Engineers Help Arctic Ships Assess Ice Buildup

2017-02-17T10:29:51+00:00 February 17, 2017|
(Click to enlarge) Scientists tested their model for inferring a ship's role gyradius on the now-retired Navy research Vessel, the R/V Melville.

(Click to enlarge) Scientists tested their model for inferring a ship’s role gyradius on the now-retired Navy research Vessel, the R/V Melville.

As global temperatures rise and arctic ice melts, more ships are taking advantage of expedient, yet dangerous ocean routes that are opening in the polar region. One of the main hazards of sailing in freezing temperatures is topside icing, in which water blown from the ocean freezes once it contacts a ship, potentially accumulating enough ice to put the vessel at risk of capsizing.

(From PhysOrg / By Syl Kacapyr)– No tools have existed for ships to accurately monitor topside icing, but now Cornell engineers have demonstrated a novel method to do so using a combination of applied mathematics and computational mechanics. The results are published in the February edition of the journal Applied Ocean Research.

“If you know something about the excitations occurring in a seaway that load a ship, and we can measure some response of the ship to those excitations, we may then be able to infer the current condition of the vessel,” said Christopher Earls, professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-lead author of the paper. Engineers refer to this as inverse problem solving – using data from an effect to infer something about the cause.

In topside icing, an effect is that the motion of the ship is changed due to the weight of the ice. “So we solve an inverse problem by using the inertial motion unit of the ship and a computer vision sensor that looks at the near wave field around the ship, and then use a model that turns that into an excitation,” Earls explained. “So we have an excitation and a response to infer how much ice must be on the ship.”

To demonstrate the inversion framework in the real world, Earls and his team applied it to the R/V Melville – a 279-foot Navy research vessel operated by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography prior to its retirement in 2015. The goal was to accurately determine the “roll gyradius” of the ship and its smaller 1:23-scale model, essentially predicting each ship’s weight distribution about its axis of rolling. And while certain mass properties of a ship may be estimated based on design assumptions, those estimated properties are uncertain once a ship is seafaring due to factors such as varying fuel and hydraulic fluid levels, and how heavy equipment is stowed. Because of this, the inversion framework could be put to the test without the use of ice.

Prior to the full-scale demonstration, the research team began exercising the inversion framework using the small model of the R/V Melville, and the data began to roll in. “That was exciting, but not a guarantee of meaningful results yet. Then, incrementally, there were results that showed promise and also showed new things to consider,” said Yolanda Lin, a doctoral student in structural mechanics and the study’s co-lead author. After some revisions, the team was able to accurately predict the roll gyradius of the ship within the standard deviation of error.

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