TU Delft Stories

reading time: 6 min

Avoiding division in climate adaptation

The government has growing expectations of citizens when it comes to climate adaptation, but not every citizen or neighbourhood is able to live up to these expectations. Neelke Doorn, Professor of Ethics of Water Engineering, is studying ways of avoiding social divides between neighbourhoods. What exactly does a Professor of Ethics of Water Engineering do? If Professor Neelke Doorn is asked this question at a party, she will explain it using an example that we all understand. “Residue from medicines in our waste water is a matter of responsibility. But who is responsible: the water industry, the health sector, agriculture? Should we focus solely on the quality of drinking water, or should we purify all our waste water, which is better for the water system and the environment? Or should we perhaps focus on using fewer strong medicines? You’re constantly weighing up all the different values; it’s much more complex than just a technology issue.” Matter of urgency Like many other problems concerning water, the matter of medicine residue is not a new phenomenon. It is, however, becoming more urgent due to factors such as increasing urbanisation and a growing and ageing population. Climate adaptation is another increasingly urgent matter. “We need to be prepared for more extreme weather events, such as torrential rain or prolonged droughts. The government wants citizens to do more in their communities, but not everyone is in a position to do so. I’m looking into ways of putting this ambition of creating resilient neighbourhoods into practice, so that everyone will benefit and there won’t be a social divide between the areas that have got things nicely organised and the poorer areas that haven’t.” It’s actually very similar to the energy transition problem. “A few years ago, you saw people who were better off reaping the benefits of subsidised solar panels, while ordinary people’s energy bills kept on rising steadily. The discussion about fairness regarding the energy transition is underway now, but there’s very little attention being paid to fairness when it comes to climate adaptation,” explains Doorn. A clear division The government’s style of communication also leaves a lot to be desired. “Even highly educated people have trouble understanding letters from the tax authorities, although the consequences can be very serious. In Canada, for example, the government is obliged to create websites that are accessible to those with low levels of literacy. We could do so much better here.” Something else that deserves attention is increased digitisation. “The government launches a new app or opens a digital help desk and thinks that citizens will understand.” Division can be closer than we think. “Thanks to active residents, my own neighbourhood has really brightened up, with a local park that also serves as a water storage facility. The government cites neighbourhoods like this as an example, but not all neighbourhoods have the same degree of social cohesion or the legal literacy to apply for subsidies. This is how gaping inequality comes about.” In 2019, Doorn received a Vidi grant worth € 800,000 from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). She will use it to study the extent to which citizens’ responsibilities under climate adaptation policies can be distributed fairly and effectively. Finding a research method is a challenge in itself. “Traditionally, philosophers tend to think about what certain terms mean, but this can be somewhat abstract and far-removed from reality,” says Doorn. An alternative is to interview people or to conduct a survey, but that doesn’t give a complete picture either. “It isn’t enough just to ask people what they consider to be important. Who do you ask and what about future generations, who don’t have a say? In philosophical circles, a lot of thought has gone into how to make fair decisions and which values should be taken into account. If you depend on the people who happen to take part in a survey, you risk missing the broader perspective.” “I try to combine people’s opinions of what is fair and honest with information from philosophical literature,” Doorn continues. “For example, if you ask someone without a philosophical background how you can share risks fairly, the answer will probably be that we should ensure that risk levels are the same for everyone. However, from the philosophical perspective, I would say that we should also consider the extent to which people are capable of doing what we ask of them. Our calculation models for flooding risks are based on the idea that an 85-year-old woman is at the same risk of having to be evacuated as a young, fit person. This isn’t realistic.” Common thread Doorn developed an interest in the ethical aspects of engineering at an early age. She started as a student of Civil Engineering in 1991 and describes herself as a “traditional Delft child, good at the sciences.” She was also an idealist. “At the time, they were having dreadful floods in Bangladesh, so I decided to design an Eastern Scheldt Barrier for Bangladesh. Luckily, some of my lecturers were quick to offer advice: ‘Perhaps you should first check that our local designs are suitable for the situation there.’ I didn’t lose my fascination for engineering and water, but I did develop an eye for the more ethical aspects, although that’s not how I would have referred to it at the time.” The combined social and intellectual drive has been the common thread throughout her career. Highly relevant After graduating, Doorn started work as a researcher at Deltares while simultaneously studying philosophy. “I needed to be able to reflect upon my work,” she explains. She then went in search of a PhD position on the interface of engineering and ethics, which she found at TU Delft: Doorn examined the distribution of responsibilities within research teams. Doorn laughs: “A colleague from Deltares said: ‘If that counts as ethics, it’s highly relevant.’” It’s a subject that she still considers to be extremely relevant in her work. “If a lot of people are working together, developing new technology for example, you have to ensure that all the responsibilities have been shouldered. You see that people working on the practical side assume that the risks have already been calculated earlier