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Air Cavity Ships

Air Cavity Ships

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Published by: Mahdi on Mar 24, 2011
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08/04/2014

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Air-cavity ships are ready
for a wider market
ir-cavity ships (ACS) are advanced marinevehicles that use air injection at thewetted hull surfaces to improve a vessel’shydrodynamic characteristics. The concept of dragreduction by supplying gas under the ship’s bottomwas proposed in the 19th century by the famousscientists Froude and Laval. However, manyattempts to implement this idea in practice havefailed because this process is not as straightforwardas it seems. Deep physical understanding of multi-phase flows is required to achieve a positiveoutcome. Based on the results of systematicresearch, several successful ACS’s have beencreated and found practical application during thepast decade.The position of the ACS among other shiptypes is shown in Fig 1 characterising the degreeof water-hull contact. The basic type of shipoperates in a displacement mode. At sufficientlyhigh speed and with suitable hull lines, a boat canglide over the water surface. Air can be injectedunder the bottom, significantly reducing wettedhull area and consequently hydrodynamicresistance. This type of ship corresponds to theA C S, and the phenomena of generating a gas layerat the submerged hull surface is called artificialcavitation or air lubrication.A similar and more familiar concept is thesurface effect ship (SES), where air is also pumpedunder the ship’s bottom. Such a vessel usually hasflexible bow and stern covers enclosing the spacebetween twin hulls. The next ship type after theSES is an air cushion vehicle with no permanentlysubmerged parts.Another branch of vessel types is related tohydrofoil applications. A ship can be eitherpartially or fully supported. The extremecontinuation of both branches of development isthe vehicle flying near the water surface, called a‘wing-in-ground’ effect (WIG) craft. We shouldnote that it is not possible to claim that someconcepts are universally better than others: all othem have their niches, and the choice of a certainship type depends on the route characteristics,available facilities, government regulations andother factors.The ACS concept is based on successful usage of bottom ventilation (artificial cavitation). A gas issupplied underneath a special profile, so that asteady air layer is generated which separates a partof the bottom from contact with water, thereforereducing hydrodynamic resistance. Drag reductionachieved on a full-scale ACS is within 15-40 percent, while the power spent on the cavity-maintaining gas flow is always less than 3 per centof the total propulsive power of a vessel. Pressureinside the cavity is higher than atmospheric,providing additional support for the ship’s weight.Although the ACS principle seems similar to anSES, there are significant differences. First, there areno flexible seals on an ACS. The air layer iscontained by solid hull parts, which not onlyprevent air leakage from the cavity, but alsoinfluence the air cavity characteristics. Secondly, the
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A
air cavity ships
The DK Group Netherlands’Konstantin Matveevdescribes air-cavity shiptechnology which usesartificial cavitation toreduce hydrodynamicdrag and can benefit fastferries, cargo vessels,and military craft
Fig 1: Hierarchy of fast ships based on degree of contact with water Fig 2: Air cavity formed under the bottom of a fast ACS with important hull parameters depicted 
ACS FEATURES
• air cavity ships are already produced in series• 15-40 per cent drag reduction is achieved• less than 3 per cent of the total ship power isneeded to support the air cavity• low wash wake is generated due to smoothedpressure gradients in the presence of the aircavity• overloads in rough seas are reduced due to adamping effect of the air cavity• fouling growth on the hull in warm seas islessened due to decreased wetted surface• ACS is a convenient platform for effectivelanding and shallow-water operations• protected or special propulsors may berequired for ACS.
 
air flow rate needed to support the air cavity on anACS is about ten times less than that on an SES.Therefore, an ACS is a much more economicalmeans of transportation.To use the artificial cavitation effectively, a shipbottom profile should be chosen to provide air tocover a large bottom area at low energy expense forair supply. There are three important components of the bottom structure on a fast ACS: a step formingthe cavity surface, planing sidewalls (skegs), whichalso protect a cavity, and a special section near thetransom that provides smooth closing of cavitysurface to the hull. The determination of geometricalparameters of these structural components is themain task of ACS design. An air cavity is formed inthe bottom recess by supplying gas through thenozzles using fans.The important physical properties of cavitatingflow aimed at reducing drag can be illustrated usinga simple example of the flow behind a wedgeattached to a horizontal wall in the presence of gravity, as shown in Fig 4. A characteristic feature of cavity 1 is the formation of a pulsating re-entrant jetin the tail part of the cavity, while the cavityboundary close to the wedge remains stable. Thisflow is similar to usual cavitation and ventilationwith a positive cavitation number in the absence of a horizontal wall.Shape 2 is associated with a flow mode when nore-entrant jet is present, and the tail of the cavityattaches smoothly to the plate. In this case, thecavity-maintaining gas flow, as well as the cavitationdrag, is theoretically equal to zero. Pressure insidethe cavity exceeds that in the undisturbed flow,making the cavitation number negative.The peculiarity of shape 3 is that in theory thecavity pierces the plate at its aft end (as shown bythe dashed line). During tests, strong pulsations areobserved all over the cavity in this case, as in over-ventilated flows with positive cavitation numbers.This regime is realised at high gas consumption.The formation of an unclosed cavity 4 is alsopossible under certain conditions; however, thepower needed for air injection is too high to makethis regime attractive for practical drag reduction.Thus, the flow mode that produces cavity 2 isthe most promising. As shown by calculations andverified in experiments, the cavity length in thiscase scales as the flow velocity squared. Cavitygeometrical characteristics, and a cavitation numbercorresponding to this most favorable situation, arecalled the limiting parameters. Successful ACS’s aredesigned to operate in this regime.The idea of drag reduction by air lubrication isalso applicable to relatively slow vessels, such astankers and cargo ships. However, due to thestability limit on cavity dimensions, a differentarrangement of air cavities must be employed. If theship length is large and its speed is not sufficientlyhigh, an entire bottom of the vessel cannot becovered by a single cavity. This explains unsuccessfulattempts to reduce drag by supplying gas throughonly a single nozzle in low speed regimes. Several aircavities (up to 7-8) must be created on a slow ACSoperating in a displacement mode.When a ship is moving in a semi-displacementregime, a significant portion of hydrodynamicresistance is of the wave nature. In this case,artificial cavitation is not as effective as in the caseof slow and planing ships. However, the presence of a compressible air cavity decreases pressuregradients at the ship hull. This effect leads to thewave drag reduction and lower wash wakegenerated by a ship. A total increase of the efficiencyof ACS moving in a semi-displacement regimeshould reach 15-25 per cent in comparison withconventional vessels.Systematic research on air cavity applications forship resistance reduction was started at the KrylovShipbuilding Research Institute in St Petersburg,Russia, in the 1960s. The most significantcontribution to this field was made by AnatolyAkimovich Butuzov. It was established that theapparatus of the theory of developed cavitatingflows was suitable for determination of the majorhydrodynamic characteristics of the ships with airlubrication. Successful laboratory tests werefollowed by implementation of the air cavity concepton the full-scale river cargo ships and barges. Thosetrials demonstrated significant reduction of thepower (up to 30 per cent) needed for vessel motionin optimal speed regimes.In the early 1970s, the first high speed full-scale ACS was build on the initiative of IvanIvanovich Matveev at the Central Hydrofoil DesignBureau, a world-leading company in hydrofoil andWIG technologies, based in Nizhniy Novgorod,Russia. The speed increment achieved on that boatwas up to 27 per cent in comparison with ananalogous boat without the air cavity system.Energy expense for air supply was below 3 per centof the total power.Research and development activity at the Central
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air cavity ships
Fig 3: Schematic view of the bottom of a fast ACSSerna-class landing craft have a maximum speed of 30 knots
 
