A long life at sea is the goal. Braving salty wind and weather, resting but not rusting, and giving uninvited fouling no chance. In the Maritime Technologies department of Fraunhofer IFAM in Bremen, internationally recognized experts from a wide range of fields are conducting joint research to ensure good future prospects for offshore technology such as wind turbines.
Resistance is valuable
On and off Helgoland, Fraunhofer IFAM found ideal, because extreme, offshore conditions for investigating and testing entire systems. Whether aquadynamic, maritime materials research, underwater robotics or autonomous drones - the researchers devote themselves entirely to the requirements of the offshore industry in numerous projects. "We want to develop more resistant materials so that offshore wind turbines last at least 25 years and at the same time require as little maintenance as possible," says Dr Hanno Schnars, Head of the Maritime Technologies Business Unit.
Endurance test on the high seas
Since summer 2019, long-term test stands have been lined up on Helgoland to test, for example, the qualities of newly developed coatings under intense UV radiation, humidity and changing temperatures. In addition, a three-square-kilometre area 45 metres deep in the North Sea was marked out for surface and underwater research in April 2020. In the rough sea off Helgoland, materials and components now have to prove themselves in areas such as corrosion, fouling and icing protection. Fraunhofer IFAM has been researching an environmentally friendly, biocide-free anti-fouling system for years, which can now be tested under real conditions.
Learning maritime robots
According to the scientists' wishes, inspections, maintenance and repairs could soon be carried out offshore without human hands - especially in places where work that needs to be done is difficult for humans to access or even becomes dangerous. Autonomous underwater vehicles and flight systems are to use AI to detect damage and also repair it independently in the future. As one of the most important industries for renewable energies, the offshore industry is particularly close to the hearts of Dr Hanno Schnars and his colleagues: "We have the vision and the goal of making the future renewable. That is what drives us and moves us forward". So it remains exciting on the Energy Coast what other innovations Fraunhofer IFAM will present in the future.