Going Green - with Feadship’s Aeon

24 September 2009 By Louisa Beckett

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Hot Topic – the final installment of’s “Going Green" week – with breaking news from the Monaco Yacht Show. Feadship used the show as an opportunity to announce a revolutionary new concept for an environmentally friendly 75.6-meter superyacht: Aeon.

“This is the fourth year in succession that Feadship has used the opening of the boat show season to reveal the fruit of a year’s brainstorming on the future of superyachts,” wrote Francis Vermeer, marketing manager for the Dutch builder. “The goal for 2009 was to get inside the mindset of an archetypal Feadship owner in 2020, taking into account new research among clients, the very latest trends from other industries and the environmental considerations that concern us all. Aeon is the spectacular outcome.

“The vast majority of current Feadship owners have an eco-aware attitude and this seems set to deepen in the years ahead,” Vermeer continued. “Taking this as a primary source of inspiration, the designers from De Voogt Naval Architects and creatives from the De Vries and Van Lent yards spent countless hours exploring every possible angle. The name Aeon reflects the fact that the choices we make today will have long-lasting consequences both for ourselves and our planet.”

Many of the project’s details border on the poetic. For example, Vermeer said, “In pure design terms, the starting point for Aeon was the whale. These graceful creatures are a constant reminder of what we stand to lose if nature is not allowed to run its course.” Aeon’s curvaceous design encapsulates their form, elegance and size. The bow is slightly flat, resembling the front of a whale and its sloping profile creates space for an observation area forward.

Here are some of the key elements of Aeon’s concept design from the Feadship press release:

“The concept team believes that many adventurous owners will look to use their yacht to carry out research and disseminate knowledge. Observation is therefore a key tenant of the Aeon concept. A giant glass tower dominates the boat, stretching from the highest point of the top deck to well below the waterline. It's home to an ocean observatory, environmental research laboratory, a private owner’s terrace, tenders, a water plane, a dive capsule and much more besides. A glass lift runs up and down the entire tower providing access to and from each deck. Divers, their boat and equipment exit the yacht via the type of moon pool that is currently deployed in sophisticated offshore and research operations.

Aeon’s environmental impact will be significantly reduced by a raft of innovations. Tapping into the technologies being explored in every aspect of industry, Feadship has created a blueprint for a yacht that is eminently durable and impressively efficient,” Vermeer said.

Aeon deploys an advanced energy system using bio-diesel and solar energy. Propulsion is entirely electric without any combustion engines, and the yacht runs on synthetic fuel that can be produced from natural gas, biomass or algae. Bio-diesel is converted to hydrogen in a reformer, a small chemical plant that processes fuel to make it suitable for the cells.”

“All waste products are recycled. The CO2 is sequestered with photosynthetic algae in a bioreactor, which also uses nutrients present on board (i.e. from the wastewater system) and sunlight. A steam drive system uses the reformer’s waste heat to generate additional electricity. It also uses water, which is vaporized to steam by using heat from the exhaust gases. The steam then expands in the expander, which can be directly installed onto an alternator in order to produce electricity.”

“The hydrogen is converted to electricity in fuel cells, a technology that is already close to mass production. Since Aeon’s installation is modular, no redundant power supply has to be installed. By using current technologies the combined efficiency of the reformer and fuel cells already exceeds the performance of today’s state-of-the-art diesel engines.”

“Additional electricity is generated by the more than 400 square meters of solar cells found on top of Aeon. Large parts of the yacht’s surface can be equipped with solar paneling for the greenest possible power supply. Depending on the hull colour, the solar panels might be slightly tinted and the windows in the upper superstructure could have the same color.”

“The electricity generated by the fuel cells, solar panels and steam drive system can be used for the hotel load and propulsion, or be stored in a large battery bank. This battery bank is used to flatten the peak loads and can also be used to reach a higher top speed. While the reformer and fuel cell combination provide power for a continuous top speed of 18 knots, Aeon will be able to reach 25 knots using additional power from the batteries.”

Aeon’s construction and later dismantling has been optimized by analyzing the total production process, reducing the use of materials which are harmful for the environment. Perhaps some time early in the 22nd century, those tasked with ending the yacht’s life will be able to recycle large parts. And during Aeon’s many decades of successful sailing she will also enjoy exceptional hull efficiency and further reductions in energy consumption.”