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More stable electrical systems on board

More and more equipment on board ships is electrically powered. Known as variable frequency drives, this equipment places high demands on the ship's electrical grid while also degrading network quality. A thorough approach to preventing network fluctuation is therefore vital in ships with a great deal of electrical equipment (dredgers, navy vessels) and in vessels with discerning clients (luxury yachts, cruise ships).

Electrical systems on board ships can be compared to small island grids with a number of large consumers. This makes it difficult to ensure network stability and quality. The power of the drive is is measured in megawatts, the equipment in kilowatts, and the communication and navigation equipment in watts. Fluctuations of 1% in the drive's maximum power are equivalent to the maximum capacity of kilowatt-rated equipment on board. This is why ships often have two completely independent electrical systems: a 'dirty' system for large consumers and a 'clean' system for the more delicate and sensitive equipment.

Power electronics

Transformers and coils act as filters to reduce power fluctuations to some extent. These components are large and heavy, however. The power electronics that cause the fluctuations can also be used to cancel it out, in much the same way as noise can be cancelled by generating an 'antinoise' signal. TNO is engaged in the following research questions:

  • What equipment causes which fluctuations?
  • Which fluctuations need to be corrected?
  • Can power electronics be used to this end?
  • When is direct current a sensible solution?
  • What are the potential benefits (e.g. system quality, weight, volume, cost, reliability) of a DC-based solution?

Compared to an AC system, a DC system is much more difficult to secure. TNO has therefore developed a demonstrator of a short-circuit-proof DC-DC transformer, enabling secured DC distribution without switches.

Unique opportunity profitable product

TNO is working on these research questions together with parties from industry and science: Imtech Marine & Offshore, Damen Shipyards, Moonen Shipyards, Vacon Benelux, Pon Power, the Institute for Science and Sustainable Development (IWO) and the Netherlands Defence Academy. This represents a unique opportunity for the Netherlands to reaffirm its reputation as a major player as a supplier of technically feasible and profitable products.


Ir. Berend Evenblij

  • Electrical power engineering; Power electronics; EM-fields and forces; Application of batteries; Electrical drives


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