back to the future: sailing ships

Innovation can mean looking backward. Here Rolls Royce in 19th century substance and mid-20th-century engineering style, is collaborating with an Irish logistics firm to develop a hybrid sailing ship. Initial high capital costs are recouped early in a 3-decade sailing life in saved fuel expense.

Last year University of Tokyo researchers, aimed to reduce fuel consumption for large merchant vessels, simulated a cargo hybrid sailing ship with retractable 5-part telescoping sails made of aluminum and plastic. The Japanese hybrid sails recoup their cost over a 5-10 year period via an average 30% reduction in fuel consumption. Researchers described the automatic rigid sails as similar to airplane wings. Optimum sailing routes may be physically longer but temporally shorter, safer and less energetic to traverse as functions of wind strength and direction, and weather.

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