, it must be done in the most efficient way. That is where CSL Professor Andrew Alleyne comes in.

In his new project, “Trade Study for Effect of Advanced Control on Energy Storage Sizing for Ship Power Systems,” Alleyne looks at how making the layout of ships more flexible can help improve the ship’s energy efficiency.
Andrew Alleyne
Andrew Alleyne

“Shipping is a major part of the economy, responsible for bringing products and passengers across seas,” said Alleyne, Ralph & Catherine Fisher Professor of Engineering. “We are working on these ships being more efficient, using energy responsibly, and lowering emissions.”

As with cars, modern electrification technology has allowed boats to become more energy efficient. Ships used to have the propeller at the rear of the ship right behind the engine, putting a large amount of weight at the back of the boat. If this weight wasn’t counterbalanced at the front of the boat the vessel would have to balance itself, causing a major dip in fuel efficiency. With electric power, modern boats can separate power generation, power distribution, and load application. This can dramatically alter the layout of modern ships to resemble a micro-grid, with multiple engines and thrusters thereby spreading out the load. Additionally, the incorporation of energy storage allows the engines to decouple from the load, therefore operating at constant peak efficiency regardless of the duty cycle.

Improved fuel efficiency for boats leads to improved emissions.

“Efficiency and emissions are usually tied,” explains Alleyne, who has appointments in mechanical science and engineering (MechSe) and electrical and computer engineering (ECE). “The less fuel you burn the fewer emissions you put in the air. Also, by using electrical storage we can choose to operate these engines at their best condition for both emissions and efficiency.”

Graduate and undergraduate students from both Mechse and ECE will be involved in running simulations for this research. This project is funded by the Office of Naval Research for $80,000.