on in the chain, while the people earlier on in the process were actually focusing on the fundamental side of the research, thinking that risks are part of the application side. Everyone is waiting for the others to act.” This is the kind of insight that Doorn and her colleagues try to impart to students across the University. Whereas this used to be taught in separate ethics modules, these days ethics is usually incorporated into other modules in the Bachelor curriculum. “We hope to teach Bachelor’s students that there’s more to engineering than doing calculations, that we are all continually weighing up values in the course of our work.” During the Master’s phase, students can then follow thematic ethics courses, taught by Doorn or one of her colleagues. “I am currently teaching the elective module in water ethics. It’s great to see Master’s students from a whole range of disciplines, such as architecture, civil engineering, marine technology and systems engineering, policy analysis & management, all working together. They all feel that their perspective on a problem is broadened by looking at it from a different angle with fellow-students from other programmes.” The module also includes a joint case study. “Last year, a group came up with a serious game about groundwater extraction in Pakistan. Nestlé pumps water up to sell as bottled water, but the practice is bad for local farmers. The game is a great way of helping people to understand a complex issue.” Study stress Doorn sometimes worries about the students’ welfare. “They have so much to cope with: the system of student grants and loans has changed, they have to make countless choices, and an awful lot is expected of them. To compound this, they’re also trying to contend with being young adults. All in all, it can generate a lot of stress. I’m glad that Rob Mudde (Vice President of Education, ed.) is paying attention to this aspect,” she continues. “I try to tell my students that they’re already doing well if their programme is going smoothly. They will graduate from this university with a highly regarded degree certificate. While it’s good to do something else alongside your studies, it’s by no means obligatory to be in a dream team and take an honours programme, to excel in music and sport and to have an active social life. You can’t do it all. I’d like students to feel less pressure in this respect.” This also applies to her colleagues. “We all work very hard and we share a ‘we can all do it together’ mentality. That’s great and I wouldn’t want it any other way, but there’s definitely a risk that we’ll all work ourselves into an early grave in the academic world. While it’s tempting to think that it’s down to the system, we would do well to realise that we are the system. So it’s up to us to bring about change, in doctoral programmes for example. Doctoral candidates have four years to develop into independent researchers, not simply become people who have published eight papers in high-ranking journals. Let’s shift the emphasis from quantity to quality. If we don’t make these choices, it will be detrimental to the quality and ultimately to ourselves.” Privileged Doorn has never regretted choosing Delft: “This is where everything comes together: my civil engineering and my philosophical background,” she says. “Obviously there are philosophers who make relevant contributions to the philosophy of engineering without a technical background, but I am extremely grateful for mine. I’ve also noticed that I’m closer to the practical side of water now that I’m a professor. I’m every inch the engineer, as well as a philosopher. This unique dual profile allows me to make serious progress. And even if I’m not the only person looking into ethics and water, Delft is the only university with a professorial chair in the subject. So I feel privileged to be here doing what I’m doing.” I try to tell my students that they’re already doing well if their programme is going smoothly. They will graduate from this university with a highly regarded degree certificate Back to Home Health & Care Energy Transition Climate Action Urbanisation & Mobility Digital Society Neelke Doorn +31 15 27 88059 N.Doorn@tudelft.nl This is a Portrait of Science from TPM What exactly does a Professor of Ethics of Water Engineering do? If Professor Neelke Doorn is asked this question at a party, she will explain it using an example that we all understand. “Residue from medicines in our waste water is a matter of responsibility. But who is responsible: the water industry, the health sector, agriculture? Should we focus solely on the quality of drinking water, or should we purify all our waste water, which is better for the water system and the environment? Or should we perhaps focus on using fewer strong medicines? You’re constantly weighing up all the different values; it’s much more complex than just a technology issue.” Matter of urgency Like many other problems concerning water, the matter of medicine residue is not a new phenomenon. It is, however, becoming more urgent due to factors such as increasing urbanisation and a growing and ageing population. Climate adaptation is another increasingly urgent matter. “We need to be prepared for more extreme weather events, such as torrential rain or prolonged droughts. The government wants citizens to do more in their communities, but not everyone is in a position to do so. I’m looking into ways of putting this ambition of creating resilient neighbourhoods into practice, so that everyone will benefit and there won’t be a social divide between the areas that have got things nicely organised and the poorer areas that haven’t.” It’s actually very similar to the energy transition problem. “A few years ago, you saw people who were better off reaping the benefits of subsidised solar panels, while ordinary people’s energy bills kept on rising steadily. The discussion about fairness regarding the energy transition is underway now, but there’s very little attention being paid to fairness when it comes to climate adaptation,” explains Doorn. A clear division The government’s style of communication also leaves a lot to be desired. “Even highly educated people have trouble understanding letters from the tax authorities, although the consequences can be very serious. In Canada, for example, the government is obliged to create websites that