Importance of Natural Resources

How Seawater Sabotages Ships: Crash Course Engineering #43


If you’ve ever bought a new phone, a t-shirt or,
well, basically anything, it’s probably come a long
way – maybe even from a different continent! That’s possible almost entirely because
of shipping – as in the kind with actual ships. Shipping is responsible for supporting
90% of global trade, from the latest toys to
life-saving medicine. As the world grows increasingly connected,
we’re all looking to send and receive more
stuff than ever before. The weight of all those seaborne products
has grown by more than a quarter just in
the last decade. Although you probably don’t give it much
thought, getting all those ships safely across
the ocean is a big challenge. Ships have to contend with waves, sea life,
corrosion, and more on their journey to deliver
what we want, where we need it. To design vessels capable of weathering everything
thrown their way, you’ll need marine engineering. [Theme Music] You might think that, after looking at nuclear
meltdowns, cheese catastrophes, and earthquakes, a
bit of water wouldn’t be the toughest thing to tackle. But the ocean isn’t just one big, wet blob. Below its depths lies a world of chemical,
biological, and physical complexity that throws
up all sorts of challenges. Which is why marine engineering has very different
considerations than the kind on land or in the air. Marine engineers work on pretty much anything
that will be spending time in water. Ships definitely fall in that category, but
so do structures like offshore oil rigs and
wind farms. For all of these things, marine engineers
need a broad knowledge of mechanical,
electrical and even civil engineering. They have to bring together fluid
mechanics, materials design, power generation,
and computer architecture to build things that are totally independent
from the resources available on land. Although there are some very different challenges
for traveling vessels and permanent installations, they share many of the same problems in coping
with the tough environment of the sea. For starters, as any seasoned sailor can tell
you, the surface of the ocean is rarely perfectly calm. You’re dealing with huge swathes of dense
liquid colliding with everything you design. A cubic meter of water weighs a metric ton,
which gives crashing waves a force comparable
to that of a moving car. Even when the swells are small, water can
easily creep into structures and start causing
problems. Which is why in marine engineering, your first
goal is often to make something that’s watertight. As well as being an obvious problem for ships,
water leakage can end up short circuiting an undersea
cable or the electronics in mining machinery. The deeper you go, the more water there is
pushing down from above, which means more
pressure. That makes the challenge of making submarines
mechanically intact and watertight even trickier. To test the capabilities of something like a submarine
hatch, engineers will subject it to trials such as spraying
it with a high pressure hose and checking for any leaks. You can even locate tiny leaks that the hose test can’t
pick up by placing an ultrasound emitter on one side of
the hatch and checking if it can be detected on the other. By tracing the source of the sound through the edge
of the hatch, you can find and fix any small gaps that
might allow water into the submarine or air out! Of course, ships don’t just sit in the water
– they need to move! Water is 800 times denser than air and while
a ship moves, it’s constantly pushing water
out of the way. Fortunately, propellers actually take advantage
of that density. As the propeller spins, the blades are angled
to take the water around them and push it out
behind the ship. The more mass the propeller throws out the
back, the more it pushes the ship forward. That’s just conservation of momentum in
action! To help with this, a propeller’s blades are shaped
such that water flows around and past them more
efficiently, like the wings of a plane. Unfortunately, ship propellers face some challenges
their airborne cousins don’t. When the blades revolve at high speeds, they
essentially boil parts of the surrounding water. And that’s not because the propeller heats the water
up, but because of the huge pressure difference on
either side of the rotating blades. That creates tiny bubbles of steam. And when those bubbles collapse, they
send out a shockwave that hits the propeller
in a process called cavitation. It might not seem like bubbles could cause much
damage, but cavitation can apply as much force as
whacking the blades with a hammer! Over time, this can cause a serious warp and
prevent them from working efficiently. Cavitation crops up when the blades need to
rotate quickly to generate a large propulsive force. You can slow them down to avoid cavitation,
but that lowers the thrust the propeller provides. Unless you’re willing to get creative. The US Navy’s Ohio-class submarines
replace the standard three-blade propeller
design with one containing seven. These propellers are shaped to generate more thrust
at low speeds, enabling them to provide enough force
to move the submarine with much less cavitation. The Navy considers this such a breakthrough
that the exact details of the design have
been classified for decades. The exact details of any propeller depend
on the mass of the ship and the speed at which
it needs to travel. Fluid mechanics and thermodynamics are key,
since water temperature and pressure will
affect performance. And it’s not just the propeller’s design