Hydrofoil Design Bureau resulted in creating severalvessel types that have been produced in series inrecent years. Linda craft (displacement 24.6 tonnes,speed 30 knots) are used for passenger transportationin inland waters. The Serna landing craft (full-loaddisplacement 100 tonnes, maximum speed 30 knots)is able to deliver 45-tonne vehicles and dischargethem over a ramp. A recent ACS, called Mercury (100tonnes displacement, top speed 55 knots), is a sea-going patrol boat capable of safe sailing in Sea State5. As well as these mid-size vessels, runabouts usingartificial cavitation are also built in Russia. Exhaustgases are sometimes utilised as the cavity-maintaining gas on small boats, which simplifies theACS structure and increases operating efficiency.Despite Russian organisations’ profoundknowledge and experience of ACS technology, itseems that they cannot penetrate world markets. Military ACS craft developed in Russia are of interestto defence companies in Nato countries, buttechnical collaboration is not possible for politicalreasons. Lack of capital, limited marketing efforts,and Russian R&D centres’ limited experience of designing large ropax fast ferries (a would-beprimary market for ACS technology) make it difficultto expect that Russian ACS’s will find wideapplication abroad in the near future.Potential benefits of air injection under shiphulls without flexible seals have always been of interest to the shipbuilding community worldwide.However, until the last decade developmentattempts were not serious enough to achieveconvincing results. In recent years, R&D activity inthis field was significantly increased in Europe,USA, Japan, Korea and Australia. Because of thecommercial nature of these projects, reliable data isnot yet available to judge for certain the progress inair cavity technology.Perhaps the most comprehensive efforts havebeen made so far by The Netherlands-based DKGroup. In collaboration with world leaders inmarine innovations, such as research instituteMARIN and design office Nevesbu, this companyhas undertaken an extensive study of the potentialapplication of artificial cavitation both to fast ferriesand cargo vessels. The research programme involveslaboratory and tank testing of ship models whereair is delivered to the specially profiled bottoms.Test results demonstrate a great potential for futureair cavity ships. Theoretical and numerical analysesof multi-phase flows and hull structureoptimisation are aimed at creating effectiveapproaches to ACS design.A characteristic ACS feature is that pockets of air and bubbles periodically escape from the cavityend and shed downstream, especially duringpitching motions in rough seas. Conventionalpropulsors, such as propellers and waterjets, losetheir efficiency significantly if air is present in theincident flow. To avoid this negative effect, specialdeflectors are applied on cargo vessels equippedwith air cavity systems. In the case of a fast ACS,supercavitating and surface propellers can tolerateair presence in the water flow.There are two new developments aimed atimproving the efficiency of propulsion systems whenair is present in water flow. The first is theVentilated Wing Jet, developed by the DK Group,which had previously been involved (but is nolonger) with development of the Hydro Air Drivepropulsor. The rotor in a Ventilated Wing Jet unit islocated inside a close-fitting protective duct andoperates half-submerged at cruising speed similar toa surface propeller. At low speeds, the water flowrate can be increased and sufficient thrust isproduced. The Ventilated Wing Jet remains aeratedat all times, so no fall-off in performance is observedwhen air is entrained in the incoming flow.The second concept, the Ventilated Waterjet, isbeing developed at the Krylov Institute. Air cavitiesare formed on the suction sides of the blades of theVentilated Waterjet and connected to theatmosphere. The thrust is produced mostly by thepressure sides of the blades. Hence, the VentilatedWaterjet is not sensitive to the presence of airbubbles in the flow.Other companies developing air assisted
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Fig 4: Ventilated flow behind a wedgeDK Group’s models of an ACS ropax (below) and bulker being tank-tested at MARIN

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