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Reduction of frictional resistance by air bubble lubrication

E.J. Foeth (V), R. Eggers (V), I. van der Hout (V), F.H.H.A. Quadvlieg (M)
Maritime Research Institute of the Netherlands
info@marin.nl

ABSTRACT
The reduction of resistance and the increase of propulsive efficiency are major drivers for ship designers both for
economic reasons and increasingly for reducing the ship’s environmental footprint. Reducing the frictional
resistance by air injection below the ship in combination with special coatings is an active area of research;
anecdotally, performance gains are usually large. The paper gives an overview of some model scale and full scale
measurements results of ships with one type of air lubrication—air bubble lubrication—performed by MARIN. The
experiments were performed under the SMOOTH project. The first series of experiments focused on an inland
shipping vessel that was tested both on model scale and on full scale, with and without air lubrication. A second
series of tests consisted of maneuvering and seakeeping tests with a model painted with different coatings and with
and without air lubrication. No appreciable effects of air bubble lubrication were found during the resistance and
propulsion tests at either model or full scale and no significant effects of air bubble lubrication on maneuvering and
seakeeping model tests could be determined.

KEY WORDS
Model Tests, Powering, Seakeeping, Maneuvering, Air Lubrication
INTRODUCTION This paper focuses on air-bubble lubrication. If bubble
lubrication is effective, it requires only a small change to the
For a number of years, air lubrication has been under hull compared to an air-cavity ship and no detrimental effects
investigation as a means of reducing the frictional resistance of are to be expected when the pump system fails.
ships. Three general approaches are identified
Laboratory results of micro-bubble injection by Madavan et al.
Injection of air bubbles along the hull (1983) showed reductions of the frictional drag up to 80%,
Air films under the hull clearly a significant result. However, these micro-bubbles are
Air cavities in the bottom of the hull very difficult to create on a ship scale. As the bubble increases
in size, so does its tendency to deform in the shear and turbulent
Several projects were started up in the Netherlands in 1999. The fluctuations of the flow (typically when their Weber numbers
PELS project has studied the capabilities on theoretical and exceed unity) and it is no longer a spherical micro-bubble. For
numerical grounds and by extensive model tests (Thill et al., the bubble injection used on ships bubbles are on a millimeter
2005). The positive conclusion spurred two follow-up projects: scale; the term micro-bubble is no longer applicable. As the
PELS 2 focuses on air cavity ships and the EU-funded term micro-bubble is used ambiguously, a distinction between
SMOOTH project focuses on air bubbles and air films. Both (mini)-bubble drag reduction and micro-bubble drag reduction is
projects are focused on inland ships and coastal ships and both required.
projects include a full-scale test with a demonstrator ship. This
paper presents the results of model scale and full scale tests At very low speeds, around 1 m/s, bubbles with a diameter of
within the SMOOTH project. The effect of air lubrication by only a few Kolmogorov length scales of the flow can generate a
bubble injection on resistance and propulsion, seakeeping and 10% decrease in resistance at only 1 volume percent of air in the
maneuverability using both model scale and full scale boundary layer (Park & Sung, 2005). At more realistic flow
experiments is discussed. speeds of 5 to 15 m/s, this viscous length scale drops rapidly,
enforcing a small bubble that is difficult to produce in large
quantities. Moriguchi & Kato (2002) used bubbles between 0.5
BACKGROUND and 2.5 mm and reported up to a 40% decrease in resistance for
air contents over 10%. Shen et al. (2005), using smaller bubbles
The frictional resistance is the dominant resistance component between 0.03 and 0.5 mm, found a 20% drag reduction at an air
for low-Froude-number ships. Pressure drag (i.e., form content of 20%. No appreciable influence of bubble size was
resistance) and wave resistance are frequently optimized using found here, but Kawamura (2004), using bubbles from 0.3 to
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) but usually the total 1.3 mm scale, found that larger bubbles persisted downstream
