ENTRY NO. 10 SUBMISSION NOT ELIGIBLE The ultimate container ship An entry for the “Strength in glass” competition from John Towers, editor of Glass International magazine. Have you ever tried to sink a glass bottle? How easy is it to get that container, with its big hole at one end, to stay beneath the surface of the water? You have to be very determined to persuade water to enter the bottle and to keep entering it; to fill it; and to expel all the air within the bottle so that the bottle can sink. Not without reason did the concept of the message in a bottle become known, even in legend, as a traditional method of emergency communication by stranded mariners. Now imagine that the glass we use is 50 times stronger, and potentially a good deal lighter in weight, than that used in the glass bottle you use today to hold your beer, whisky or iced tea. Imagine that the hole is smaller than the hole at the top of the bottle. How easy would it be to sink this glass container? My proposal for the use of glass that is 50 times stronger than that used at present would be to build ships from it. A structure that is already difficult to sink, the glass container, surely has tremendous potential for adaptation into the ship- the ultimate container ship. Its inherent structure, added to by using 50 times stronger glass that is also much lighter than current glass, could make a stupendous foundation for a seagoing vessel. The main hull would be built not from sheets of glass, but would be produced as though it were a huge glass container using forming technology taken to enormous size and capability. Look at the shapes of glass bottles being produced today on automatic forming machines; the pointed bows and keel of a ship should be no problem for modern forming technology, let alone for future forming technology. Forming equipment could be re-used to produce several identical ships, and old ships could be just melted down and used as cullet to make new ones. An option would be to take today’s flat glass tempering and bending technology and to develop it to produce a ship’s hull structure, but I think the hollow glass vessel would be the best idea to take forward. The glass hull could be left transparent, or could be coated using modern environmentally-friendly materials. The forming process could also be used to make internal pipework, and other necessities. Superstructures would be constructed from flat glass. Flat glass that is resistant to hurricane-force winds, or to bomb blast or bullet ENTRY NO. 10 SUBMISSION NOT ELIGIBLE penetration, is already available. What could flat glass that is 50 times stronger than that currently available be able to withstand? Would a collision with an iceberg sink a ship like this, as it did the ill-fated Titanic? Internal walls could also be made from flat glass, tinted for privacy where needed. Interior decoration on passenger versions of these ships could use glass for staircases, corridor walls, and so on. For military applications, a coating has been patented available containing glass particles designed to help make combat aircraft invisible to conventional radar. This could be adapted for the ships, to make them very difficult to detect. Semi-submersible or fully submarine versions could give tourist rides to coral reefs, or be used to inspect undersea installations. With glass that is 50 times stronger than at present, and the inherent strength of a glass container design, vessels used to travel underwater could potentially withstand much greater pressure and so could sail much deeper than could conventionally built submarines and submersibles. The main problem would be in getting them to slip beneath the surface of the water; they might need an awful lot of water ballast to persuade them to dive. Internal partitions within the hull would be made from flat glass and could be supported by glass girders; the technology for these is already available and some are being used in the construction of architectural façades. The stronger glass would also be used to help power the ships; photovoltaic panels would enable sheets of glass to turn sunlight into electric power to provide propulsion for the ships to move silently and with no pollution. We could also use this stronger glass as material from which to make the propeller and propeller shaft, perhaps even the rudder, that we need to keep the ship moving in the right direction. A silent warship would be difficult to detect on sonar, so making a silent ship built from glass thereby rendering it very difficult to spot would make it even less detectable. Civilian ships could include tinting technology within the glass from which they were built that would make them very visible for emergency or publicity situations. Their glass could also tint automatically to keep out the sun, or to ensure internal darkness for times when passengers want to sleep- the technology is already there. These ships would be advantageous from the environmental point of view too. They would take no more energy in their creation than would conventional steel ships but would be largely recyclable as well as being environmentally-friendly because of their self-produced electrical propulsion system. For passenger use, even cabins deep in the hull could be naturally lit thanks to the ship’s glass construction thereby helping save energy usage. ENTRY NO. 10 SUBMISSION NOT ELIGIBLE The smoother surface of the glass, compared with the surface of the steel used to make traditional ships, would enable glass ships to move more easily through the water thereby again saving on energy usage. Any weight savings over steel would also translate into more efficient vessels, able to carry more payload further even on conventional fuel but capable of using very little fuel at all thanks to their photovoltaic on-board power generation. The photovoltaic technology would also be used to desalinate sea water, mainly for non-drinkable water but in emergencies able to be drunk. That again would help limit environmental effects. Passenger versions of these ships could also use photovoltaic energy to power air conditioning and heating and their superstructures could use low emissivity glass to help save energy used for these purposes. Glass decoration specialists and interior designers who specialise in glass usage could be creative beyond their wildest dreams in furnishing the interiors, and also exteriors, of passenger-carrying glass ships. Freight versions of the ships might use their photovoltaic energy supplies to refrigerate food cargo, or alternative to heat some cargoes, so again saving energy and pollution. They could be built as bulk vessels or to carry containers. Might we one day see governments troubled by threats of terrorism and smuggling start to insist that freight containers be made of glass? I would envisage these vessels being manufactured by consortia of shipbuilders, glass manufacturers, artists, technologists, engineers and visionaries in the sort of venture that could take glass into entirely new and exciting applications and markets as a material. From John Towers, editor, Glass International. Contact details; Work: Westgate House, 120-130 Station Road, Redhill RH1 1ET, United Kingdom; Tel +44 1737 855151. Fax +44 1737 855463. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Home: 20 Waddon Close, Croydon CR0 4JT, United Kingdom. Tel +44 208 686 0653. Email email@example.com.
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