that matters, but what it’s made of. In fact, what the whole ship is made of. Since metals are relatively easy to shape
and can withstand large amounts of pressure
without deforming, they’re the go-to material for constructing
the hull of a ship. But over time, metals and water don’t get
along so well! Water contains a lot of oxygen, so submerging
a metal can lead to a chemical reaction called
oxidation. You’re probably familiar with at least iron
oxide, which is more commonly known as rust! Oxidation corrodes the hull, causing it to
lose material and become brittle. Corrosion is a serious problem for any metal
structure in long-term contact with water. The more they corrode, the weaker they become! The kind of chemical reaction that marine
engineers often worry about is galvanic corrosion. This happens when parts of an object are made
of different metals, such as having an aluminum
hull and a stainless steel propeller. Aluminum is chemically reactive, while steel
is relatively inert. And that difference is the heart of the problem. Saltwater is really good at conducting electrical
currents, which means it can carry a stream of
charged particles from the hull to the propeller! And as the current draws molecules of aluminum
away from the hull, it leaves a corroded surface behind. To prevent this, marine engineers often use sacrificial
anodes, which are basically just slabs of zinc. It’s called an anode because it acts like the anode in
a battery: it gives up charged particles that create a
current between itself and other metal parts of the ship. Because zinc is much more reactive than
aluminum, it releases molecules more easily
and undergoes corrosion first. That’s the “sacrifice” it makes to prevent
the structural hull from corroding instead. Another way to stop corrosion is to purposefully
put a weak current through the hull that cancels out
the one produced by the flowing saltwater. Now, so far, we’ve mostly been talking about
the problems that water causes. But the ocean is more than just water, it’s
an entire ecosystem. In practice, large animals like sharks and
whales aren’t what you need to be worried about. It’s the small things like algae, mussels,
and barnacles that cause real trouble. These forms of sea life physically attach
to the hulls of ships and build up over time,
normally while it’s docked or stationary. Over time, all that living matter creates bumps
on the hull’s surface that make it less aerodynamic,
an effect known as fouling. Fouling forces the propellers to work harder as the
ship travels, burning up to 30% more fuel to compensate
for the roughness of the hull slowing it down! The simplest way of dealing with this is to
just regularly clean the hull and remove anything
stuck to it. But in recent years, engineers have come up
with more sophisticated solutions to fouling, like special coatings that make the metal
too slippery for barnacles and mussels to attach. There are problems to think about above the
surface, too. Since ships are totally independent from the
infrastructure available on land, marine engineers
have to tackle everything themselves. That means knowing how to supply power,
maintain a comfortable temperature onboard,
and deal with waste storage. Big ships are like floating cities, so marine
engineers work on everything from fuel cells
to navigation systems! But even after you have a basic ship design,
knowing what your ship will need is a very different
thing from actually putting it together. Even without any cargo, container ships can
weigh thousands of tonnes! So you can’t usually build one on land,
pick it up, and put it into the water. When it comes to construction, marine engineers
have to get creative. You could build everything on a shipway, essentially
a big ramp that lets the ship just slide into the water. But in the case of a large ship, like an oil
tanker, a better option would be to use a
dry dock. Dry docks are basins near the sea that can
be sealed off and drained so that ships can
be built inside. There, they can be constructed, made watertight,
and tested rigorously without any interference
from seawater. Once engineers have made any final touches,
getting the ship into the water is as simple as
flooding the dry dock and re-opening the gates
into the sea, so it can be towed out. Similar ideas are also used to build permanent
structures like parts of offshore oil platforms, constructing each piece on a dry dock so they
can be carried out to sea and assembled. So as you can see, it’s no easy task putting
together ships and getting them into the ocean. But as more goods are moved around, the world
is going to need more ships. In this episode, we looked at marine engineering. We saw how ships are designed to handle aquatic
environments and challenges of engineering in the
ocean, like corrosion and marine life. We also looked at some solutions engineers
employ to overcome them. Finally, we saw one of the ways large maritime
structures can be built on land and eventually
transferred into water. Next time, we’ll look at how to take water
from the sea and turn it into something we can
drink, with the help of engineering design. Crash Course Engineering is produced in association
with PBS Digital Studios. Wanna keep exploring our world? Check out Eons, a series that journeys through
the history of life on Earth. Subscribe at the link in the description. Crash Course is a Complexly production and this
episode was filmed in the Doctor Cheryl C. Kinney
Studio with the help of these wonderful people. And our amazing graphics team is Thought Cafe.


