Unsinkable boats now closer to reality

NEW YORK (TIP): Boats of the future may not sink despite damage to their structure, thanks to a new light weight composite material developed by researchers from Deep Springs Technology (DST) and the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering, including one of Indian-origin.

Researchers said a boat made of such material, so light that it can float on water, will not sink despite damage to its structure. The new material also promises to improve automotive fuel economy because it combines light weight with heat resistance. Although syntactic foams have been around for many years, this is the first development of a light weight metal matrix syntactic foam.

Their magnesium alloy matrix composite is reinforced with silicon carbide hollow particles and has a density of only 0.92 grams per cubic centimetre compared to 1.0 gcc of water. Besides having density lower than water, it is strong enough to withstand the rigorous conditions faced in the marine environment. The new technology could be put into test within three years.

Amphibious vehicles such as the Ultra Heavy-lift Amphibious Connector (UHAC), being developed by the US Marine Corps, can especially benefit from the light weight and high buoyancy offered by the new syntactic foams. “The ability of metals to withstand higher temperatures can be a huge advantage for these composites in engine and exhaust components, quite apart from structural parts,” said Nikhil Gupta, an NYU School of Engineering professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the study’s co-author.

The secret of this syntactic foam starts with a matrix made of a magnesium alloy , which is then turned into foam by adding strong, lightweight silicon carbide hollow spheres. A single sphere’s shell can withstand pressure of over 25,000 pounds per square inch (PSI) one hundred times the maximum pressure in a fire hose. The hollow particles also offer impact protection to the syntactic foam because each shell acts like an energy absorber during its fracture. The composite can be customized by adding more or fewer shells into the matrix to fit the requirements of the application.

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