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Why the US Navy has chosen CNR

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The US Navy has been funding for many years a collaboration with CNR scientific research in the field of marine industry. On July 23, at the Marine Technology Research Institute (INSEAN) in Rome, the Admiral Matthew L. Klunder of the US Navy delegation has visited the Italian Institute in order to further strengthen this scientific collaboration.

To understand the reasons behind such cooperation, we have talked with Emilio Campana, the INSEAN director.

"CNR is in a very unique situation compared to other institutions in the world that deal with scientific research in the marine field because – and this concept must be highlighted – the collaboration between the Navy and INSEAN just relates to the field of scientific research. Which means studying how to build better ships that go faster, consume less and are able to better cope with the difficulties," explains Campana.

"In other countries, there are two types of institutions dealing with marine research: on the one hand those that are under the complete control of military forces, as it happens in Spain and France, and on the other hand the commercial institutions, such those operating in Netherlands and Germany. Instead, CNR belongs to a third class: since we are a research institution, we do not obey neither to the dictates of the Italian Navy nor to the will of the market."

“Most of all,” says Campana, “it is the Italian innovation that interests the American Navy. Using a metaphor, the research market is a bit like the meat market, your research must 'smell fresh' to attract customers. If the US Navy funds us, is because CNR is working on the forefront of this field." The Italian research is an excellence in the field of marine industry and there are two main areas where CNR is providing its contribution.

The first area concerns the creation of accurate databases to be used for the experimental evaluation of simulation codes (also used in the so-called "simulation based design") to predict and improve the performance of a vehicle at sea. In other words, the aim is building models that more accurately describe the actual sea conditions, in order to simulate the behavior of a vehicle and to evaluate its strengths and weakness, and consequently improve the initial design. A new project regarding this topic will start in 2015.

The second area concerns the link between the ship structure and the fluid that surrounds it. "Ships are not rigid objects, but are closely related to how they stay in the water: motions, impacts, and the characteristics of the materials and of the structure have to be considered" explains Campana. 

"A new focus in our studies for the CNR, adds Campana “is the fact that the sea is a chaotic environment, and this environment does not follow a deterministic trend, but a stochastic one. We are therefore developing a stochastic approach to the Simulation-Based-Design, both in the evaluation of the performance of the ships and in their own design."

Passenger ships simulations at this level of detail are less relevant to their design, when compared to cargo ships or military ones. "If a passenger ship realizes that weather condition and sea state are not good to sail, she can decide not to sail, in order to avoid ending up in trouble: a military ship cannot choose, since it is more exposed to the chaos of the sea."

Not to mention ships carrying dangerous cargo. "Today there are no precise guidelines if an accident occurs involving a ship carrying toxic substances. CNR is also working on this direction," says Campana. Building better ships is therefore not trivial, and it is not a coincidence that the US Navy wants the best.

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