US Navy awards $10 million for electric ship research

The University of Texas at Austin has recently been awarded a $10 million grant to help develop the world’s most capable electric ship.

The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded a $10 million grant by the US Navy as one of the major researchers in a $52 million, five-year program to develop the science and technology toward design of the world’s most capable electric ship.

The funding is provided by the US Office of Naval Research and involves a consortium of other research institutions, including Florida State University, Mississippi State University and the University of South Carolina.

Research by the University of Texas at Austin will focus on power systems for the ships, including the generation, conversion, storage, control and distribution of electricity, said Dr. Robert Hebner, the university’s technical co-ordinator for the program.

He said a particular emphasis of the university’s work will be how to design power systems expected to dynamically reconfigure themselves to compensate for unexpected damage. This is said to be a critical issue for a ship that might suffer battle damage. The work also is expected to influence the design of power systems that must keep power flowing to critical loads in civilian applications, he said.

Hebner said that while the focus is on power systems, much of the system performance will result from the introduction of emerging electromechanical technology.

Anticipated payoffs include an enhanced ability to conduct simulation-based acquisition for naval power systems and a definition of the engineering science of reconfigurable power systems. Finally, the program also will educate engineers to develop shipboard power systems within the United States.

Modern electric ships are expected to be more versatile at war and less costly during peace than conventional ships. So, they are expected to become a larger part of the fleet if appropriate technological advances can be made, Hebner said.