Andrew Drach

Date of Award

Spring 2013

Project Type


Program or Major

Mechanical Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Igor Tsukrov


Utilization of copper alloy components in systems deployed in marine environment presents potential improvements by reducing maintenance costs, prolonging service life, and increasing reliability. However, integration of these materials faces technological challenges, which are discussed and addressed in this work, including characterization of material performance in seawater environment, hydrodynamics of copper alloy components, and design procedures for systems with copper alloys.

To characterize the hydrodynamic behavior of copper alloy nets, mesh geometry of the major types of copper nets currently used in the marine aquaculture are analyzed and formulae for the solidity and strand length are proposed. Experimental studies of drag forces on copper alloy net panels are described. Based on these studies, empirical values for normal drag coefficients are proposed for various types of copper netting. These findings are compared to the previously published data on polymer nets. It is shown that copper nets exhibit significantly lower resistance to normal currents, which corresponds to lower values of normal drag coefficient.

The seawater performance (corrosion and biofouling) of copper alloys is studied through the field trials of tensioned and untensioned specimens in a one-year deployment in the North Atlantic Ocean. The corrosion behavior is characterized by weight loss, optical microscopy, and SEM/EDX analyses. The biofouling performance is quantified in terms of the biomass accumulation. To estimate the effects of stray electrical currents on the seawater corrosion measurements, a low cost three-axis stray electric current monitoring device is designed and tested both in the lab and in the 30-day field deployment. The system consists of a remotely operated PC with a set of pseudo-electrodes and a digital compass. The collected data is processed to determine magnitudes of AC and DC components of electric field and dominant AC frequencies.

Mechanical behavior of copper alloys is investigated through a series of uniaxial tension tests on virgin and weathered (after one-year deployment in the ocean) specimens. The changes in mechanical properties are quantified in terms of differences in Young's modulus, Poisson's ratio, ultimate strength, and ultimate strain. The obtained stress-strain data is used for numerical modeling of the mechanical behavior of chain-link nets. The simulations are compared with the experimental data on stiffness and strength of the nets.

The available information on seawater performance of copper alloys (corrosion, biofouling, mechanics) and copper alloy nets (hydrodynamics) is used to develop engineering procedures for marine aquaculture fish cage systems with copper alloy netting. The design, analysis, and fabrication procedures are illustrated on a commercial size gravity-type offshore fish cage deployed in the Pacific Ocean near Isla Italia (Patagonia, Chile).

The funding for this work was provided by the International Copper Association. This work was also supported through two UNH Fellowships: CEPS UNH Graduate Fellowship to Outstanding PhD Program Applicants and Dissertation Year Fellowship..