are accessible to those with low levels of literacy. We could do so much better here.” Something else that deserves attention is increased digitisation. “The government launches a new app or opens a digital help desk and thinks that citizens will understand.” Division can be closer than we think. “Thanks to active residents, my own neighbourhood has really brightened up, with a local park that also serves as a water storage facility. The government cites neighbourhoods like this as an example, but not all neighbourhoods have the same degree of social cohesion or the legal literacy to apply for subsidies. This is how gaping inequality comes about.” In 2019, Doorn received a Vidi grant worth € 800,000 from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). She will use it to study the extent to which citizens’ responsibilities under climate adaptation policies can be distributed fairly and effectively. Finding a research method is a challenge in itself. “Traditionally, philosophers tend to think about what certain terms mean, but this can be somewhat abstract and far-removed from reality,” says Doorn. An alternative is to interview people or to conduct a survey, but that doesn’t give a complete picture either. “It isn’t enough just to ask people what they consider to be important. Who do you ask and what about future generations, who don’t have a say? In philosophical circles, a lot of thought has gone into how to make fair decisions and which values should be taken into account. If you depend on the people who happen to take part in a survey, you risk missing the broader perspective.” “I try to combine people’s opinions of what is fair and honest with information from philosophical literature,” Doorn continues. “For example, if you ask someone without a philosophical background how you can share risks fairly, the answer will probably be that we should ensure that risk levels are the same for everyone. However, from the philosophical perspective, I would say that we should also consider the extent to which people are capable of doing what we ask of them. Our calculation models for flooding risks are based on the idea that an 85-year-old woman is at the same risk of having to be evacuated as a young, fit person. This isn’t realistic.” Common thread Doorn developed an interest in the ethical aspects of engineering at an early age. She started as a student of Civil Engineering in 1991 and describes herself as a “traditional Delft child, good at the sciences.” She was also an idealist. “At the time, they were having dreadful floods in Bangladesh, so I decided to design an Eastern Scheldt Barrier for Bangladesh. Luckily, some of my lecturers were quick to offer advice: ‘Perhaps you should first check that our local designs are suitable for the situation there.’ I didn’t lose my fascination for engineering and water, but I did develop an eye for the more ethical aspects, although that’s not how I would have referred to it at the time.” The combined social and intellectual drive has been the common thread throughout her career. Highly relevant After graduating, Doorn started work as a researcher at Deltares while simultaneously studying philosophy. “I needed to be able to reflect upon my work,” she explains. She then went in search of a PhD position on the interface of engineering and ethics, which she found at TU Delft: Doorn examined the distribution of responsibilities within research teams. Doorn laughs: “A colleague from Deltares said: ‘If that counts as ethics, it’s highly relevant.’” It’s a subject that she still considers to be extremely relevant in her work. “If a lot of people are working together, developing new technology for example, you have to ensure that all the responsibilities have been shouldered. You see that people working on the practical side assume that the risks have already been calculated earlier on in the chain, while the people earlier on in the process were actually focusing on the fundamental side of the research, thinking that risks are part of the application side. Everyone is waiting for the others to act.” This is the kind of insight that Doorn and her colleagues try to impart to students across the University. Whereas this used to be taught in separate ethics modules, these days ethics is usually incorporated into other modules in the Bachelor curriculum. “We hope to teach Bachelor’s students that there’s more to engineering than doing calculations, that we are all continually weighing up values in the course of our work.” During the Master’s phase, students can then follow thematic ethics courses, taught by Doorn or one of her colleagues. “I am currently teaching the elective module in water ethics. It’s great to see Master’s students from a whole range of disciplines, such as architecture, civil engineering, marine technology and systems engineering, policy analysis & management, all working together. They all feel that their perspective on a problem is broadened by looking at it from a different angle with fellow-students from other programmes.” The module also includes a joint case study. “Last year, a group came up with a serious game about groundwater extraction in Pakistan. Nestlé pumps water up to sell as bottled water, but the practice is bad for local farmers. The game is a great way of helping people to understand a complex issue.” Study stress Doorn sometimes worries about the students’ welfare. “They have so much to cope with: the system of student grants and loans has changed, they have to make countless choices, and an awful lot is expected of them. To compound this, they’re also trying to contend with being young adults. All in all, it can generate a lot of stress. I’m glad that Rob Mudde (Vice President of Education, ed.) is paying attention to this aspect,” she continues. “I try to tell my students that they’re already doing well if their programme is going smoothly. They will graduate from this university with a highly regarded degree certificate. While it’s good to do something else alongside your studies, it’s by no means obligatory to be in a dream team and take an honours programme, to excel in music and sport and to have an active social life. You can’t do it all. I’d like students to feel less pressure in this respect.” This also applies to her colleagues. “We all work very hard and we share a ‘we can all do it together’ mentality. That’s great and I wouldn’t want it any other way, but there’s definitely a risk that we’ll all work ourselves into an early grave in the academic world. While it’s tempting to think that it’s down to the system, we would do well to realise that we are the system. So it’s up to us to bring about change, in doctoral programmes for example. Doctoral candidates have four years to develop into independent researchers, not simply become people who have published eight papers in high-ranking journals. Let’s shift the emphasis from quantity to quality. If we don’t make these choices, it will be detrimental to the quality and ultimately to ourselves.” Privileged Doorn has never regretted choosing Delft: “This is where everything comes together: my civil engineering and my philosophical background,” she says. “Obviously there are philosophers who make relevant contributions to the philosophy of engineering without a technical background, but I am extremely grateful for mine. I’ve also noticed that I’m closer to the practical side of water now that I’m a professor. I’m every inch the engineer, as well as a philosopher. This unique dual profile allows me to make serious progress. And even if I’m not the only person looking into ethics and water, Delft is the only university with a professorial chair in the subject. So I feel privileged to be here doing what I’m doing.” I try to tell my students that they’re already doing well if their programme is going smoothly. They will graduate from this university with a highly regarded degree certificate Neelke Doorn +31 15 27 88059 N.Doorn@tudelft.nl This is a Portrait of Science from TPM Back to Home Health & Care Energy Transition Climate Action Urbanisation & Mobility Digital Society Other Portraits of Science Computer as a sheepdog No hydrofoils, yet still the fastest

reading time: 6 min

No hydrofoils, yet still the fastest

The TU Delft Solar Boat team became world champion in the offshore long race in Monaco in 2019. This triumph for the team exceeded all expectations, since before and during the race everything seemed to go wrong. Breaking with tradition, the tenth Delft Solar Boat team decided to take part in the offshore race in the Solar & Energy Boat Challenge in 2019. “The thing that makes the Delft dream teams unique is that each team can set its own goals for the year,” says Redmer Aarnink, who was exposure manager on the team. “It is fantastic for teams to be able to start from scratch and build their own boats. That isn’t absolutely necessary, but it is often essential because the race rules change or you decide to take part in a different race. And in this case, even an entirely different class, in which no team from Delft, or any other Dutch team, had ever competed before.” Seaworthy An entirely new class placed different demands on the boat. “There was actually only one hard and fast rule: the boat had to be no longer than 12 metres. That meant we didn’t have much to guide us; we only knew that we had to be seaworthy,” says Hull Design Engineer, Willemijn Mes. The final design was therefore completely different to previous versions: a trimaran with no fewer than 28 m2 of solar panels and a crew of three. “Because the boat was much bigger, it also had to be disassembled for transport,” says Mes. Plenty of design challenges, in other words. “The more parts you need to be able to loosen and tighten, the more can go wrong in production or during the race itself. That made the design very complex,” says Mes. Moreover, neither she nor the other team members had ever built a boat before. “I’m studying civil engineering, so boat building might not seem an obvious project, but the whole point of taking part is to learn. Besides, I’ve been sailing all my life. A trimaran is a little bit like a yacht in terms of design; only the propulsion is different.” Outside your comfort zone Becoming exposure manager was outside Aarnink’s comfort zone too. “I really wanted to be project manager, but the former team members thought that this would be a good role for me. Looking back, I can understand why. I’m studying applied physics and I have a broad technical background; that means I understand and can explain all the engineering in the boat up to a certain level.” He sometimes found his role difficult. “In contrast to the other team members, I didn’t have a specific goal to aim for. I tried to share our story with as many people as possible, but how many do you reach and how effective is that? It’s a completely different way of looking at things than in physics and I learned a lot.” That learning process is essential for the dream teams working on ambitious projects such as building a solar-powered boat in the D:DREAM Hall on campus. D:DREAM stands for Delft: Dream Realization of Extremely Advanced Machines. It is the place where teams of students from all parts of the university spend a whole year working towards a common goal. They do everything themselves, from designing to building to project management, and in passing, they learn skills that will serve them in good stead after they graduate too. Learning process Making mistakes is all part of the learning process. Aarnink: “In the early months, I suddenly got a phone call from Radio 2 asking if I could take part in a live interview lasting two minutes. I’d prepared really well, but what I hadn’t understood was that I had to stop when they said so. So I just carried on talking and when I was interrupted halfway through, I thought, ‘what’s going on now?’ I had spent the whole day manning a stand at a trade fair and it was half past eleven in the evening, so that explains a lot. I hadn’t done any media training either, because I hadn’t expected the press to be interested until later on. Luckily I can laugh about it now.” Hard work The biggest challenge for Mes was the production process: “When building the hulls, we were able to make use of the production facilities of our partner VABO Composites in Emmeloord. We did everything ourselves, but it was good to be able to ask them for help. It was hard work and also challenging to spend three months in Emmeloord, only going back to Delft at the weekends.” After that, the various parts – which had been built at different locations – had to be assembled. “That took much longer than we had expected, partly because of the complex design. Everything had to fit together and be able to be taken apart again easily. ”They succeeded in the end. “As a team, we built a well-functioning boat which we are very proud of,” says Aarnink. Test sailing on the Westeinderplassen near Aalsmeer also went well. The real test would take place on the IJsselmeer, where the hydrofoils had to prove themselves. “Hydrofoils stick out under the boat. If the boat goes fast enough, they can lift the hull up out of the water a little, so you have much less resistance and you can reach high speeds,” explains Mes. Disaster On the IJsselmeer, however, disaster struck: the left front foil broke off. “That was a major setback. Hydrofoils are part of our identity; the Solar Boat has used them for years. It was also terrible for the team; they had worked so hard on it,” says Aarnink. “Months of work were lost in an instant,” adds Mes. Searches with divers and a sonar boat came to nothing, but there was little time to recover from this setback. With only three weeks to go until the race in Monaco, they had no choice but to go without hydrofoils. The race in Monaco took place on 5 and 6 July. The teams taking part had to sail from Monaco to Ventimiglia and back; once on the first day and twice on the second. “Our competitors all had electric speedboats. They can reach speeds of up to 100 kilometres an hour, but they can’t maintain that speed for long. That’s why they are much less efficient on long distances. So we thought we could make gains on the second day especially,” says Aarnink. “We go more slowly, but we can maintain our speed for much longer,” says Mes. The race would therefore be decided on points at the end of day two. Smoke “Things went well on the first day and we came in third,” says Aarnink. “But as the boat returned to harbour, the pilot saw smoke. We turned everything off and towed the boat to shore. We were standing ready with fire extinguishers and never took our eyes off the boat,” says Mes. “We didn’t know what was wrong at first, but later it turned out to be an electrical fault in the solar panels.” Once again, the team was faced with a difficult decision. “We couldn’t start day two like that; safety comes first. But no one likes to give up, and so we decided to remove the solar panels and run on batteries. It was a difficult moment: you’re actually demolishing your own boat.” Nonetheless, the team kept their spirits up, buoyed by their performance on the first day. “The second day was less predictable. What would the other teams do? You’re allowed to recharge along the way, but then you have to stay in the harbour for three hours as a penalty,” says Aarnink. “We didn’t need to do that, but we weren’t able to sail as fast as we would have liked. But our boat turned out to be so efficient that, in the end, we won with 20 minutes to spare!” says Mes. That led to wild celebrations, and included all thirty team members diving into the harbour. Aarnink: “It was a bizarre moment. The adrenaline kept me awake for three nights.” That was also because the busiest time for him was about to start. “I was doing a radio interview at 6am the next morning and another ten or so throughout the rest of the day.” Broader outlook They are now back at their studies again. Aarnink: “I’m looking around to see which Master’s degree programme I want to do. I’m thinking of something like performance coaching.” That has everything to do with his time working on the Solar Boat. “A year like that shapes you and broadens your outlook. You learn a lot about yourself and about the team. Working together so intensively is very special. You can’t win unless everyone on the team does their job.” It has set Mes thinking too. “I think I’m going to do a Master’s in Offshore Engineering. You choose a degree programme without knowing what all the other programmes entail and you tend not to venture outside your own specialist field. The people on the team came from all sorts of disciplines and you learn how others look at things and tackle problems.” Her choice is also connected to the Solar Boat mission: working with the industry on sustainable shipping. “A container ship will never run on solar panels and our boats will never be taken into production. Where we can make an impact is on making the maritime industry aware of how it can become more sustainable,” explains Aarnink. Mes: “Personally, I’ve learned a huge amount about sustainability over this last year. We are the new generation of engineers who will soon be entering the world of business. If you do so with a fresh outlook, you can really make a difference.” We are the new generation of engineers who will soon be entering the world of business. If you do so with a fresh outlook, you can really make a difference Back to Home Health & Care Energy Transition Climate Action Urbanisation & Mobility Digital Society Willemijn Mes and Redmer Aarnink This is a Portrait of Science from D:Dreamhall Breaking with tradition, the tenth Delft Solar Boat team decided to take part in the offshore race in the Solar & Energy Boat Challenge in 2019. “The thing that makes the Delft dream teams unique is that each team can set its own goals for the year,” says Redmer Aarnink, who was exposure manager on the team. “It is fantastic for teams to be able to start from scratch and build their own boats. That isn’t absolutely necessary, but it is often essential because the race rules change or you decide to take part in a different race. And in this case, even an entirely different class, in which no team from Delft, or any other Dutch team, had ever competed before.” Seaworthy An entirely new class placed different demands on the boat. “There was actually only one hard and fast rule: the boat had to be no longer than 12 metres. That meant we didn’t have much to guide us; we only knew that we had to be seaworthy,” says Hull Design Engineer, Willemijn Mes. The final design was therefore completely different to previous versions: a trimaran with no fewer than 28 m2 of solar panels and a crew of three. “Because the boat was much bigger, it also had to be disassembled for transport,” says Mes. Plenty of design challenges, in other words. “The more parts you need to be able to loosen and tighten, the more can go wrong in production or during the race itself. That made the design very complex,” says Mes. Moreover, neither she nor the other team members had ever