wetted surface remains a set parameter. The downside of air longer and were more effective at reducing the resistance. As
lubrication is that it is surprisingly easy to increase the larger bubbles showed less dispersion this may have been an
resistance of a ship and that many aspects of the behavior of air effect of concentration only (Harleman et al., 2009).
in water are poorly understood, let alone controlled. The power
needed to compress air and inject it under the vessel should be The mechanisms by which mini-bubbles reduce friction are as
less than the alleged power reduction due to the air lubrication. yet unclear. Mini-bubbles affect the density and viscosity of the
flow; viscosity actually increases for small amounts of air, but at
The reduction of the local skin friction leads to significant high Reynolds number the turbulent stress is more important
decreases of the resistance and thus fuel savings. As the Froude than viscous stress. A decrease of the density outside the viscous
number Fn increases and the wave resistance becomes sublayer may be more important. Kitagawa et al. (2005) found
progressively larger, the effect of air lubrication on the total that bubbles deformed with a favorable orientation with respect
resistance naturally decreases. The injection of air requires to the flow, reducing turbulent stress as the flow field around the
constant pumping power and if the ship sails too slowly it bubble is more isotropic, although other mechanisms have been
represents a significant part of the propulsive power. Therefore proposed, such as compression (Lo et al., 2006) or bubble
air injection is expected to be suited for moderately fast ships splitting (Meng & Uhlman, 1998).
with a target speed range of Froude numbers between
Fn 0.05 and Fn 0.15 . Watanabe & Shirose (1998) tested a 40 m plate at 7 m/s to test
the persistence of air lubrication. Skin friction sensors indicated
All these aspects together imply that the most suitable hull form that the skin friction reduction diminished from the injection
for air lubrication is point onward. After 20 m, the effect of lubrication was nearly
A target speed range of Froude numbers between gone. Sanders et al. (2006) performed experiments with a very
Fn 0.05 and Fn 0.15 large flat plate of 13 m length for speeds of up to 18 m/s. This
A flat-bottomed hull experiment allowed for tests with bubbles ranging from 0.1 to
A moderate or large metacentric height to avoid air 1.0 mm at Reynolds numbers that were previously not
rolling up obtainable at model scale. The experiments showed that the
A shallow draught for a low pressure difference, hence bubbles were pushed out of the boundary layer a few meters
a smaller pump behind the air injectors, even against the direction of buoyancy.
An almost bubble-free liquid layer was formed near the wall and with a small protruding wing over the slot inducing a natural
the effect of air lubrication almost vanished. It is hypothesized low-pressure region. Tests with the Filia Ariea fitted with these
that the lift force experienced by a bubble in the boundary layer air injection devices did not show any change in shaft power
is more than sufficient to overcome the buoyancy of the bubble. after the air supply was switched on (Belkoned, 2008).
The experiments by Watanabe and Sanders indicate that air
lubrication will not persist over long length/time scales. This So, although air lubrication by mini-bubbles can show a
indicates that for model testing with bubble injection a strong decrease of frictional resistance for ships, the results are not
Reynolds-scale effect is present and that tests using full-scale always convincing. In order to gain more experience with air
ships will not yield the expected resistance reductions. lubrication, a consortium of industrial companies and research
institutes initiated the EU-funded project SMOOTH. The project
For example, notwithstanding resistance decreases measured at focuses on air lubrication and its effects on resistance,
model scale (reported in Kodama et al. 2002), the full-scale propulsion, maneuvering, and sea keeping of ships. This paper
demonstrator vessel Seiun Maru showed a 2% decrease at only a presents the results of the resistance and propulsion tests on
limited speed range with an increase in required power over model scale and full scale, and the results of maneuvering and
most of its speed range. The Filia Ariea has been fitted with so- seakeeping at model scale.
called Wing-Air Induction Devices, i.e. a slot in the hull fitted

