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Roman maritime insulation practices and ‘sweaty’ ships

Industry expert explains ancient paradox of solar load

| | Jul 19, 2017 | 12:28 pm
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Harley O’Neill

Ancient shipbuilders did not have access to the sophisticated technologies readily available to us today, yet they apparently managed to design efficient ships that crossed continents, leading to the discovery of new worlds. For centuries, these shipbuilders’ understanding of insulation was confined to tar mixed with cork. Harley O’Neill, Owner and Director of SuperyachtME, noted that cork served as the first form of insulation and also provided sound insulation, because it had a damping effect.

 O’Neill provided an ancient background of seafarers, as he segued into a comprehensive discussion on the paradox of solar load within the maritime industry, highlighting key points that require greater awareness from the sector. “The industry needs a better understanding of what a ship goes through over time,” he said. It also needs to have a better grasp of how existing insulation products, mass conventional materials, go through a reduction in their ability to provide a predictable insulation value, he added. 

O’Neill elaborated on what he considers an ‘age old problem’. He said that as the sun continues in its rotation, it impacts the ship. As the external hull side of the vessel, which was cooled throughout the night, is exposed to the rising sun, it heats up. As the hull hits saturation temperatures, the points of which vary depending on the material, it then radiates into the insulation, which was cooled all night long. “It starts latent and turns into heat flux,” he said.

This produces two different temperatures, he said, and leads to condensation in between the hull and conventional materials. “It heats up the insulation material all day long,” he added, “and throughout the day your ship combats temperatures that shouldn’t be there. People say ships don’t sweat, but every ship sweats.”

O’Neill explained that as the hull pushes and contracts it crushes the internal, flexing the weight of that conventional material. If that moisture is absorbed in that rock wool, he said, it moves. As it moves, it begins to bounce, and as it bounces it crushes the material. He emphasised that the ultimate ‘doom for the ship’ is that as the gapping opens up, the condensation turns to “excess weight, bacteria, electrolysis – all that excessiveness shouldn’t happen”.


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One comment on “Roman maritime insulation practices and ‘sweaty’ ships”

  1. When looking at properly insulating the future ship, it will become ever more essential for our next generation of designers to envision new products without mass conventional materials in mind. While it is important to learn from our history, we must still move forward in our innovations to interactive and multi diverse solutions. As an example, new designers will soon be tasked with mixing together both Free Layer and Constraint Layer Insulation in such of a creative way that air-gap methods will propagate not just energy saving factors but also forever deem the ships overall manner for which it moves through air and water.

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