La taille du foil développé par Blue Fins d

Bluefins, this Breton startup inspired by whale fins to decarbonize ships



More and more biomaterials or bioadhesives are used for the manufacture of ships. Sail propulsion projects are on the rise. But the shipping industry of the future is also inspired by nature and animals. In this fascinating register of biomimicry, the dynamic propulsion system of cetaceans has thus fueled Bluefins’ reflection on the decarbonization of boats.

The Brest startup, founded at the end of 2020 in Plouzané (29) in connection with Ifremer, was thus inspired by the movements of the fins of the whale, in particular the caudal fin (the tail), to design a hydrofoil allowing to reduce 20 to 30% the heavy fuel oil consumption of large ships. This project was presented last week at Sea Tech Week in Brest, during a session on bio-inspiration applied to innovation in maritime transport.

Tests in 2023 in a DGA basin

Attached to an articulated arm and placed at the rear of the hull, the steel-composite appendage, developed from a patent filed by Ifremer, captures wave energy to propel the boat. ” The foils are like submerged airplane wings that support the ship and reduce the friction of the boat’s hull on the water. Their movement, generated by the swell, makes the ship move forward a bit like a whale’s tail summarizes Olivier Giusti, co-founder of Bluefins with Dominique Leroux, and winner of the i-Lab 2022 competition.

The young naval architect graduated from ENSTA Bretagne is preparing the next test campaign for a 1/35th scale model. Initially announced for the end of 2022, this performance validation will be carried out in February 2023 in the basin DGA Hydrodynamic techniques », formerly hull testing basin, of the Directorate General of Armaments in Eure (Normandy). The sea test campaign is scheduled for 2024 with the installation of a first prototype on a twenty-meter Ifremer vessel.

Market for LNG carriers, tankers or passenger ships

With this hydrofoil, the size of which adapts to that of ships, Bluefins is targeting the market for LNG carriers, tankers, container ships and cruise ships, which are heavy consumers of fuel oil. But also that of passenger transport. ” Lhe technology is not limited to large vessels,” adds Olivier Giusti. “We hope to also be able to equip smaller and therefore easier to access vessels at the start. The only requirement is that the ship regularly sails in areas where there are swells.»

Indeed, the greater the movement, the more the system generates the energy useful to the boat to move forward, thereby reducing fuel consumption. According to Bluefins, the hydrofoil can also be considered to supplement the energy gain that a kite wing or sails located on the deck of the vessel would offer.

R&D partially funded by Citeph, fundraising in 2023

An internal project at Ifremer, via its Behavior of structures at sea laboratory, between 2018 and the end of 2019, before the creation of the company, this innovation is the result of collective R&D work. While the commercialization phase is planned for 2025, Bluefins’ research is partially funded, from the start and up to the tank tests, by Citeph (Concertation for technological innovation in the fields of energy).

Via the contract with this open innovation program in the field of energy, Blue Fins is sponsored by TotalEnergies, a large charterer of LNG carriers. In order to support its development, the young shoot plans to complete an initial fundraising of around 500,000 euros no later than the first quarter of 2023.

Sea Tech Week: for greener solutions

The subject of the carbon-free future of maritime transport, which today represents 2.5% to 3% of global GHG emissions (source IMO) was at the center of the debates at Sea Tech Week. Both a trade show and a scientific and technological conference, the 13th edition was held from September 26 to 30 on the theme ” maritime transport, towards smarter and greener solutions “.

From artificial intelligence, to sailing propulsion and renewable marine energies, several other Breton innovations were presented there, including the Hylias project, the first passenger boat with electro-hydrogen propulsion, and the shipping activity at the Grain de Sail sail.