A B

Figure 1 Top and side view of the Till Deymann. The accented areas are the location for air injection, consisting of one array of strips in
the bottom plating (A) and one area at the downstream end of the forward tunnel thruster opening in the bow (B). The bottom right
photograph shows this area prior to fitting the porous medium. The locations of the forward and aft azimuthing thrusters are indicated.
RESISTANCE AND PROPULSION OF THE predicted, in contrast to the bare-hull resistance increase. It is
TILL DEYMANN hypothesized that the wake of the forward thrusters―at an
outboard angle but still partially directed toward the rear wall of
The test vessel is the 109.8 m inland-shipping vessel Till the hull openings as visible in Figure 1―leads to high frictional
Deymann see Figure 1. The vessel has a semi twin-hull bow resistance on that rear tunnel wall and air lubrication can locally
with two openings in the sides fitted with two 1050 mm have a positive effect.
azimuthing thrusters rotated 15 degrees outboard;. Two nozzled
azimuthing 1300 mm thrusters are fitted aft. The air is injected Further tests are planned with increased volume rates and a
at the far wall of the recesses in the bow and a strip in the different foul-release coating from International Paint, Intersleek
900.
bottom through a porous medium with a 20 m pore size.

The four thrusters were all powered during the tests. The aft
thrusters were fitted on a 6-DOF measurement frame with both 180
propeller thrust and torque measured at the propeller hub, while 170
the forward thrusters were rigidly mounted and only propeller 160
torque at the hub was measured.
150
From full-scale trials was known that each thruster received 140
equal power, but the forward thrusters could not deliver that 130

MODEL RESISTANCE [N]


power over the entire speed range without overloading. The
120
forward thrusters were set to 60% of the power of the aft
thrusters during all tests. 110
100
MODEL SCALE RESULTS 90
80
An 11.8 m model of the Till Deymann at a scale ratio of 1:9.286
70
has been constructed. Note that even for such a large model, the
propeller diameters were small, making the test less suitable for 60
extrapolation to full scale. The model was well suited for 50
comparative tests between fully-wetted and air-lubricated
40
conditions.
30
Reference
The porous medium is not scaled and has a 20 m pore size as 20
3.0 L/min
on the real ship. In order to properly scale the effect of the 10
atmospheric pressure, the model was tested in the MARIN 6.0 L/min
0
depressurized towing tank. Nitrogen instead of air was injected
from a pressurized gas canister where the nitrogen was allowed 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
SHIP SPEED [kts]
to expand and was subsequently heated before being injected.
The gas-volume flow was measured and controlled by Figure 2 Measured resistance of the model. A 1% increase is
Bronkhorst EL_FLOW mass-flow controllers calibrated for measured except for one outlier.
nitrogen gas. The model was set at the correct draught and trim
with chambers filled with nitrogen gas.

The model was tested at a ship speed range from 5 to 10 kts


with the air-volume flow rate set at 0 (reference), 3, and 6
L/min. Figure 2 shows the results of the bare-hull resistance test.
A 1% increase of the resistance was measured (although this
falls well within the measurement accuracy) while most model
tests show decreases. The amount of air may have been
insufficient to have any effect while the air injection may
disturb the boundary layer too much. It was observed that the air
from the openings for the forward thrusters immediately rose to
the surface. The exact cause of the resistance increase is unclear
and further tests are planned with an increase in the air volume
flow rate.

Figure 3 shows the extrapolated results of the self-propulsion


model tests. A 1 to 2 % decrease in propulsion power was
can be concluded that for the current setup the power required
for air injection exceeds the power reduction by air lubrication.
1900
1800
From the model tests it was hypothesized that the wake of the
forward thrusters aimed partially at the rear wall of the hull
1700
openings may benefit―locally―from air lubrication. The full
1600 scale trials did not show any effect when the air lubrication at
1500 that location was activated.
1400
DELIVERED POWER [kW]

1300
1200 1400
1100
1000 1300
900
800 1200

700
1100
600
500 1000
400
300 900
Reference
200

Shaft power Ps [kW]


