Solar Powered Boat Begins its Expedition to Study the Gulf Stream!


The world’s largest solar powered boat, MS Tûranor  PlanetSolar, established a new speed record for a solar-powered transatlantic crossing earlier this year and is now set to begin a new life by transforming into a scientific research vessel. Beginning June 7th, the clean energy catamaran will begin collecting data along the Gulf Stream ocean current. This journey will take her from Miami to Bergen, Norway. The air and water measurements that she gathers along the way will be uncontaminated by any substances emitted by the boat because she is a non-polluting vessel. The solar powered boat and crew are currently docked in Miami, a crucial stopover because a final phase of instrument testing will be conducted there.  The ship will begin the practical stage of her second life—dedicated to science—as part of the expedition that will study the Gulf Stream, one of the most important regulators of European and North American climates. The boat will serve a team of researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), led by Professor Martin Beniston, climatologist and director of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the University of Geneva. As the team of scientists travels over 8,000 kilometers along the Gulf Stream during the month of August, they will collect scientific data, from both water and air, in order to better understand complex interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere as well as the role of these interactions in climate change. The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar will significantly contribute to an unprecedented data collection of this ocean current, since the absence of pollution emissions will guarantee that the atmospheric measurements won’t be distorted by residues associated with fuel combustion.

Enthusiastic about starting this measurement campaign, Gérard d’Aboville, captain of the boat, said, “Up to this point, we were in transit in a sense. In a few days we will begin this scientific expedition—the raison d’être of our trip—and life onboard will be organized entirely around the measurements that the University of Geneva researchers will carry out.” The ship will be equipped with 6 advanced instruments, including the “Biobox”, an instrument that was specifically developed by the Applied Physics Group at the University of Geneva. It is dedicated to studying aerosols at the interface between the atmosphere and the ocean, and is the only instrument to date capable of instantaneously determining the identity of aerosols using laser technology. It will be used aboard the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar for the first time.

Source: Solar Powered Boat Begins ‘Deepwater’ Scientific Expedition, by Amber Archangel, June 5, 2013

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