Over the past week, the media has been in a frenzy investigating whether the Microsoft billionaire, Bill Gates, bought a multimillion-dollar, hydrogen-powered superyacht. Nicknamed “The Aqua,” the vessel was designed by Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design  and costs a grand total of $644 million.
The 367-foot vessel is powered by liquid hydrogen fuel and features 28-ton vacuum-sealed tanks cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. The hydrogen-fueled yacht was officially unveiled last May at the Monaco Yacht Show. Last week, rumors quickly circulated about whether Gates purchased the vessel from the manufacturer. Sinot quickly put the rumors to rest, stating that the articles are “factually inaccurate.” It doesn’t matter if the Microsoft tycoon ordered the superyacht or not, a hydrogen-powered yacht would pique anyone’s interest.
So, how exactly does the yacht run on hydrogen fuel? To put it simply, hydrogen fuel cell technology involves the generation of electricity by a chemical reaction. The pressurized hydrogen (H2), which acts as the fuel, mixes with oxygen (O2) in the air to generate the electricity that powers the yacht. This chemical reaction makes the fuel cells work more efficiently as opposed to combustion engines, which convert chemical energy into heat to perform the mechanical work. However, newer internal combustion engines, such as caterpillar engines, have an estimated 25% efficiency. The fuel cell system is environmentally friendly as it only requires H2O and can maintain its power as long as there’s always H2.
Hydrogen can be shipped through a pipeline or in a super-cooled liquid form, similar to liquefied natural gas (LNG). If you manage to find a hydrogen gas station, refueling the superyacht is very much like refueling cars, planes, and other boats. The 28-ton tanks are powered by proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), which is the leading hydrogen fuel technology powering a number of light-duty and materials operating vehicles.
Believe it or not, the idea behind hydrogen energy is not a 21st-century innovation. Liquid hydrogen fuel was first used by NASA since the 1970s to launch rockets into outer space. However, the hydrogen was always used as a propellant, not fuel cell technology.
How marine vessels evolve over time is ever-changing and it’s important as a yacht owner to keep up with the latest industry developments. To learn more about hydrogen-fueled yachts or to purchase our MTU engines, contact our team of mechanics at Marine Diesel in Fort Lauderdale at 954-467-9010 today.
 Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design – Aqua