built a boat before. “I’m studying civil engineering, so boat building might not seem an obvious project, but the whole point of taking part is to learn. Besides, I’ve been sailing all my life. A trimaran is a little bit like a yacht in terms of design; only the propulsion is different.” Outside your comfort zone Becoming exposure manager was outside Aarnink’s comfort zone too. “I really wanted to be project manager, but the former team members thought that this would be a good role for me. Looking back, I can understand why. I’m studying applied physics and I have a broad technical background; that means I understand and can explain all the engineering in the boat up to a certain level.” He sometimes found his role difficult. “In contrast to the other team members, I didn’t have a specific goal to aim for. I tried to share our story with as many people as possible, but how many do you reach and how effective is that? It’s a completely different way of looking at things than in physics and I learned a lot.” That learning process is essential for the dream teams working on ambitious projects such as building a solar-powered boat in the D:DREAM Hall on campus. D:DREAM stands for Delft: Dream Realization of Extremely Advanced Machines. It is the place where teams of students from all parts of the university spend a whole year working towards a common goal. They do everything themselves, from designing to building to project management, and in passing, they learn skills that will serve them in good stead after they graduate too. Learning process Making mistakes is all part of the learning process. Aarnink: “In the early months, I suddenly got a phone call from Radio 2 asking if I could take part in a live interview lasting two minutes. I’d prepared really well, but what I hadn’t understood was that I had to stop when they said so. So I just carried on talking and when I was interrupted halfway through, I thought, ‘what’s going on now?’ I had spent the whole day manning a stand at a trade fair and it was half past eleven in the evening, so that explains a lot. I hadn’t done any media training either, because I hadn’t expected the press to be interested until later on. Luckily I can laugh about it now.” Hard work The biggest challenge for Mes was the production process: “When building the hulls, we were able to make use of the production facilities of our partner VABO Composites in Emmeloord. We did everything ourselves, but it was good to be able to ask them for help. It was hard work and also challenging to spend three months in Emmeloord, only going back to Delft at the weekends.” After that, the various parts – which had been built at different locations – had to be assembled. “That took much longer than we had expected, partly because of the complex design. Everything had to fit together and be able to be taken apart again easily. ”They succeeded in the end. “As a team, we built a well-functioning boat which we are very proud of,” says Aarnink. Test sailing on the Westeinderplassen near Aalsmeer also went well. The real test would take place on the IJsselmeer, where the hydrofoils had to prove themselves. “Hydrofoils stick out under the boat. If the boat goes fast enough, they can lift the hull up out of the water a little, so you have much less resistance and you can reach high speeds,” explains Mes. Disaster On the IJsselmeer, however, disaster struck: the left front foil broke off. “That was a major setback. Hydrofoils are part of our identity; the Solar Boat has used them for years. It was also terrible for the team; they had worked so hard on it,” says Aarnink. “Months of work were lost in an instant,” adds Mes. Searches with divers and a sonar boat came to nothing, but there was little time to recover from this setback. With only three weeks to go until the race in Monaco, they had no choice but to go without hydrofoils. The race in Monaco took place on 5 and 6 July. The teams taking part had to sail from Monaco to Ventimiglia and back; once on the first day and twice on the second. “Our competitors all had electric speedboats. They can reach speeds of up to 100 kilometres an hour, but they can’t maintain that speed for long. That’s why they are much less efficient on long distances. So we thought we could make gains on the second day especially,” says Aarnink. “We go more slowly, but we can maintain our speed for much longer,” says Mes. The race would therefore be decided on points at the end of day two. Smoke “Things went well on the first day and we came in third,” says Aarnink. “But as the boat returned to harbour, the pilot saw smoke. We turned everything off and towed the boat to shore. We were standing ready with fire extinguishers and never took our eyes off the boat,” says Mes. “We didn’t know what was wrong at first, but later it turned out to be an electrical fault in the solar panels.” Once again, the team was faced with a difficult decision. “We couldn’t start day two like that; safety comes first. But no one likes to give up, and so we decided to remove the solar panels and run on batteries. It was a difficult moment: you’re actually demolishing your own boat.” Nonetheless, the team kept their spirits up, buoyed by their performance on the first day. “The second day was less predictable. What would the other teams do? You’re allowed to recharge along the way, but then you have to stay in the harbour for three hours as a penalty,” says Aarnink. “We didn’t need to do that, but we weren’t able to sail as fast as we would have liked. But our boat turned out to be so efficient that, in the end, we won with 20 minutes to spare!” says Mes. That led to wild celebrations, and included all thirty team members diving into the harbour. Aarnink: “It was a bizarre moment. The adrenaline kept me awake for three nights.” That was also because the busiest time for him was about to start. “I was doing a radio interview at 6am the next morning and another ten or so throughout the rest of the day.” Broader outlook They are now back at their studies again. Aarnink: “I’m looking around to see which Master’s degree programme I want to do. I’m thinking of something like performance coaching.” That has everything to do with his time working on the Solar Boat. “A year like that shapes you and broadens your outlook. You learn a lot about yourself and about the team. Working together so intensively