UMaine de­but­ing ocean sim­u­la­tor to test sea-bound tech­nol­ogy

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

ORONO: Builders of ev­ery­thing from cruise ships and ports to oil rigs off­shore wind tur­bines are tasked with the same ques­tion - will their work will be strong enough to stand up to the sea? A minia­ture in­door ocean at the Univer­sity of Maine could make for a lot less guess­ing. The school’s Ad­vanced Struc­tures and Com­pos­ites Cen­ter is ready to un­veil a $13.8 mil­lion ex­pan­sion that di­rec­tor Habib Dagher said will sim­u­late a stormy ocean to help in­no­va­tors find out if their creations can with­stand the sea’s fury.

The in­door fa­cil­ity, six years in the making, will be able to sim­u­late waves over 100 feet tall and winds of more than 200 mph on scale mod­els to test prod­ucts, Dagher said. The univer­sity will un­veil the fa­cil­ity, the cen­ter­piece of which is a 100-foot pool that uses 32 fans and 16 pad­dles to gen­er­ate wind and waves, at a Mon­day cer­e­mony.

“It’s really ad­vanc­ing so­ci­ety by bet­ter un­der­stand­ing the ocean - the way things sur­vive in the ocean,” Dagher said. The W2 Ocean Engi­neer­ing Lab­o­ra­tory will test the strength and sea­wor­thi­ness of struc­tures such as boats; off­shore wind, tidal and wave en­ergy fa­cil­i­ties; aqua­cul­ture ven­tures; oil and gas equip­ment and crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture such as ports and bridges, Dagher said.

It will also be able to use mod­els of coastal cities - Dagher men­tions pos­si­bil­i­ties like Port­land, Maine, and New York City - to sim­u­late how they will be im­pacted by sea level rise, he said. That will help test po­ten­tial pro­tec­tive mea­sures for those cities, he said.

The fa­cil­ity is al­ready at­tract­ing in­ter­est from builders, as work­ers were test­ing a model of a fa­cil­ity that would har­ness en­ergy from waves. A half-dozen busi­nesses have lined up to use it over the next few weeks, Dagher said.

“We’re al­ready get­ting calls from a lot of wind en­ergy folks. There’s no fa­cil­ity that can do this right now,” said An­thony Viselli, the man­ager of the fa­cil­ity and project man­ager of its equip­ment’s con­struc­tion.

Dozens of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Maine in­dus­try plan to at­tend Mon­day’s un­veil­ing, in­clud­ing Peter Vigue, chair­man and CEO of Cian­bro Com­pa­nies, which over­saw the con­struc­tion of the build­ing. He said the fa­cil­ity is im­por­tant for lur­ing off­shore busi­ness to Maine. —AP

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