Micro electro-mechanical systems and laser engraving will have a major influence on future ship bridge design and operations
Nanotechnology is enabling new applications and operations in maritime, particularly in improving marine navigation systems, and developing autonomous vessels and underwater vehicles.
Taking this technology into engineering and application development phases will open new opportunities across the maritime sector, but especially on the bridge. Micro-electronic products could also be developed to improve ocean weather monitoring, to study biological and marine pollutants and to produce the next generation of processors and semiconductors with greater capacity.
Faster computer processing could be further localised inside devices for more rapid automatic analytics on the bridge, ship automation or in remote control centres and to further develop machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) with super-computer processing capabilities in smaller devices.
We will approach a turning point for micro electro-mechanical technology when these progressions generate advanced devices, opening new applications. Maritime industries must ensure they are ready for these potential advances.
Smaller and more intelligent electronic devices will be available for bridge navigation, either by one watchkeeper or remotely from shore and in ship automation.
Other applications will come from shipborne and shore-based AI and analytics, taking digitalisation to new levels for ship optimisation. Think of the possibilities of rapid data analytics on ships prior to data-rich transmissions to shore.
Internal electronics will advance quickly as nano electronics is incorporated in more intelligent electronic devices integrating data processing into sensors and leading to greater fusion between electronics and mechanics with new applications in maritime.
In marine environmental monitoring, it could incorporate laboratory analysis inside computer chips or even sensors. Perhaps for monitoring marine water and air environments for pollutants, or potential pathogenic agents and acidity/alkalinity.
Micro electro-mechanical systems could monitor chemistry of, and biology within fluids, seawater, fuels and lubricants, ballast water or waste from engine emissions abatement systems.
In marine science, sensors with built-in analytics could be used for seabed mapping or early detection of seismic events, or ocean-bottom geophysical studies in hydrocarbon exploration.
Incorporating nano technology and micro electro-mechanical systems in autonomous or semi-autonomous operations can further aid underwater prospecting and the discovery underwater resources.
Nano technology mixed with photonics technology could also generate new maritime applications. Ultra-fast printing has led to the possibility of lasers engraving metals or ceramic materials in electronics. This could be applied in electronics to increase the spread of ultrafast processing to improve the performance and reliability of sophisticated high-performance electronic components and applied to instrument clusters in ship automation as could micro-electronics.
Scientists in Europe are developing micro electro-mechanical systems as part of the €1M (US$1.07M) KETmaritime project. Seven partners across Europe will identify key enabling technologies to support the future needs and demands of the Atlantic maritime industry.
Their developments and findings must not be in vain. Maritime industries need to encompass nano and micro electro-mechanical technologies in new applications and devices to improve vessel operations, for marine monitoring, more shore support and remote applications for the future of shipping.
KETmaritime project is funded by the Interreg Atlantic Area Program, via the European Regional Development Fund. The consortium includes co-ordinator International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL), French multidisciplinary research laboratory CIMAP (CEA group) and Portuguese maritime economic cluster Fórum Oceano. Ireland’s national centre for marine and renewable energy MaREI is delivering further support, alongside Spanish non-profit research association AIMEN, Spanish industrial design centre IDONIAL and UK-based Marine South East.
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