Submarine made of basalt plastics wins in the International Submarine Race

basalt plastics in yacht building
Credit: internationalsubmarineraces.org

Omer 11 whose hull is made of basalt fiber reinforced plastic laminates got the main awards in the 15th International Submarine Race.

And this is not the first victory of Montreal Higher Technological School (École de Technologie Supérieure) or ÉTS that designs human-powered submarines.

Yes, these submarines are powered by one or two team members – depending on the design category. But it is not just an entertainment for students – the list of organizers, curators and sponsors worth a look.

The International human-powered submarine races take turns in Europe and the USA. However, they are completely independent and not connected in any way.

Nevertheless, their goals are the same – to allow young promising designers, engineers, mathematicians and technologists to show their talents. Such kind of competition is a place to find young talented people and develop technologies. And, of course, to test new materials and solutions.

The International Submarine Race (ISR) is hosted by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, part of the Naval Sea Systems Command operated by the United States Navy. It is sponsored by the Foundation for Underwater Research & Education (FURE).

The 15th ISR was held this year. The students from Montreal L’Ecole de Technologie Superieure that is part of the University of Quebec have been taking part in this race since 1992.

With each subsequent model, designers (they are also pilots) keep improving hydrodynamic parameters, propulsion systems and, of course, the materials used to make submarine hull.

Whereas the first models incorporated fiberglass and balsa, starting with Omer 9 the team have been using carbon fiber for the outer layer and basalt plastics for the primary layers. They made it clear why basalt fabric is the material of choice in the following lines:

The choice of the fiber to be used was one of the first steps in designing the hull. In fact, the fiber properties have greatly influenced it. Several options were considered, such as carbon fiber, fiber glass, INEGRA (polyester carbon) and the basalt fiber. Each type of fiber has its advantage and disadvantage. Carbon has the advantage of being extremely durable while being relatively light, but at a high price. Fiberglass is weaker, but much cheaper. INEGRA for its part has a good impact resistance while having some of the properties of the carbon fiber. Finally, basalt has a strength between glass and carbon fiber, for a near fiber glass price. However, the availability of this fiber is rare and the weaving choice is more limited. For economic reasons, the basalt fiber was the chosen solution. Actually, it has a good ratio price/strength.

Human powered submarine Omer 11 fabrication:

At the 4th European International Submarine Race (eISR), that was held in the UK, 2018, Omer 11 also took the winning trophy, combining excellence in engineering design, manufacture, performance, reliability and breaking the world speed record.

The European International Submarine Race is hosted by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) and is sponsored by companies working mainly in research and defence industries.

When the students came to the decision to replace fiberglass with basalt fiber in their submarine design a few years ago, the leading yacht builders are considering this material now. Amer Yachts has entered into a cooperation agreement with GS4C to switch to basalt fiber.

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