Design Engineering

U of T engineers place first at international competition with sustainable yacht design

Devin Jones   


Using renewable energy to turn water into hydrogen, Hydronautic+ acts as a noise and emission free vessel, accompanied by its refuelling station fHuel+.



Team members from left to right: professor Steven Thorpe, Bryan James, Jessica MacInnis, Matthew Chen and Yuri Savguira /photo courtesy of U of T.

A sea-worthy crew of engineering researchers from the University of Toronto’s Department of Materials Science & Engineering took first place at a international clean energy design competition in June, with their design for a sustainable recreational boating system, dubbed Motion+

Their design for Motion+ began in Nanomaterials in Alternate Energy—a course taught by team faculty advisor, professor Steven Thorpe—and was presented as a boat using renewable energy to turn water into hydrogen. Acting as a noise and emission free vessel, the Hydronautic+ is accompanied by its refuelling station fHuel+

“I had taken the course as an undergraduate, and I have had the pleasure to act as a teaching assistant for the past several years,” said team member Yuri Savguria. “This year we had a really exciting idea in furthering sustainable boating and we decided to enter the Hydrogen Education Foundation’s International Student Hydrogen Design Contest after the course was completed.”


As an annual competition, the Hydrogen Student Design Contest sees 33 teams competing for the opportunity to present their design at the Department of Energy Annual Merit Review in Washington D.C. which is exactly what the winning U of T team did. The design of the watercraft allows for boating without harming lake ecology or surrounding wildlife.

In terms of the design path the team chose to take, everything revolved around the idea of  constantly re-evaluating design choices without hampering the progress of the project. For example, after the first iteration was complete, they essentially tried to break the design or run it through a “failure mode,” as he puts it. From understanding where potential risks and safety hazards were, the team then revamped their design to mitigate all of these identified factors.

“A similar approach was taken to improve the economic viability of the design and decrease its environmental impact,” Savguira said. “The overall concept of environmentally friendly boating was paramount from the inception, but the final product went through numerous design iterations to get there.”

Additionally, things like size and weight constraints proved a challenge for the team, as well as component selection and overall integration of the lightweight materials used to create Hydronautic+. According to Savguira, the team utilized a “simplified quality function deployment,” taught in the initial course to evaluate design options quickly and efficiently.

Throughout the sessions that followed the end of the course, the team relied on the technology-enhanced active learning (TEAL) classrooms that are currently on a pilot program at U of T. One of the critical things the team focused on was the ability for the boat to broach dry land to refuel; something Savguira says is applicable to land vehicles as well.

“The fHuel+ system was designed to be located on land at the marina, and to refuel the Hydronautic+ would involve simply driving onto the land to refuel like any other hydrogen powered automotive or off road vehicle,” Savguira said.



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