LA JOLLA, CALIF. - A research and industrial consortium has received a multimillion-dollar grant to design and construct ships and components of advanced composite materials. The team, led by the University of California, San Diego, will receive as much as $3 million for a two-year project, from the federal Advanced Research Projects Agency. Nine corporations will contribute $4.75 million.
The consortium is expected to design, build and test hull sections for two passenger ships, one 65 feet long and one 100 feet long, vehicle ramps capable of supporting tanks and other armored vehicles, hatch covers able to tolerate as much as 2 million pounds each, and a five-story deck house.
The project could help determine whether large composite ships can be built with steel's structural integrity at reasonable cost. A composite ship would avoid saltwater damage and many maintenance costs.
Principal investigator Robert Asaro, UCSD professor of structural engineering, said the project uses technology and materials similar to those used in the ARPA Technology Reinvestment Project researching composites in bridges and infrastructure.
As part of the project, UCSD structural engineers are designing a fan-shaped highway bridge that would cross Interstate 5 and connect the university's east and west campuses.
The ship project will design two classes: a 100-foot-long, air-cushioned, ``surface effects'' ship, which has a catamaran hull and thin-edged, ship-length pontoons; and a 65-foot-long, small-water-area, twin-hull ship that rides on submerged pontoons attached to the catamaran hull by thin struts.
Components will include large stern ramps as tall as 80 feet, as wide as 50 feet, and half as heavy as today's steel ramps on naval cargo vessels.
The consortium includes Designers & Planners Inc. of Arlington, Va.; Trans-Science Corp. of La Jolla; Swath Ocean Systems and National Steel & Shipbuilding Co., both of San Diego; Harley Boats Inc. of Bartol, Fla.; TPI Inc. of Warren, R.I.; Structural Composites Inc. of West Melbourne, Fla.; Seeman Composites of Gulfport, Miss.; and Gionnotti Marine Services of Ventura, Calif.