is very special. You can’t win unless everyone on the team does their job.” It has set Mes thinking too. “I think I’m going to do a Master’s in Offshore Engineering. You choose a degree programme without knowing what all the other programmes entail and you tend not to venture outside your own specialist field. The people on the team came from all sorts of disciplines and you learn how others look at things and tackle problems.” Her choice is also connected to the Solar Boat mission: working with the industry on sustainable shipping. “A container ship will never run on solar panels and our boats will never be taken into production. Where we can make an impact is on making the maritime industry aware of how it can become more sustainable,” explains Aarnink. Mes: “Personally, I’ve learned a huge amount about sustainability over this last year. We are the new generation of engineers who will soon be entering the world of business. If you do so with a fresh outlook, you can really make a difference.” We are the new generation of engineers who will soon be entering the world of business. If you do so with a fresh outlook, you can really make a difference Willemijn Mes and Redmer Aarnink This is a Portrait of Science from D:Dreamhall Back to Home Health & Care Energy Transition Climate Action Urbanisation & Mobility Digital Society Other Portraits of Science The next phase in aircraft design Design for a better world

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Rekenen aan gigantische aspluimen

The Filipino volcano Taal is restless and spitting lava, ash and steam into the air. Volcanologists fear that a new and bigger eruption is imminent. Ten years ago, Europe was under the spell of an enormous ash cloud, following the eruption on the Eyjafjalla Glacier in Iceland. The cloud brought air traffic to a complete standstill and entailed significant costs. Guangliang Fu and Sha Lu, researched how such an ash plume behaves and how you can predict where it will go. Ten years ago, Europe was under the spell of an enormous ash cloud, following the eruption of a volcano on the Eyjafjalla Glacier in Iceland. The cloud brought air traffic to a complete standstill in a large part of Europe, caused a great deal of disruption and entailed significant costs. Guangliang Fu and Sha Lu who did their PhD at TU Delft in 2017, investigated how such an ash plume behaves and how you can predict where it will go. A subject that is (once again) extremely topical now that the Filipino volcano Taal is restless. The mountain spits lava, ash and steam into the air. And volcanologists fear that a new and bigger eruption is imminent. The huge ash plume, which was blown into the air after the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull, provided an impressive sight, but also brought home the fact that researchers did not know how to effectively deal with the phenomenon. After all, how the ash cloud would develop remained a mystery. ‘The volcanic ash can cause serious damage to airplane engines. Choosing to avoid any risks, airline companies decided to ground all their airplanes. If we had known where the ash cloud was headed, it would have been possible to fly around it, for example,’ says Guangliang Fu. Guangliang has successfully created a predictor that calculates ash cloud behaviour in the next two days – priceless information for airlines and airports. Fu is one of the first to produce actual figures on ash cloud movement. One of the reasons behind his success is the clever use of measurement airplanes. Satellite information is available of course, but is simply too limited and does not offer the complete picture. Sending an aircraft to the cloud to conduct measurements is much more effective. It will return with information such as the number and type of particles in the cloud. Fu feeds these data into his forecasting system. ‘This prediction can tell you whether it is safe to fly over France, for example, and if it turns out to be unsafe, whether it is a good idea to divert air traffic to Germany.’ The physical laws of the atmosphere Making such a forecast was not easy. This is because the measurement aircraft has no permanent location and is always moving around. ‘That makes it difficult to process the data, and explains why the data were not used earlier,’ comments Fu. The PhD candidate successfully wrote an algorithm that tells you exactly when and where the plane conducts a measurement. In Fu’s forecast model, these data are combined with the weather forecast. ‘The model can be used to forecast where the cloud is moving to. You can then use an aircraft to check whether this is correct. If these measurements indicate that the ash cloud is moving elsewhere, the model automatically adjusts the forecast. You therefore make effective adjustments while factoring in the physical laws of the atmosphere,’ says Fu. Recreating an ash cloud Sha Lu conducted her PhD research into ash clouds at the same time as Fu. She explored ways to recreate an ash cloud. Where exactly did the ash enter the atmosphere, and what height did it reach? She calculated the distance from the atmosphere back to the site of the eruption itself, which would be beyond the capabilities of existing methods. ‘Satellites only provide information about the column as a whole. From their position, they cannot determine the height reached by the ash, only the total amount in the atmosphere at a particular location. But not the vertical distribution,’ explains Lu. That being said, she can definitely use the satellite data. Lu uses measurements from satellites at various locations. She combines these data with meteorological data, such as the wind speed at various altitudes. Lu: ‘Combining these data allows you to see how the ash is distributed vertically. It comes down to tiny differences that you have to extract from huge amounts of data. We are talking about very subtle effects, for example, wind speed 7 at levels 8 and 9, but wind speed 6 at level 5.’ The information lies more or less concealed in a veritable mountain of data. Lu’s method is extremely accurate, due to the fact that she retrieves information from a range of different sources with her algorithm. This is an updated version of an article that appeared in April 2017. Text : Robert Visscher | Photo : Mark Prins Marriage proposal Guangliang Fu and Sha Lu Lu and Fu met during their Mathematics Bachelor’s degree programme in China. ‘We went to the same lecture, which was attended by about 200 students. She caught my eye immediately, because she is so pretty,’ says Fu. He went to talk to her, and they have been together ever since. After getting their degrees in China, they both planned to do a PhD study. But only if they could secure places at the same institution, which is exactly what Delft offered them. ‘We love it here. People are very direct and like to share their expertise with us. And that means I learn an awful lot,’ says Lu. The couple hardly ever talk about work at home. ‘We save that for the office. We do not want to influence each other’s research when colleagues are not present. And it is often better to receive criticism from someone other than your partner,’ says Fu with a smile. Delft holds a special place in Fu and Lu’s lives, as they really enjoy living and working in the city. But it became even more special when Fu asked Lu to marry him. Immediately after Lu had obtained her doctorate in the TU Delft Aula. ‘It came as a complete surprise to me, it was a wonderful moment,’ says Lu. ‘My parents were there, and I thought it was great. This is where we feel at home, together here in the Netherlands.’ Almost three years later, Lu and Fu still live in Delft and are married. They both work at SRON, the Dutch expertise institute for space research, in Utrecht. During their doctoral research, Guangliang Fu and Sha Lu were supervised by Arnold Heemink. Heemink is Professor of Mathematical Physics at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science. Over the past decades he has been involved in, among other things, dykes and other measures for preventing flooding, oil flows in drilling wells and the spreading of pollution in groundwater. His research has not only led to more than one hundred publications in scientific journals, but also to practical models that are used by research institutes and organisations like Deltares, Rijkswaterstaat, TNO, and Shell. Heemink also makes a major contribution to the teaching of mathematics at Delft University of Technology. Over the years, dozens of mathematical engineers have graduated with Heemink and more PhD students have obtained their doctorates under his supervision. In recent years, another PhD student – Jianbing Jin – has been researching large, violent sandstorms. Heemink: ‘China is often battered by sandstorms that originate in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. You would like to know when such a storm is coming, so that you can warn everyone in time, but that’s still quite difficult.’ Jianbing figured out how and where sand particles can be blown into the air. Read all about it in the article Brace yourself, there's a sandstorm coming! . Back to Home Climate Action Urbanisation & Mobility Health & Care Energy Transition Digital Society Arnold Heemink A.W.Heemink@ewi.tudelft.nl This is a story of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics & Computer Science Ten years ago, Europe was under the spell of an enormous ash cloud, following the eruption of a volcano on the Eyjafjalla Glacier in Iceland. The cloud brought air traffic to a complete standstill in a large part of Europe, caused a great deal of disruption and entailed significant costs. Guangliang Fu and Sha Lu who did their PhD at TU Delft in 2017, investigated how such an ash plume behaves and how you can predict where it will go. A subject that is (once again) extremely topical now that the Filipino volcano Taal is restless. The mountain spits lava, ash and steam into the air. And volcanologists fear that a new and bigger eruption is imminent. The huge ash plume, which was blown into the air after the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull, provided an impressive sight, but also brought home the fact that researchers did not know how to effectively deal with the phenomenon. After all, how the ash cloud would develop remained a mystery. ‘The volcanic ash can cause serious damage to airplane engines. Choosing to avoid any risks, airline companies decided to ground all their airplanes. If we had known where the ash cloud was headed, it would have been possible to fly around it, for example,’ says Guangliang Fu. Guangliang has successfully created a predictor that calculates ash cloud behaviour in the next two days – priceless information for airlines and airports. Fu is one of the first to produce actual figures on ash cloud movement. One of the reasons behind his success is the clever use of measurement airplanes. Satellite information is available of course, but is simply too limited and does not offer the complete picture. Sending an aircraft to the cloud to conduct measurements is much more effective. It will return with information such as the number and type of particles in the cloud. Fu feeds these data into his forecasting system. ‘This prediction can tell you whether it is safe to fly over France, for example, and if it turns out to be unsafe, whether it is a good idea to divert air traffic to Germany.’ The physical laws of the atmosphere Making such a forecast was not easy. This is because the measurement aircraft has no permanent location and is always moving around. ‘That makes it difficult to process the data, and explains why the data were not used earlier,’ comments Fu. The PhD candidate successfully wrote an algorithm that tells you exactly when and where the plane conducts a measurement. In Fu’s forecast model, these data are combined with the weather forecast. ‘The model can be used to forecast where the cloud is moving to. You can then use an aircraft to check whether this is correct. If these measurements indicate that the ash cloud is moving elsewhere, the model automatically adjusts the forecast. You therefore make effective adjustments while factoring in the physical laws of the atmosphere,’ says Fu. Arnold Heemink A.W.Heemink@ewi.tudelft.nl This is a story of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics & Computer Science Back to Home Climate Action Urbanisation & Mobility Health & Care Energy Transition Digital Society [Translate to English:] Related stories [Translate to English:] Geluidloze luchtvaart heeft toekomstmuziek [Translate to English:] Roboats in Amsterdam [Translate to English:] Intelligente, zelf-drijvende windmolens Related stories