By Chang-Fa An
DaimlerChrysler Technology Center|
Auburn Hills, Michigan
Researchers using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis have improved the velocity at which oil containment booms can operate successfully, increasing the current level of under 0.4 meters/second, where traditional booms fail, to a theoretically possible 2.0 meters/second. The boom velocity is critical because oil spill cleanup is limited by how fast the booms can be towed before hydrodynamic forces cause them to fail. To develop a boom that operates at faster velocities, oil companies have been evaluating a number of new designs, including angled booms and porous nets that operate below and upstream of traditional booms. Previously, researchers performed water channel tests to evaluate new designs but this added significantly to development costs. Now, CFD simulation is used instead. This alternative allows researchers to simulate many design alternatives quickly and inexpensively. Recently, researchers have also begun to animate CFD results to enhance their understanding of boom failure mechanisms.