3.0 L/min 800
100
0 6.0 L/min
700
4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

SHIP SPEED [kts] 600

Figure 3 Predicted (total) shaft power requirements from the 500


self-propulsion tests, not corrected for power required for air
injection.
400
FULL SCALE RESULTS
300
The full-scale trials with the Till Deyman were performed with
the same draught as for the model tests. These tests were 200
performed in the Netherlands, and in both fresh and salt water as
Fully wetted, salt water
the coalescent behavior of bubbles is known to depend on 100 Air lubricated, salt water
salinity. The ship was fitted with an anemometer (horizontal Fully wetted, fresh water
Air lubricated, fresh water
plane), a six-DOF accelerometer, shaft torque and rpm sensors 0
(strain gauge and optical sensor respectively), a boroscope 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0 8.0 9.0 10.0
placed aft of the air injection array and fitted with an image Ship Speed Vs [knots]
intensifier capable of a frame rate of 200 Hz, and two GPS
antennae to determine the course with 0.5º accuracy. Figure 4 Measured shaft power onboard the Till Deyman with
and without air lubrication both for salt water and fresh water
The tests consisted of sailing in 10-minute intervals in each conditions.
direction (track length permitting) and taking the average of six
of these runs per measured point. Several 11 kW compressors
were used for air injection. The weather conditions were very
good with wind condition mostly at Bft 1 and occasionally up to
Bft 3.

The repeatability of the tests, within 2%, is considered to be


high. Although the measured trend is constant and consistent,
the effect of air lubrication is not statistically significant. The
power required for air injection was measured, but the volume
flow rate of the air was not. Even so, while the absence of the
volume rate measurement is a shortcoming in the experiments, it
SEAKEEPING AND MANEUVERING AT
MODEL SCALE
The influence of air lubrication and coating type on seakeeping
and maneuvering characteristics was investigated using two
models of a different tanker. These 6-m models were built from
wood. Different coatings were applied to the bottom of the
model by means of interchangeable pre-coated plates. The first
model was previously segmented and had the plates bolted to
the model, hence the later need for a second model where the
plates were mounted flush with the bottom using recesses. The
models were instrumented with electrical drives, thrusters, and
an air supply system. Three types of plates were used: uncoated,
coated with Intersleek 900 and coated with an experimental
highly-hydrophobic coating designed by AkzoNobel.

During the test the model sailed independently and was tracked
by the carriage of MARIN’s Seakeeping and Maneuvering
Basin. The following model data were collected:

1. Positions and rotations


2. Accelerations
3. Actual mass flow in air supply system
4. Rotation rate, torque and thrust of propellers
5. Steering angle of thrusters
6. Undisturbed wave height (clear of the model)

Video recordings above water were made of all tests and


underwater for some tests. The purpose of the underwater video
observations was to verify whether the air bubbles would stay
under the bottom of the vessel during the dynamic maneuvers.

Air supply system


As with the resistance and propulsion tests, nitrogen gas was
used to produce the bubbles. Mass flow controllers were used to
measure and control the mass flow rate. Each set of outlet
openings on one frame had its own Bronkhorst EL_FLOW flow
controller, consisting of a flow measurement and a controller.
The nitrogen was pumped through various tubes protruding
through the bottom of the model. The location and number of air
injection points varied over the bottom of the ship. Air injection
points were situated at the port side, center line, and starboard
side, except at the bow, which had an injection point at the
center line only. Figure 5 illustrates the location of the air
injection points.

The following test program was performed:

1. Powering runs to determine propeller rate versus speed


2. Zig-zag tests
3. Combined Turning-Circle/Pull-Out
4. Roll-decay tests
5. Seakeeping runs in irregular bow-quartering and stern-
quartering seas

Figure 5: Location of air injection points and plates


Tested configurations
The tested configurations and associated names are indicated in
Table 1 and Table 2 below:

Table 1: Tested air configurations


FLOW FROM EACH OUTLET NO.
CONFIG.
[L/MIN] (MODEL SCALE)
NUMBER
1 2 3 4 5
1 0 0 0 0 0

Model 1
2 1 3 3 3 3
3 0 0 0 0 0
4 1 3 3 3 3
1 0 0 0 0 0 Figure 6: Air bubbles under ship model
3 0 0 0 0 0
5 3 3 3 3 3

