Photo: Colourbox

Small contribution to cleaner shipping

Tuesday 13 May 14
A new alloy developed by a DTU researcher can help to reduce the shipping industry’s massive pollution.

By Bertel Henning Jensen

Global demand for goods is increasing daily as thousands of tonnes criss-cross the globe. Transportation leaves pollution and climate challenges in its wake—problems which for decades have caused researchers to sound the alarm.

At the same time, the global financial crisis forced the shipping industry to save fuel, significantly reducing shipping speeds. The ships simply sail slower than before the crisis, which means that certain engine parts are exposed to greater wear and tear because the engines are not optimized for slower speeds.

Researchers are therefore hard at work finding a way to minimize environmental footprint while simultaneously improving engine durability. Uffe Ditlev Bihlet, an industrial PhD fellow at DTU, has added a new dimension to this field of research.

A way forward
He has developed a completely new alloy for the so-called exhaust valve spindle in ship engines, capable of withstanding far higher temperatures than the current industry standard. This bodes well for the shipping industry:

“Higher engine temperature means greater efficiency. A spindle made from the new alloy can withstand higher temperatures than one made from existing spindle materials. This can save ship-owners the cost of replacing spindles,” explains Uffe Ditlev Bihlet.

At the same time, the new alloy is an important piece in the huge jigsaw puzzle of reducing environmental impact:
“Engines are continually being improved and this alloy is an important step along the way, but it is only one of several important factors,” he explains.

The news has been greeted with enthusiasm by the Danish Ship-owners’ Association:

“This is a very interesting development, as reducing environmental pollution is one of our chief concerns,” says Per Winther Christensen—Director, Nautical Department at the Danish Shipowners' Association.

“Reducing shipping speeds poses numerous challenges. There are numerous unforeseen consequences of engines running below maximum capacity so we’re delighted to see research being conducted in this area. All maintenance reductions etc. are a blessing,” he says.

The alloy has not yet gone into commercial production, but has been used in exhaust valve spindles in three prototypes at sea—with excellent results to date, says Uffe Ditlev Bihlet.

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