Full-Size Titanium Ship Hull Section to be Made

Guest_Jim_* - April 4, 2012 12:02PM in Science & Technology

Advances in naval construction save lives and even win wars. When the first iron-clad ships were used, cannon fire was reported to bounce off the armor, and when welding was introduced to full-metal hulls, the time it took to build a ship greatly decreased. Now the Office of Naval Research is looking to push the boundaries of naval technology again, by creating a full-size titanium ship hull section.

Steel is the current choice for ships, thanks to its strength, abundance, and relative ease to work. Titanium though is stronger, lighter, and corrosion resistant, but many of its alloys are more expensive, and it is very difficult to work with. Fortunately a new welding technique, friction stir welding, has been developed for use specifically with the temperamental metal. Instead of using a flame or electricity to heat and meld metal plates together, friction stir melding uses a spinning pin to heat the metal plates to a malleable plastic state. The spinning of the pin then kneads the metal pieces together.

Titanium deck panels have already been made using friction stir welding, for the experimental Transformable Craft being worked on. To reduce the cost of the panel, the University of New Orleans School of Naval Architecture and Textron Marine and Land Systems researchers used cheaper marine grade titanium alloys. The alloy is likely still more expensive than its steel counterpart, but future research may find still cheaper yet strong alloys. However, a titanium ship will be lighter than a steel ship, allowing for greater payloads to be carried.

Correction: I mistakenly read the source as saying an entire ship hull was to be made. Instead, it is just a section of a full-size ship hull that is to be produced. A 20 foot long titanium deck panel has already been produced.