A “Look Under the Hood”

By Max Piff

Students glimpse the U.S. Navy’s Newest, Hottest Engines


On April 25 2013, my family and I went to the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division (NSWCCD), Ship Systems Engineering Station (SSES), for national “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.” Most of the people who work there are engineers. Personnel at SSES design and create extremely technological naval ships and submarines, while figuring out new means of power besides oil.
Throughout the day, children and parents were put into nine groups, and each group visited nine stations throughout the facility.
Stop number one was the DDG-1000 Land Based Test Site (LBTS), where Kevin McMaster spoke to us. At his station, which is a full-scale mock up of one main propulsion plant of the Navy’s newest Destroyer class, he told every group what technology, design and improvements over the last models will be in the DDG-1000. One example of this new design using the Integrated Power System (IPS) that produces 80MW of electrical power is that the all-electric DDG-1000 is more fuel efficient. This improvement is a major improvement - less fuel stops will be needed when out to sea, therefore costing less over time in terms of fuel cost. I was very impressed with the size of the IPS - just the electrical generator is larger than the largest SUVs.
The second stop was the High Temperature Superconductivity Lab, explained to each of the nine groups by Pete Ferrara, Theresa Vaites, Kevin Woods, Dan Santosusso and Navy Commander Jeff Nowlin.
Station two was to show how new superconductive cables would help transport more electricity with less cables at extremely low temperatures. What was impressive is the superconductive cables can carry the same amount of current in one tenth the cable space. After the explanation of how the Superconductive Cables worked and at what temperatures they would operate, Pete, Theresa, Kevin, Dan and Jeff showed us what temperature liquid nitrogen is, and what it does to normal everyday objects. For example, a volunteer was asked to just simply throw a rose onto the floor that was soaked in liquid nitrogen: the result was that the rose shattered to pieces.
Third on the list was the Melville Conference Center, with Tom Perotti, whose presentation was about, “what do engineers do”? He gave a lot of examples of what engineers do in many fields. To me it’s very impressive in how many areas engineers make an impact.
Fourth on the list was the Automation and Intelligent Systems Laboratory from Dr. Qing Dong, Matthew Bosack, and Jason Batcho. Their job is to make a sort of remote controlled/ computer controlled robots. The robots are a work in progress, so not everything is 100%  operationally successful. One of the robots is controlled over Wi-Fi, so the security system will need a major bump up. Secondly, they are working on a control algorithm for many different machinery systems. What impressed me most is that the onboard computers are small and light enough so that they don’t greatly affect the performance of the robot.
Fifth of the day was the High Speed Generator, with Eric Manna, who explained how much wattage the generators produce, what concerns they have with the generator, how it stays cool and how they have advanced it from the last generation. Firstly, he explained how the generator has wattage banks, because it produces about 14MW, and that it has a tractor trailer-sized motor control room. Secondly, they have some big concerns with the amount of vibrations the generators produce at 7,000 rpm (the generators installed in ships today operate at 1,800 rpm.). Also, since the generators produce so much heat spinning at 7,000 rpm, they cool the generator by directly spraying coolant onto the generator. What impressed me was the fact that the size of these new generators are about the size of a 4MW generator from older models. This will make a major difference in ship design.
The sixth stop of the day was the Integrated Data Environment Lab or RAVE, presented by Patrick Violante, Scott Storms, Russ Philipp, Pinkesh Bharatia, and Caitlin Swee. This is a simulation environment meant for training sailors if an emergency happens on a ship, and how they would fix it, without being on an actual ship, with real broken parts. (At SSES one use they have for RAVE is to help engineers see how new machinery and systems could fit into existing spaces.) They do this by mounting one 20 x 8 ft. and two 10 x 8 ft. projection screens. I would like to see these screens used in movie theaters. The lab also has a 3D printer that if a part on a ship was broken, they would print out a model of that piece, and see what or where or how the piece was broken.
The Seventh stop was the Machinery Network Development & Integration Facility, with Alicia Sasso, who showed a movie about ship modernization. The movie explained how renovating a ship would be much cheaper to do than make a whole new ship, and just renovating a ship would expand the life of it for about 15 to 20 years.
Second to last was the Chilled Water Automation Site, presented by Mark Cybulski. He explained how the entire ship is cooled down, via cold water. The piping has many smart valves that if a pipe bursts, the valves in that vicinity would shut off, by a program from the Automation and Intelligent System Lab. I was impressed by how the engineers are using automation to reduce manning and ensure that the system continues to operate in battle conditions.
Ninth and last of the tour was the DDG-51 Test Facility, presented by Lee Skarbek. This Lab tests the new engines and exhaust systems. The new engines produce a whopping 25,000 horsepower, 23,800 more than the most powerful, fastest street legal road car, the Bugatti Veyron SS. The inside of this ship will house four of these engines, and will have some extremely big exhaust systems. The engineers have moved from analog devices to computer controlled devices with touch screens. I was impressed by how much more information the operator is presented on the touch screen and how much easier it will be for him or her to operate the ship.
At the end of the tour I was shocked at some of these numbers, and technological improvements, 25,000 horsepower per engine, 14MW generators, smart valves that control water flow throughout the ship, autonomous controls, and how to more cost effectively increase a ships life.


In Maritime Reporter’s continuing efforts to encourage young people to careers in science and engineering, we are pleased to offer here some insights from Max Piff, who finished his freshman year at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, MD. He took a normal course load of English, Math, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, Band, and one special elective – Introductory Engineering Design.

(As published in the September 2013 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News - www.marinelink.com)

Other stories from September 2013 issue


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