Reader Comments

  1. If only I could get a Pulsed Arrested Spark Discharge testing apparatus to check for intermittent shorts & damaged insulation on the wiring I have to deal with. The acidic rain & road salt might not be as corrosive as seawater but you wouldn't know it looking at old truck chassis. Recently came across a corrosion inhibitor coating manufacturer which sells at 400 per gallon. They performed accelerated environmental testing with the salt fog test for over 2200 hours to simulate over 20 years. Basically it was a tacky coating which penetrated into the steel bonding with it then the paint could be applied on top. Paint has the problem of heat expansion & cracking & flaking off. Merchant Mariners often spend time dealing with this descaling & repainting the ships.

  2. Cargo ships produce more pollution than all the semi trucks and Diesel locomotives in the world combined. They burn fuel oil.

  3. And truth is they destroying the earth. No wonder it's crying out to the Lord. With blood. We are made up of earth. Well done girl ! You are very pretty BTW. 💙

  4. When I was younger, I used to think when my Mom ordered something it was sent in a rocket ship to outer space. Cause you know, Shipping, Space Ship? No, Just me?

  5. Nice video, but it would be easier to comprehend if there is more graphics and slower taking as there are alot of information

  6. Is there such a thing as under water drones? Unmanned or hobby class?

    I wonder if it would look like small subs?

    Hobby drones have 4 arms and look nothing like helicopters b/c there's no need for a person to sit in it and for added stability.

  7. Why oh why have a British English speaker saying "aluminum"? It's so clunky and weird. Why not have her put on a phony American accent, or hire a US citizen if you want them to speak in US English?

  8. Speak slower and don't just read the script blindly. English is not my native language so speaking like this will make it hard for me to understand. And thank you for this video 🙂

  9. Great video! It took men hundreds of years to develop and perfect this incredible technology. And now, a women can explain it to us in this marvelous presentation.

  10. I am not quite a marine engineer, but this seemed like a pretty good episode. This might've been a good opportunity to talk about fatigue and fracture, though.

  11. Lol……I like the way she glosses over talking about "bottom paints". I mean……it's almost as if there's something wrong with releasing tributyltin, and arsenic into the environment. :/

  12. At least they dont have to deal with German uboats anymore. Merchant Mariners in ww2 they had some tough seas.

  13. I think it's worth mentioning that when the Navy designed the new submarine propeller, it wasn't to prevent damage to the propeller, it was to make the submarines harder to detect underwater by preventing the noise of cavitation. Passive sonar is very important for submarines, and staying as quiet as possible to avoid detection is a great strategy.

  14. please do about…architecture discussions right after the whole engineering stuff. I would highly appreciate it and for the others to know more about architecture <3
    BTW my father dreamed to be a seaman though XD
    and I do know the word "shipping" but by other terms… is to SHIP people!! <3 <3 <3

  15. We need to use materials other than metal. How about learning from the car industry? Carbon fiber on plastic, along with coatings? What about having cheap/inexpensive drones that literally crawl along the hull of a ship like fish hanging onto a shark? On another note- What if you could break some of the waves before it actually hits the hull of the ship? At least as far as platforms go.

  16. Technically, A ship designer is called a Naval Architect, who is the person dealing with all the aspects you've covered in the video. The engineer who works onboard is called a Marine Engineer. Thanks for the well-made video.

  17. The most common way of building a large ship is to build it in units. Then assemble these units on a slipway. Building consumes a considerable amount of time; therefore, it's better not to occupy a dry dock for such time.

  18. The steam bubble formed form the low pressure areas of the spinning propeller and the subsequent collapse of those bubbles near the surface of the propeller is what causes damaging cavitation. A similar thing can happen in a centrifugal pump. When large pumps start to cavitate they sound like they are trying to pump rocks. Cavitation is a phenomenon in which rapid changes of pressure in a liquid lead to the formation of small vapor-filled cavities, in places where the pressure is relatively low. When subjected to higher pressure, these cavities, called "bubbles" or "voids", collapse and can generate an intense shock wave. Wikipedia

  19. "A cubic meter of water weighs a metric tonne" – Doing the conversions to American, it's a significant body of water – 264 gallons, weighs just over 1 non-metric ton as well. (2112 lbs)

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