Boiling the surrounding sea could make big ships more efficient

Shippers are always looking for more efficient ways to move their cargo , so new research into a centuries old scientific effect could change the way big ships move.

The Leidenfrost effect is what you see when you sprinkle water in a boiling hot frying pan. The droplets instantly scatter and run to the lowest part of the pan, because a thin vapor layer between the droplet and the hot pan reduces friction to almost nothing.

Now scientists from the University of Melbourne in Australia and the King Abdulla University in Saudi Arabia believe the effect can be used to make ships glide effortlessly through the ocean. By heating the hull to over 212 degrees F, the water next to the hull will boil with the Leidenfrost effect reducing friction to near zero.

The scientists dropped superheated polished metal balls into a liquid, and found they dropped much more quickly than similar balls which weren't heated.

Of course heating the hull of a huge ship to the boiling point of water takes a lot of energy by itself, so it will be interesting to see if the net effect saves energy. Another potential problem is that steel rusts much more easily when it's hot. Still, it's clearly worthy of further investigation.

EurekAlert, via PopSci

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