Dassault was an interesting choice for a company that could implement this kind of project. Still, I'm always a bit skeptical of large-scale geo-engineering projects for solving various global-warming, carbon-capture, water-transport issues, as they often fall victim to the old Law of Unintended Consequences! Still, a worthy demonstration for the power of CATIA.
Agreed 100% Loring. I'm not sure whether the simulation effort does more to prove out the power of Dassault's virtual prototyping suite, including CATIA, as you well note, or the potential of Mougin's vision. In either case, it makes for an interesting story, especially when you get the first-hand glimpse of what's possible in the virtual 3D world.
It is clear that water can be moved as icebergs, though the costs reported are misleading since there is no detail about how the iceberg will be tapped when it is at its destination. This might not be insurmountable, but it might make the iceberg a less viable choice except for special destinations where there are no other options.
It has already been proven that water can be effectively moved in aquaducts and these are more readily coupled into irrigation water systems as well as municipal systems. We would do better to look at distributing water on a continental basis in North America. This would be a practical infrastructure project and would involve no advanced knowledge or simulations.
The California aquaduct built in the early 1960s demonstrated the enormous productivity that can result from relatively primitive water engineering.
On an ongoing basis, the Great Lakes and many Canadian sources could be used in a continental water management system. This could change the productivity of massive Western land areas. The special benefit would be that it could enable establishing standing forests of sufficient extent to serve as 'carbon' capture and sequestration without sacrificing the economic backbone of our industrial economy. Other measures would still be important, but it would no longer be necessary rail against coal fired power plants or oil sands processing.
Interesting idea. If you can afford to try it, go for it. I wonder what the environmentalists are going say. Dragging big "ice cubes" out of the polar regions might speed up "global warming" though....
There are obviously strong arguments on both sides. That was partly why Dassault Systems liked the project, according to the person I spoke to there. Given that there were environmental considerations both for and against Mougin's vision, they felt it was a perfect candidate to exploit 3D simulation to see whether or not the concept was even feasible.
Great story, Beth. Now that the simulation is finished, is there a feeling that they would still need to build a physical prototype, or can they go straight to building the first system? I know many people in the auto industry who do both: They use simulation to study it, then build a better physical prototype.
Chuck: These particular sets of simulations were really to prove out the feasiblity of the concept, not necessarily verify a specific design. If Mougin's company gets funding and if they move on to the next stage, my guess is they'll employ lots of other simulations to further refine the designs, prove them out, and still build a physical prototype at some point. With something of this magnitude, I can't imagine going straight to production on anything without actually creating a physical system.
Most of the engineering groups I'm talking with are leveraging simulation tools not as a substitute for building a physical prototype, but rather as a way to reduce the number of physical prototypes they build. So they only spend the money to build a physical prototype of the optimized design.
@ScotCan: Given that a big part of the simulation had to do with simulating the "melt" of the iceberg and knowing that the team used extensive thermal simulation, I'm sure those factors were taken into consideration. Here's a link to more about the specific thermal simulation around iceberg melt.
While it may be practical to tow an ice berg. Why not scoop up smaller ice bergs and transport them in "water tankers". If they melt it would not matter then pump the water out at the destination. No need to cover them or build a receiving port for a half mile block of ice.
I remember a project like this back in the 70's with Saudia Arabia financing...thru Iowa State University, if my memory serves correctly. The icebergs were to be shaped to provide less towing resistance. The idea was to cover the iceberg's surface above water with a layer of sawdust for insulation and a giant tarp anchored to the ice.
Mougin has been at this for 40 years and at one time, had the backing of a Saudi prince. Perhaps it's the same project and it's evolved over time. Not sure about the ties to Iowa State University, though.
I have heard that icebergs are very dangerous since they are unstable and tend to roll unexpectedly. This might be a hazard during transport. Perhaps this is not a problem for very large sheets of ice that might be part of this scheme.
The simulation involves a large ocean going tug towing an iceberg to the destination. Perhaps multiple ships might be able to get the whole thing up to a couple of knots. They might be able to tow it using cables but anchoring them in the ice in a reliable fashion might be a problem.
It is indeed interesting when a sufficiently accurate simulation provides unusual insights into a problem, especially when it leads to such positive conclusions.
As previously noted it would seem the destination processing might be a critical factor. It would take some thinking to figure out an economical way to process the berg once it arrived at its destination. Cutting it into manageable pieces might help.
It might be more cost effective to figure out how to capture more of the rainfall and trap it before it runs into the sea. I have heard that there is more than enough fresh water that falls as rain on North America but it runs off to the sea. I also understand that a lot of Bermuda's water needs are met by cisterns that trap rain water falling on the roofs of many homes.
Do we have any more information on the method of transport that was part of the study? And how long did the study anticipate for the actual transportation, several months? Any ideas on how to create or carve out a large enough piece of the ice?
All good questions, Ivan. The method of transportation that they studied was moving a tabular iceberg from a specific point A to point B (Newfoundland to the Canary Islands) using a single tug (one boat because of environmental concerns, I believe). The simulation determined it would take 140 days and that it could be done without significant melting given Mougin's innovative skirt and belt design. I'm not sure they did anything beyond this in terms of how slice and dice the iceberg once arriving at the destination or how to break it up and turn it into the water source. I do know the simulation accounted for whether or not the iceberg would fracture during transport, hence why they zeroed in on a tabular iceberg structure.
Interesting article. It's neat to how how 3D technology can be used to similate real world situations and the results of different possible solutions. Now it'll be interesting to see how technology works to define and simulate the next step. Quite often in a project like this there is a first theoretical test. And then there is a smaller model type test. How will technology develop in a way to give a good small test of a consept like this. Will it be tugging a small iceberg? Will it be done in simulation inside of a lab tugging small pieces of ice through a swimming pool.
I really enjoy seeing how a concept can go from its first conception inside of someones head, into a simulation, into a model and then into realization.
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