Saving lives by capturing waste heat

Students at Maine Maritime Academy have converted a 20-foot enclosed lifeboat into a test platform in order to see they can capture the energy and use it to power a hybrid test boat. The system they have developed can be transferred to a larger platform that could be used to increase the efficiency of the boat’s power plant.

The experiment is part of a research project at the college that began last year when students used a thermoelectric generator to convert the heat from the engine exhaust on the MMA research vessel Friendship to electricity to power a panel of lights on the boat. ‘ If it works on the lifeboat, it would show that the technology is sound and could be scaled up to be used on a full-size ship.’

There is a lot of waste energy at the exhaust end of an internal combustion engine and capturing and converting it to electricity would improve the efficiency of the existing engines, reducing the amount of fuel required to produce the same power output on a ship. Although the test this year will be done on a diesel-powered generator, the students have tested the system on a gas turbine as well. Unfortunately the students have not thought of a small steam turbine. It could be very efficient for a steam generator can capture more waste heat. It would be also more cost effiective.

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