The modern world is long past the days of depending on sails and wind power to drive ships from coast to coast — or at least it was, until the University of Tokyo developed a remarkable metal sail system.
Although hybrid freighters have been around for a while, and wind has been used as recently as 2008 to markedly reduce fuel costs (remember the MS Beluga Skysails?), the potential for the University of Tokyo’s ship to cut costs is even greater.
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Professor Uzawa Kiyoshi showed off a model of the UT Wind Challenger at the Sea Japan trade show in Tokyo last week, with particular attention drawn to the giant telescoping sails. When wind conditions are good, the giant sails would rise above the deck to take advantage of the winds, and then they would retract during inclement weather.
Each five-section sail, which Professor Uzawa compares to wings on a plane, would be 164 feet tall and 65 feet wide. The plans call for them to be made of a combination of aluminum and fiber-reinforced plastic. Each of the sails would also be individually controlled to catch the wind at the best possible angle (by motors, rather than miles and miles of rope).
According to Professor Uzawa, fuel costs could be reduced by as much as one third; assuming a conservative 25% fuel savings, the cost of each $2.5-million UT Wind Challenger sail would be recovered in 5-10 years — great in the long run. Professor Uzawa plans to build a half-size prototype ship and start practical sea trials within a few years.
Image: University of Toky