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A New Self-Driving Submarine Can Clean Micro-Plastics on Hydrogen Power

And the cargo sub can dive 165 feet deep.

A New Self-Driving Submarine Can Clean Micro-Plastics on Hydrogen Power
The Oceanways cargo sub Oceanways

An autonomous hydrogen-fueled submarine could help to greatly reduce emissions from shipping, a report by the BBC explains. The submarine, developed by Oceanways, is one of several winners in a government competition aimed at tackling the industry's carbon footprint.

Oceanways received a £380,000 ($526,000) prize to aid them in the development of a self-driving submarine that delivers parcels by submerging itself 165 feet (50 meters) below the surface of the sea and taking shipping routes — such as the one from Belfast to Glasgow — to get to its destination. The submersible vehicle can even swim through shallow waters that large cargo ships cannot navigate.

The autonomous cargo sub is designed to run on "green" hydrogen, which is sourced using renewable energy. The Oceanways team also claims that it will be able to scoop up harmful micro-plastics and collect data on the health of underwater ecosystems.

Innovations for tackling CO2 emissions

The prize was handed to Oceanways as part of a £23 million ($32.8m) UK fund aimed at sustainable maritime projects. However, Oceanways' founder Dhruv Boruah said the submarine will be built for "short and sharp" journeys instead of as an alternative for long-haul cargo voyages. Other grant winners include MJR Power and Automation for an electric charge-point for electric boats connected to an offshore wind turbine (as can be seen in the video below). MJR claims that it can help to offset over 1,270 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year with its new technology.

The shipping industry currently produces approximately 3 percent of global emissions, though the UK government announced plans for its shipping to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Earlier this year, the Japanese government announced its own plans to develop the first zero-emission tanker to fight climate change. A number of private firms have also revealed electric boats aimed at tackling the industry's emissions problem. In 2019, for example, Swedish boatmaker, X Shore, unveiled its zero-emission powerboat, the Eelex. The same year, a study revealed that Sweden's shipping emitted more greenhouse gases and air pollution than the country's domestic aviation industry. 

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