Engineering-led research could have big impact on shipping industry and environment

Aug 8th, 2016

By Jeff Green

Dr. Heather Peng
Engineering-led research could have big impact on shipping industry and environment

A research project led by the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science has the potential to make a significant impact on the worldwide shipping industry while helping protect the environment.

Dr. Heather Peng, associate professor in the Department of Ocean and Naval Architectural Engineering, has developed a new computer simulation tool that could help transform how large boats operate. It’s all part of a growing area of research called green ship technology.

“My research focuses on hydrodynamic performance of ships and marine structures,” Dr. Peng explained during a recent interview. “The program I have developed allows for optimization of a ship hull form to reduce resistance and therefore fuel consumption as well as CO2 emissions.”

Building better ships

Globally, the marine industry is harnessing the power of new technology to allow them to operate vessels more efficiently and as environmentally friendly as possible.

“Our goal is to help ship designers to build better ships with lower operational costs and emissions,” added Dr. Peng, who joined Memorial in 2008. Prior to that, she worked as a senior technical researcher in private industry in Nova Scotia and with a local company in St. John’s. She has also authored and co-authored numerous papers and reports on marine hydrodynamics.

Since joining Memorial, she has secured national funding from theNatural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada focused on her research. Dr. Peng says her studies have already proven to have valuable industry implications.

“The research led to a more efficient and accurate tool to predict ship resistance,” she said while holding a fishing vessel model made by Memorial’s Department of Technical Services, a unit within the Office of the Vice-President (Research).

“The new design tool overcomes challenges in design predictions for ships with transom sterns – the flat surface that forms the stern of a vessel,” she added.

“With this improvement, it is now possible to optimize the design features of ships. Among further applications, I plan to extend the research to improve the energy savings for fishing vessels.”

Leading-edge research and education

Memorial’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science is well known for its leading-edge research focused on addressing industry challenges. The Ocean and Naval Architectural Engineering program is unique in Canada and the only one in the world that offers a fully accredited co-operative program.

Dr. Greg Naterer, dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, considers Memorial to be Canada’s premier centre for ocean engineering education and research. He says Newfoundland and Labrador’s unique geography – located in the mid-North Atlantic and close to four distinct cold ocean zones – allows researchers to conduct leading edge research on ocean technology in harsh ocean environments.

“The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science has a long proud tradition of excellence in engineering education and research,” said Dr. Naterer. “Researchers such as Dr. Peng are turning great ideas into solutions that benefit our industry partners and provincial economy.”

For her part, Dr. Peng says she’s proud to play a role in advancing Memorial’s reputation for green ship technology.

“My next area of focus will be on ship-propeller interaction to reduce the energy consumption and environment impact due to noise and vibration from propellers,” she noted.

This story was also published in the Aug. 8 edition of The Telegram as part of a regular summer series on research at Memorial University.