There are two primary engineering challenges when developing our ocean cleanup system; 1) how to maximize the cleanup efficiency of our technology, and 2) how to ensure the system can survive at sea for at least 20 years.
The latter is indeed a challenge, but not insurmountable. The key to the systems’ life longevity is that we have designed them to be both simple and flexible. Structural problems usually arise at interfaces; the connection between parts. In theory, the number of possible failures scales exponentially with the number of parts in a system. To overcome this, the engineers have maintained the cleanup system design to be as simple as possible. When comparing the concept as presented in 2014, 2017 and 2018, there is a clear trend towards an ever-simpler design.
Additionally, the system is designed to be flexible enough so that it can follow the waves, limiting the magnitude of the loads the system would absorb. Thanks to the free-floating nature of the system this is possible. For propulsion, the cleanup systems only absorb the small wind waves. Swell waves, which carry higher energy, simply pass underneath the system, because the system is flexible enough to follow their shape.
To be conservative, the engineers designed our system for weather conditions that the system is only expected to encounter once every 100 years (a 14-meter significant wave height), although we only expect our systems to be deployed for 20 years. Large safety factors have also been applied to account for possible inaccuracies in our models and calculations.
We acknowledge this is a difficult engineering challenge (as our prototyping has shown). As with any novel technology, success is not guaranteed, but this is exactly why we test, test and test again. Until the final risks and uncertainties have been mitigated, System 001 is still labeled a ‘beta system’. We are, however, certain that our learning-by-doing method, in combination with building on a team that has close to 500 years of engineering experience between them, is the only path that can lead to success.