The constant hunger to break new records has turned boat building into a high-tech business. The racing yachts that compete at international regattas today are sporting machines designed to reach top speeds. The process of optimizing the boats has been ongoing for decades. However, just a short while ago it looked as if a limit had been reached.
To measure the forces acting on the sail, researchers have fi tted it with a web of glass fibers. (© Fraunhofer HHI)
On the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race in spring 2012, from New Zealand to Brazil, only one of the six teams reached its destination without technical problems – all the others were forced to either take a break from the race or give up altogether. The regatta became a war of attrition. And yet these yachts are the best in the world. “These boats are very well constructed,” affirms Ian Walker, skipper of the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team. “I just think we put too much strain on them, and since they are so rigid and so light it’s hard not to believe that they ultimately must break.” So how do you build yachts that are faster than the wind and yet stable enough to withstand the harsh conditions on the high seas?Back on course with sensor technology
The wavelength of the reflected light depends on the distance between the microscopic structures: every stretching or compression of the glass fiber alters the wavelength. To be able to measure the reflectance spectrum quickly and cheaply, the researchers developed a mini-spectrometer, which consists of a chip that splits light into various frequencies. By analyzing the frequency spectrum, experts can draw conclusions about the forces currently acting on the glass fiber.
The idea to use the measurement technology on sailboats came to Schade during a sailing voyage in the fall of 2010. “Sailing is all about making best use of the wind and being as fast as possible. At the same time, you also have to avoid pushing the equipment beyond breaking point. Fiber optic sensors can help to determine the forces acting on hulls, masts, and sails during the journey in real time.” A few months later, Schade was able to demonstrate that the sensors were up to the task of advancing the sport of sailing. At the Düsseldorf boat fair he met Jens Nickel, who runs a sail workshop in Stade in northern Germany. In collaboration with the sailcloth manufacturer Dimension-Polyant, a web of glass fibers containing 45 measuring points was fitted to a mainsail and a genoa in Nickel’s workshop.
Measurements were then conducted on the sails on a test journey. “It turned out that the tension in the head, right at the top of the sail, was greater than assumed,” says Nickel. “However, the strain on the clew, the lower aft corner of a sail, and on the entire leech area, the aft edge of a sail, was smaller than had been thought.” Nickel’s sail workshop used the data right away to optimize their working processes. The sailmaker started reinforcing the areas that were subject to greater stress and using lighter material in the areas that were less stressed.
Schade and his team’s next objective is to adapt the measurement technology so it is fit for use in competitive racing. “We have now fitted sail battens with fiber optic sensors, which will help competitors in future to find the optimal trim, i.e. the sail position at which the boat travels the fastest under specific wind and wave conditions,” explains Schade. For the first time, the fiber optic sensors and the connected measuring equipment – which is no bigger than a cigarette packet and contains an LED light source, spectrometer, and electronics – are supplying reproducible values.
This data tells the crew in which areas there is too much or too little pressure, or how stresses shift to different areas, for example when the sheets are pulled in tighter. The results provided by the sensor technology will be accessible everywhere on board at all times – Schade’s team has already developed an app that allows crew members to access real time data from their smart phones. The new measuring system will be launched shortly under the name NextSailSystem.
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schade | Fraunhofer-Institute
Decoding cement's shape promises greener concrete
08.12.2016 | Rice University
Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D
08.12.2016 | DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine