Chemically inert fibre used in propulsion solution

18th March 2011

Wind propulsion technology developer SkySails has applied fibre manufacturer DSM Dyneema’s proprietary ultra- high molecular-weight poly-ethylene fibre, reputed to be one of the strongest known synthetic fibres, to create a sustainable propulsion solution, in the form of towing kites for the maritime industry.

The manufacturer reports that it invented the fibre about 20 years ago and that the fibre is versatile, with virtually limitless applications. This has prompted SkySails to collaborate with DSM Dyneema and rope specialist Gleistein to form a technology partnership to develop a supplementary propulsion system for ocean-going vessels.

The manufacturer reports that the fibre is manufactured by means of a gel-spinning pro-cess that combines extreme strength, with significant soft-ness. The resulting fibre has a high strength:low weight ratio, making it 15 times stronger than steel, and 40% stronger than aramid fibres, another strong synthetic fibre, on a weight for weight basis.

The DSM Dyneema fibre also has a low specific gravity of about 0,97, which allows it to float on water, and is ideal for lightweight applications. The fibre also has significant chemical resistance. The manufacturer reports that the fibre is chemically inert and that independent studies have confirmed that it performs well in dry, wet, salty or humid conditions, as well as other situations where chemicals are present.

Further, the fibre is ultra-violet (UV) resistant, giving it a strong resistance to photo degradation when exposed to UV light. It is also reported to be moisture resistant, or hydrophobic. The fibre resists water absorption, providing an extra level of protection and durability.