Model 2
6 0 0 0 0 0
Maneuvering Behavior
7 3 3 3 3 3
Zig-zag tests and combined turning circle/pull-out tests showed
8 3 6 15 15 15
small differences in the results. Most of these differences were
9 0 0 0 15 15 erratic and fall within the confidence interval of maneuvering
tests. All observed differences have little or no influence on ship
Table 2: Configuration names operation. The difference between coatings was observed to be
larger than the difference between fully-wetted and air
CONFIGURATION CONFIGURATION lubrication conditions.
NUMBER NAME
1 Uncoated No Air Influence of air configuration
2 Uncoated Full Air A
3 Intersleek 900 No Air The influence of air lubrication was limited to the following
4 Intersleek 900 Full Air A aspects:
5 Intersleek 900 Full Air B
6 Hydrophobic No Air
7 Hydrophobic Full Air B
1. In the 20°/20° zig-zag test, the maximum drift angle
8 Hydrophobic Max Air
9 Hydrophobic Stern Max Air
increased by as much as 5% with an increasing air flow
rate (Figure 8).
2. In the turning circle test, the stable turning diameter
Underwater video observation was used to verify the
increased by approximately 5% with an increasing air
performance of the air layer. Experimentation with the volume
flow rate (Figure 9, top).
flow rate of nitrogen was performed and the proper flow amount
3. In the turning circle test, the pivot point moved 5%
was determined based on the general appearance of the bubbles.
forward from midships with an increasing air flow rate
The performance was highly sensitive to the exact fitting of the
(Figure 9, center).
plates; even minor alignment problems of the plates caused
4. In the turning circle test, the maintained speed
nitrogen not distribute evenly and to collect in certain locations.
increased by about 5% with an increasing air flow rate
The nitrogen was injected through small-pore sintered steel
(Figure 9, bottom).
inserts and then through 1 mm holes in the steel plate, resulting
in large bubbles (0.5–2 mm). A constant flow of bubbles along
Influence of coating type
the bottom of the plates was observed. A representative view is
given in Figure 6.
As the different coatings were applied to interchangeable plates,
the measured changes were influenced by small geometric
differences between the plates (size, paint thickness, accuracy of
fitting them to the model, etc.). Only minor differences between
plates were measured and as a difference of a few percent can be
expected from one set of plates to the next, no significant
influence on the maneuvering performance could be attributed
to the coating type itself. Additionally, no consistent trends
could be observed.
Turning Diameter
(2nd model; relative to UNCOATED NO AIR)

HYDROPHOBIC

INTERSLEEK 900

UNCOATED

90% 92% 94% 96% 98% 100% 102% 104%

DSTC [-]
Figure 7: Free running zig-zag test.
STERN MAX AIR MAX AIR FULL AIR B NO AIR

Maximum drift angle after first execute Non-dimensional pivot point


(1st model; relative to UNCOATED NO AIR) (2nd model; relative to UNCOATED NO AIR)

HYDROPHOBIC
INTERSLEEK 900

INTERSLEEK 900

UNCOATED
UNCOATED

95% 96% 97% 98% 99% 100% 101% 102% 103% 104%
80% 85% 90% 95% 100% 105%
1 [deg]
Non-dim pivot point [-]
FULL AIR A NO AIR
STERN MAX AIR MAX AIR FULL AIR B NO AIR
Maximum drift angle after first execute Maintained speed fraction
(2nd model; relative to UNCOATED NO AIR) (2nd model; relative to UNCOATED NO AIR)

HYDROPHOBIC
HYDROPHOBIC

INTERSLEEK 900

UNCOATED
UNCOATED

97% 98% 99% 100% 101% 102% 103% 104% 105% 106% 107%
75% 80% 85% 90% 95% 100% 105%
1 [deg]
Vstc/V0 [-]
STERN MAX AIR MAX AIR FULL AIR B NO AIR
STERN MAX AIR MAX AIR FULL AIR B NO AIR

Figure 8: Maximum drift angle after first execute in zig-zag Figure 9: Turning diameter, Pivot point , and Maintained speed
20°/20° tests for first (top) and second model (bottom) fraction in a turning circle test
Roll; bow quartering seas

HYDROPHOBIC (2nd model)

Seakeeping Behavior
UNCOATED (2nd model)

The model was tested in the irregular wave conditions listed in


INTERSLEEK 900 (1st model)
Table 3 for all configurations as presented in Table 1 and Table
2.
UNCOATED (1st model)

