Royal waves as Duke of Edinburgh opens marine facility
THE Duke of Edinburgh has given the royal seal of approval to Plymouth's new Marine Building.
The building houses a sophisticated wave tank, described as the most advanced of its kind in the world.
The tank is one of three in the North Cross facility, and will allow testing of new marine energy devices and other pioneering marine research.
Hundreds of guests including MPs, councillors, academics and business leaders saw three wave tanks as well as a state-of-the-art ship simulator in use.
Professor Simon Handley, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology, told them that the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh was a sign of the widespread recognition the university had earned.
Prof Wendy Purcell, the Vice-Chancellor, said: "We are heralding a new dawn, not just in the development of Plymouth as a leading higher education institution, but for the city, the region and the marine renewable sector."
During his visit the Duke was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Marine Science. Accepting the award, he said: "It's quite a long time since I started my university career.
"Unlike most people, I started at the wrong end. I was made Chancellor of the University of Wales in 1947 and I have been going downhill ever since."
Prince Philip also visited the Marine Navigation Centre, with its lifelike ship simulator that will enable students to 'pilot' different vessels in a range of harbours.
The top floor of the building will be home to the university's Marine Institute. The institute boasts the broadest research portfolio in Europe.
The centre-pieces are the Coastal Ocean and Sediment Transport (COaST) laboratories, home to three wave tanks and flumes, where engineers will be able to test devices using different simulated conditions.
Prof Martin Attrill, director of the Marine Institute, said: "This remarkable facility will provide a world-class platform to support and extend the work we do."
Jane Chafer, the university's head of external relations, said: "It's a fantastic building in itself, and what it symbolises is our world class marine heritage and research."
Nick Buckland, former chairman of the university's board of governors, said: "When I joined the board in 2002 you could have asked the average Plymothian where the university was and they would have said, 'What university?' Now it's a part of the city."
Oliver Colvile, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said: "This is a key part of how we can rebalance our local economy."
Council leader Tudor Evans and Tracey Lee, its new chief executive, were at the opening. Mrs Lee, said: "It's important to play to the strengths of the city." She said the council, the university and the private sector were all keen to move in one direction.
Cllr Evans said: "This is not just Plymouth positioning itself in the UK – it is global." He called on George Osborne, the Chancellor, to spend more on marine renewable energy.
Claire Harrison, 29, a mature student, said she knew a few marine science PhD students who were enthusiastic about the Marine Building, which has been in use since the summer. "They say it's incredible the amount of research they can get done here," she said.
She praised the green credentials of the new building, which was designed and aligned to minimise its carbon footprint.
International interest in sophisticated research centre
The world is already beating a path to the door of Plymouth’s new Marine Building.
“We are very pleased with the take-up,” Adam Corney (pictured right), marine commercial director at Plymouth University, said.
“We have done several commercial experiments already and we have got inquiries come in from all over the world.”
He said that on Monday alone he had dealt with inquiries from Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus, the United States and Australia.
Earlier this year 40South Energy Ltd, a British-Italian wave energy company, became the first international client to invest in Plymouth’s burgeoning marine renewables sector.
Mr Corney said: “We think it’s the only tank in the world which can model waves and currents at the same time, and with the currents at any angle.
“It allows us to create all sorts of realistic sea conditions.”
The tank can be used to test marine energy devices like the new Pelamis offshore wave energy device.
Developers of devices can constantly tweak and test the efficiency of their machines, something they could not do in the sea itself.
The main ‘ocean basin’ tank is 35 metres by 15 metres by three metres deep.
It can generate a one-metre wave, which means a wave that measures two metres from trough to crest.
A coastal basin tank, 10 metres by 15 metres by one metre deep, can take sediment or sand, allowing it to be used to model coastal erosion.
The third tank, a sediment wave flume, is 35 metres long by two metres, by a metre deep. It is used for testing “coastal armour” – the effect of waves on sea walls and other coastal protection.
The building also contains a world-class ship bridge simulator, with simulations of the world’s major harbours.
“We are the only organisation in the world that is able to create new locations for the simulator,” Mr Corney said.
Speaking during the opening ceremonies yesterday, he said: “These are exciting times to be involved in the marine industries in the South West, and particularly in Plymouth.”
Creating sound waves with a difference
Composer Alexis Kirke turns the wave tank into a musical instrument. Keith Rossiter reports.
Alexis Kirke waves his arms and a storm of jumbled, breaking waves is accompanied by a tempest of electronic music.
Another gesture and, like the sea god Neptune, he restores calm, so that the hundreds of spectators gathered round the ocean wave tank might be able to see their reflections.
Alexis Kirke and Sam Freeman’s composition soundWave is thought to be the first time a wave tank has been turned into a musical instrument.
Kirke, with sensors strapped to his body and wearing a life jacket, conducted a 12-minute symphony of waves and music from a position above the main tank.
Seven “water drummers” provided percussion in the nearby coastal tank.
So sophisticated is the control of the tank’s 24 paddles that Kirke was able to generate a tiny wave that sprang out of an otherwise flat surface, tossing a metre-wide buoy into the air and leaving the audience open-mouthed.
The piece was commissioned by the Plymouth Marine Institute for the opening of the new building.
Jane Chafer, the university’s head of external relations, said the building aimed to marry science with art and literature.
Outside the main entrance stands a limestone boulder which was unveiled by the Duke of Edinburgh yesterday. It is inscribed with the opening lines of a poem by Caroline Carver:
To touch new worlds
through the resolution of water
we ride the waves of air &
tides of sun and moon.
The rest of the poem appears throughout the building along with works by university artists.