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Unveiling a revolutionary leap for shipbuilding

The Lehigh research craft emerging from its hangar; click the photo for a YouTube video of its first test run.

Lehigh's high-speed watercraft is a sophisticated research instrument in disguise

On Thursday, November 11, President Alice Gast will formally unveil a 29-foot high-speed boat that represents a full decade of engineering research conducted in the Lehigh Composites Lab. Members of the campus and engineering community are invited to stop by to learn a bit more about the project and toast the new craft with a sip of non-alcoholic champagne.

What: Roll-out of Lehigh's High Speed Research Craft with naming by President Alice Gast

When: Thursday, November 11, 1:30-2:00pm

Where: University Center lawn


During the November 11 ceremony, President Gast will formally name and unveil the vessel, and Joachim Grenestedt of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics will describe the research and its potential impact in the development of advanced watercraft.

From concept to construction, the project has been carried out entirely at Lehigh, with input from undergraduate and graduate students and dedicated research staff along the way.

Funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, the goal of the project is to help design next-generation high-speed watercraft. While the vessel may appear to the untrained eye as a sleek speedboat, it is in actuality a "slamming load test facility" -- a research system that monitors the impact of waves and varying water pressures upon the innovative design of composite carbon-fiber panels and stainless steel framing that make up the craft's hull.

"The boat was designed to study slamming, the technical word for what amounts to a boat 'bellyflopping' as it travels through the water," says Grenestedt. "The most severe loads a boat or ship ever sees are due to slamming; it is a very complicated phenomenon, and currently its effect on the resilience of ships is not well understood." According to Grenestedt, the research vessel now contains more than 120 strain gauges measuring deformations in the ship's bottom. In the near future, some 100 pressure sensors, a wave altimeter, a inertial measurement unit, and other devices will be installed to create an integrated picture of the effect of slamming. Grenestedt hopes this work will one day influence shipbuilding design codes and lead to lighter, stronger watercraft, for both military and civil usage.

In a separate project late last year, Grenestedt built an enclosed streamlined motorcycle and set the U.S. land speed record for 125-cc engines, skimming across the Booneville Speedway at 133.165mph.

Story by Chris Larkin

Posted on Tuesday, November 09, 2010

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