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Students Develop New Hybrid Vessel 

Some students at Maine Maritime Academy are working out a way to make ships run more efficiently. Thursday during their capstone presentation, they showed off their work and took us on a tour inside a new kind of hybrid vessel.It’s part of an ongoing project at MMA, in thermoelectric energy generation. For the past year a group of students has been developing an application for that technology in a hybrid vessel.The system uses something that, in a typical ship, goes to waste.”Something that would have been just sent out the exhaust as heat, we’re making useful power out of it,” says Andrew Blackman.”We’re using the temperature difference between that and seawater to generate our electricity,” says Travis Wallace.These students have spent many hours developing their idea inside what they’ve affectionately dubbed “the green monster.” A former Coast Guard lifeboat, it’s becoming a test model for their green technology.Next month, they’ll see if it floats.”What’s really exciting is being able to harness something that’s being wasted and put it back into the system without any moving parts, there’s no maintenance,” Wallace says.Wallace worked on the project as an MMA student last year. Now he’s a grad student at UMaine, writing his thesis on it.The thermoelectric power is used to augment the vessel’s main power grid, providing better efficiency, and savings, Blackman says.”We can get in time maybe 5-10 percent fuel savings, which on ships that spend millions of dollars a year on fuel, that adds up,” he says.Several organizations already expressed interest in the students’ work. Now Wallace says he’s forming a company to market it and provide consulting on custom systems.