A team of researchers led by Dr. Liang Yang – Lecturer in Marine Renewable Energy Systems at Cranfield University in England – has developed a concept that has the potential to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping industry.
Wave Devouring Propulsion (WDP) involves harnessing wave energy for propulsion and could serve as a power source for ships in future. The concept was inspired by the motion of a whale’s tail fins. These tail fins are horizontal, paddle-shaped appendages at the end of a whale’s tail, which are crucial to the animal’s mobility and navigation through the water.
The researchers conducted an in-depth analysis of the structure and motion of the whales’ tail fins, and then conducted simulations and experiments to convert the movement of a whale’s tail fin into a ship power system. This led to the development of the WDP strategy of enhancing thrust via submerged flapping foils on a vessel using the power of waves.
“Wave Devouring Propulsion (WDP) could act as a transformative force in maritime sustainability. Our research pioneers a novel approach to propel ships using the boundless energy of waves,” said Yang.
The team proposes this new technology could become a significant advantage for the maritime industry, both by reducing fuel costs and improving marine craft propulsion. The method could also be applied to small and unmanned vessels, and integrated into hybrid propulsion systems.
“We’re not just reducing emissions; we’re navigating towards a future where carbon reduction targets are met, and the shipping industry aligns with sustainable development goals,” added Yang.