Exploring the potential of iron powder as fuel on the design and performance of container ships

Jochem De Kwant, Robert Hekkenberg, Apostolos Souflis-Rigas, Austin A. Kana*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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This article examines the potential implications of using iron powder as an alternative fuel on the design and performance of container ships. Iron powder is a relatively new alternative energy carrier and one in which little research has been done into the application on-board vessels as part of the maritime energy transition. The key benefits of iron powder are that it is a circular energy carrier and the combustion process emits no greenhouse gases. Transitioning to iron powder is expected to have far reaching implications for the design and performance of ships. Thus, this paper aims to perform the first study assessing the potential of this concept applied to container ships. To do so, a preliminary design space was explored with a custom parametric design model developed to generate preliminary designs of iron fuelled container ships as a function of the operational profile. Using this parametric design model, it was identified that iron fuelled container ships are weight limited, unlike conventionally fuelled container vessels. Furthermore, iron fuelled container ships are best suited for short voyages at low cruising speed. For these voyages, it was concluded that iron fuelled ships are economically feasible; however, other alternative marine fuels are likely more profitable than iron due to the low efficiency of iron fuelled ships and the high cost of iron per unit energy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-28
JournalInternational Shipbuilding Progress
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • alternative fuel
  • container ship design
  • design space exploration
  • feasibility study
  • Iron powder


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