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Hexel prepregs for Silenseas project

In combination with dual-fuel engines, composite sails will deliver fuel savings of up to 30%.

17th December 2021

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Saint Nazaire, France


A 34-metre HexPly carbon fibre demonstrator mast has recently been built on land at Chantiers de l’Atlantique’s base in Saint Nazaire, France, as part of the Silenseas project.

The HexPly M9.6 prepregs supplied to the Silenseas consortium’s mast section manufacturers satisfied all project quality, mechanical and processing performance targets, delivering a scalable, cost-competitive composite solution to power cleaner, more sustainable transportation using commercial vessels.

The Silenseas project was started by Chantiers de l’Atlantique, one of the world’s largest shipyards, to validate its new concept to power the next generation of quieter and more environmentally responsible cruise ships.

Silenseas vessels harness the power of ocean winds with huge carbon fibre masts flying durable composite solid sails. In combination with dual-fuel engines for ships, the composite sail plan will deliver fuel savings of up to 30%, enabling a significant step towards reducing future greenhouse gas emissions.

Hexcel is a leader in prepreg solutions for large structural components, wind turbine blades in particular, and has supplied composite materials to the marine industry since the 1970s. Its products have been a key part of Silenseas rig structures since the project began and were used for The HexPly M9.6 prepregs were supplied with a range of heavyweight standard modulus carbon fibre unidirectional (UD), woven, and non-crimp fabric (NCF) reinforcements. HexPly materials used in the Silenseas project included special modifications to improve handling, lay-up speed, and consolidation.

The latest Silenseas mast was built in sections using a standardized production process by Lorient-based partners. With future masts intended to be more than two times the size of the top section demonstrator just installed, the Silenseas project team has developed a roadmap for the production scale-up. Hexcel process enhancing prepreg technologies will play a vital role in these next steps, with a long-term objective to use out-of-autoclave (OoA) processing while maintaining the current laminate quality in the thick (over 150mm) section carbon fiber parts.

Silenseas now plans to scale up the composite rigs, with future vessels intended to carry three 66-metre high carbon fibre masts,. 

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