Composite to replace cast iron in harsh maritime environments
Danish Vestas Aircoil and the Department of Engineering at Aarhus University have joined forces to find an alternative to the extremely heavy heat exchanger constructions, which for decades have been a central component in huge, turbocharged marine engines.
The aim is to reduce the weight of end plates on heat exchangers which, on the largest engines, can be several metres high and weigh hundreds of kilos. This is the first time anyone has tried to replace the classical cast iron plates.
"We're going into unexplored territory. Of course, today there's many alternatives to cast iron, but these are very expensive metal alloys. This is the first time anyone has tried to find a cheaper or corresponding composite solution, but it's not easy, because the conditions are so harsh," says Simon Heide-Jørgensen, industrial postdoc on the project, which is being supported by Innovation Fund Denmark and goes by the name of comMEC (Durability of COMposite end plate for Marine Engine Cooler).
"The material we're looking for must be able to withstand water, salt water, vibrations, high pressure and high temperatures. Not only for a short period of time, but for many years to come. And it should also be a good match in terms of the price of the current solution we've been using for so many years."
"It's ridiculously expensive, so we're working on finding a solution to make it much easier to handle the plates. We hope to be able to reduce their weight significantly," says Simon Heide-Jørgensen.
Furthermore, cast iron does not work very well with salt water, so today, to avoid rusting, the entire system is treated with expensive chemicals.
"The main objective of the project is to find a proof of concept for a new material and design for an end plate that can withstand everything, and we want to predict the impact on the plate of long-term exposure to the harsh conditions. From here, the plan is to take the material forward, and hopefully in the long run create a lighter and stronger construction that doesn't need the chemical treatment," he says.
Provided by Aarhus University