Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Aurora Borealis breaks new grounds - and old ice

30.11.2007
It can crush ice sideways and stay precisely on station to an accuracy of a metre. It can drill a hole 1,000 metres deep into the seabed while floating above 5,000 metres of ocean and it can generate 55 megawatts of power. So far, Aurora Borealis is the most unusual ship that has ever been built, and it represents a floating laboratory for European science, a breakthrough for polar research and a very big headache for international lawyers.

Aurora Borealis will be the first ever international ship, the brainchild of the European Science Federation, the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Maritime Research in Germany and the Germany Federal Ministry of Research and Education. Russia has announced that it will be a partner in launching this state-of-the-art research vessel, but other European nations may soon join the project. But a European ship represents a metaphorical voyage into unknown waters, the ESF Science Policy Conference learned.

"We do not have a European flag at the moment so one nation has to be responsible. And if it is internationally owned, you can imagine the difficulty," said Nicole Biebow, manager of the project, and a scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute. "We have to agree where this ship should have its home port. And what happens if there is an accident? Who is responsible if you have an oil spill on the ice, for instance?"

The ice over the polar seas masks millions of years of the planet's history: drilling is difficult in freezing conditions. Aurora Borealis will be the world's first icebreaker that is also a drilling ship. This sets unusual challenges for marine engineers: a vessel poised on top of 5000 metres of drilling rig cannot afford to move very much in any direction. But ice drifts, and currents and winds can alter in moments. So the ship will be designed not just to break the ice as it moves forward and astern, but also to port and starboard.

"We had some early ice tanks tests and they came up with a design that is able to break ice sideways," said Paul Egerton, head of the European Polar Board within the European Science Federation. "As the ice continually presses against the side of the ship, the pieces of ice go underneath the hull and are washed away by the propulsion system. There is also a kind of damping system so the ship can raise itself up and down vertically to break the ice. It has a propeller that can turn 360 degrees, linked to satellite navigation. A lot of the cruise ships now have this so they can navigate in a very small area. But the propeller also has to break ice: it has to be strengthened."

Not only will the diesel-electric ship be the floating equivalent of a 55 megawatt power station, it will be an intellectual powerhouse as well. It will be probe the role of polar waters in global climate change. Drill cores from the sea floor could answer questions about the geological history of the Arctic ocean, and other instruments will measure the transport of contaminants through the air, water and ice. The vessel could be home to 120 people, more than half of them scientists who need to go to sea to study the ice, the ocean beneath and the history of the deep sea floor.

It will be equipped with two "moon pools" in the bottom of the hull to give direct access to the open water beneath the ice, so that drillers can work in freezing conditions and biologists can launch underwater vehicles to study the mysterious processes that trigger an explosion of life in the polar seas every spring. The design and preparation of Aurora Borealis will continue until 2011. Builders could start assembling the hull in 2012, it could be cruising the oceans from 2014 and it could begin answering some of the great questions of ocean science for the next 40 years.

Thomas Lau | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esf.org

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Scientists discover Earth's youngest banded iron formation in western China
12.07.2018 | University of Alberta

nachricht Drones survey African wildlife
11.07.2018 | Schweizerischer Nationalfonds SNF

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Research finds new molecular structures in boron-based nanoclusters

13.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Algae Have Land Genes

13.07.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>