These conditions have already been used in the PELS project 0.00 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 1.60
and are considered representative for what an inland ship can
φrms/ζrms [deg/m]
encounter. It should be noted that these conditions do not excite
the ship in its natural frequencies of motion and therefore the STERN MAX AIR Pitch;
MAXbow
AIR quartering
FULL AIR B seas
FULL AIR A NO AIR
measured motions are small. Measurements with a small
magnitude are more susceptible to disturbances and therefore HYDROPHOBIC (2nd model)
reduce the accuracy of these results. The results show the root
mean square (RMS) of the motion divided by the RMS of the UNCOATED (2nd model)
undisturbed wave height. Roll and pitch are considered to be the
most relevant ship motions. INTERSLEEK 900 (1st model)

Table 3: Irregular wave conditions UNCOATED (1st model)

Heading Hs Tp
0.00 0.20 0.40 0.60 0.80 1.00 1.20 1.40 1.60
[deg] [m] [s]
θrms/ζrms [deg/m]
Bow quartering 315 1.5 9.0
Stern quartering 135 1.5 9.0 STERN MAX AIR Roll;
MAX stern
AIR quartering
FULL AIR B seas
FULL AIR A NO AIR

HYDROPHOBIC (2nd model)


Influence of air configuration and coating type
UNCOATED (2nd model)
Figure 10 shows the obtained results for roll and pitch in bow-
and stern quartering seas. Note that―except for the extra large INTERSLEEK 900 (1st model)
roll in bow-quartering waves for “UNCOATED FULL AIR A”,
following from a single measurement―all the measurements UNCOATED (1st model)
show little variation between fully-wetted and air-lubricated
conditions. 0.00 0.50 1.00 1.50 2.00 2.50 3.00 3.50 4.00

φrms/ζrms [deg/m]
When considering the accuracy level in the tests one must Pitch;
STERN MAX AIR stern
FULLquartering
AIR B FULLseas
AIR A NO AIR
conclude that the differences between these results of each air
configuration fall within the confidence interval of these tests HYDROPHOBIC (2nd model)
for all coating types. Also, no consistent trends can be seen.
Therefore, it is concluded that no influence of air lubrication and UNCOATED (2nd model)
coating type on seakeeping performance could be found.
INTERSLEEK 900 (1st model)

UNCOATED (1st model)

0.00 0.10 0.20 0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 0.70 0.80 0.90

θrms/ζrms [deg/m]

STERN MAX AIR FULL AIR B FULL AIR A NO AIR

Figure 10: Roll and pitch in both bow quartering and stern
quartering seas.
CONCLUSIONS characteristics of a ship. Barring unforeseen effects of special
coatings and other surface treatments, an ad hoc application of
Experiments have been performed with ships with and without bubble injection for ship hulls is not expected to yield any
air-bubble injection at model scale and full scale. The results of significant results. The future of drag reduction by air bubble
model scale experiments showed a small increase in resistance injection will be followed with apprehension.
and a small increase in propulsion efficiency, both around 1-2%.
A trial with the ship with air lubrication at full scale showed―at It should be noted that this conclusion does not apply to air
best―a 2% reduction in required propulsive power with air lubrication by either air films or air-cavity ships.
lubrication (roughly 2.6%). This result does not take the
required power for the air injection into account. The net power ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
reduction was consistently measured at –0.6%, i.e., an increase,
for both fresh water and salt water conditions. The behavior of SMOOTH (Sustainable Methods for Optimal Design and
the bubbles in the boundary layer of the full-scale ship (insofar Operation of Ships with Air LubricaTed Hulls) is supported
they could be seen) showed that bubbles did not attach to the with funding from the European Commission's Sixth
hull, similar to the experiments of Sanders et al. (2006). Framework Programme with participation of MARIN,
AkzoNobel, Bureau Veritas, Damen Shipyards, Istanbul
Model tests have been carried out to study the effect of air Technical University, Atlas Copco Ketting Marine Centre, New
lubrication on maneuvering and seakeeping. These tests showed Logistics, SSPA, DST, Thyssen Krupp Veerhaven, & Imtech.
very small differences between air-lubricated and fully-wetted
hulls for maneuvering and no differences for seakeeping.
Therefore, any vessel with air bubble lubrication does not need a
specially-trained crew to handle the ship.

In conclusion, no appreciable effect was found of the injection


of air bubbles on resistance, propulsion, and maneuvering
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