The University of Newcastle, Australia

An Advanced Propulsion System for Submarines and Subsurface Weapon Platforms

Our project aims to verify the working principle of an advanced propulsion system that combines hydrodynamic cavitation and pyroelectric power generations into an integrated unit.

Generation and collapse of microbubbles through controlled cavitation provides the high frequency and localised temperature fluctuations needed to drive the pyroelectric generator.

Competitive advantage

  • Direct heat to electrical power generation without the need for mechanical devices such as turbines and expanders
  • Superior performance/efficiency over conventional pyroelectric generators and battery-powered systems as a result of the significantly high driving force (dT/dt)
  • provided by microbubbles collapsing over a short period (typically in the microsecond to millisecond range)
  • Compact and quiet (very low noise signature) due to the absence of moving parts, making it an ideal main propulsion unit for submarines, torpedoes and similar systems
  • No greenhouse gas emissions

Successful applications of research

  • Proof of concept through experimental and theoretical studies associated with this project
  • Development of a complete working prototype for field trials by the Australian Defence Force and its relevant branches

Partners

  • Defence Science and Technology's Maritime Division

Impact

  • Should this project be successful, it will provide Australian Defence Force submarines and other subsurface assets with a propulsion system that, unlike batteries, does not require a fuel supply and does not need to be charged by diesel power; therefore, there is no need to surface
  • Due to the lack of moving parts, the proposed propulsion system features a very small acoustic signature, which therefore improves the stealthy characteristics of the platform to which it is attached

Capabilities and facilities

  • Fluid mechanics/fluid dynamics laboratories for studies related to hydrodynamic cavitation and subsurface testing
  • Laser diagnostic facilities for flow visualisation and flow field measurements
  • Analytical instruments for measuring pyroelectric coefficient
  • Instrument for measuring the dielectric constant of materials
  • Analytical instruments such as X-ray powder diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscope (SEM), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) and mercury porosimetry for measuring morphological and structural properties of pyroelectric materials
  • Pyroelectric generators

Further reading on: Energy Generation and Storage