R&D at AEGIR-Marine: linking fundamental science with real-world situations
Established in 2015, AEGIR-Marine’s R&D department has been making consistent strides forward since then. The R&D team’s activities are firmly focused on improving existing products while also developing new ones. AEGIR-Marine’s in-house research aims to gain a better understanding of the behaviour of stern seal components in real-world situations. This involves studying the physical and chemical properties of product materials as well as looking at how they interact with different types of lubricant.
"THE WATER/OIL INTERFACE IS A POTENTIAL SOURCE OF POLLUTION"
This research yields two distinct areas of benefit. Firstly, product development and improvement is always advantageous to ship-owners looking for greater reliability and quality in their stern seal components. “After all, the stern seal prevents seawater entering the stern tube and further into the propulsion train,” says AEGIR’s research & development manager Dennis Nahuijsen.
Furthermore, improving the effectiveness of stern tube seals has undeniable environmental implications. “The water/oil interface is a potential source of pollution,” states Dennis.
More environmentally friendly solutions
One way to address such substantial levels of pollution has been for maritime statutory bodies to introduce more environmentally friendly lubrication solutions and legislation. This has produced European ‘ecolabels’ such as the German Blue Angel, the European Ecolabel, and the Nordic Swan, all of which are still non-compulsory options. And across the Atlantic, the American regulations centre around the mandatory Vessel General Permit (VGP) 2013, which describes various types of Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants (EALs).
Another way to reduce the amount of lubricant entering the marine environment is to improve the effectiveness of the stern seal itself. This is precisely the aim of AEGIR-Marine’s latest research project. “The overall objective of this research is to increase the performance of the stern tube seal, and most importantly, to improve its durability even further under conditions of EAL lubrication,” says Dennis. A crucial aspect of the research will focus on developing a better understanding of the underlying degradation mechanisms of the sealing material.
"EXISTING KNOWLEDGE ON SEAL DEGRADATION IS VERY LIMITED"
Moving from macro to micro
“Existing knowledge on seal degradation is very limited. There is currently no model that describes the relationship between the conditions, the aging dynamics and the functional performance of the seal material. If we understand the process of how a seal breaks, then we learn more about how to prevent this.”
While previous research has mainly focused on the macro-scale, AEGIR’s latest project will look closer: down to the micro-scale. “Degradation is driven by mechanical stimuli and chemical effects. Therefore, we will have a particular focus on the degradation of the seal material and how this is interlinked with micro-scale lubrication.”
The feedback loop between science and ship-owners
AEGIR-Marine’s R&D efforts involve not only its own laboratory and research facilities. The company often works in close cooperation with technical universities, commonly involving PhD student research. Started last year, this project is no different, involving two PhD students, one from the University of Twente in the Netherlands, and one from Imperial College London. “The two PhD students will be carrying out laboratory-based experiments at their universities. This will be in combination with our own in-house studies.”
Like many of AEGIR’s previous research projects, such a collaborative approach links fundamental science with real-life situations. “This feedback loop between science and the operational experience of our clients is so valuable in our product development.”
AEGIR-Marine’s stern seal degradation research project is going to continue over the next four years.