The Anonymous Widower

The Great Electric Air Race Has Begun

The title of this post is the first sentence of this article in The Independent, which is entitled Electric Planes: Could You Be Flying On A Battery-Powered Aircraft By 2027?.

This is the full first paragraph in an article by respected travel writer; Simon Calder.

The great electric air race has begun. Three European industry heavyweights have teamed up against a US startup and Britain’s biggest budget airline to develop the first commercial electric aircraft.

So is such an aircraft feasible?

When you consider that the three European heavyweights are Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens, I suspect that the proposed project is serious.

It should also be said that the companies are not aiming for an all-electric aircraft, but a hybrid plane with a very efficient on-board generator and a two-tonne battery.

The key to success will probably include.

  • Batteries with a very high energy density.
  • A highly-efficient and quiet gas turbine, that generates a lot of energy.
  • Radical air-frame design to take advantage of the technology.

In my view, the batteries will be the key, but making more efficient batteries with high charge densities will also do the following.

  • Improve the range and performance of battery and hybrid road vehicles like buses, cars and trucks.
  • Improve the range and performance of trains and trams.
  • Transform energy storage, so wind and solar power can be stored and used in times of high demand.
  • Allow every house, apartment or office to have its own affordable energy storage.

In all of these applications, the weight of the battery will be less of a problem.

This leads me to the conclusion, that we may see smaller electric plasnes in a few years, but the technology that will make it possible, may well improve other modes of transport so much, that electric planes are never an economic proposition.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens!

I think most travellers and members of the oublic will benefit in some ways.

 

December 3, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is This Organisation Behind The Aventra Manufacture?

In An Interesting Snippet From The Engineer, I said this about the manufacture of the Aventra trains in Derby.

Looking at what we know about assembly in Derby, which I reported on in How Long Will It Take Bombardier To Fulfil Their Aventra Orders?, I know or have surmised the following.

  • Bombardier are aiming for a production rate of 25 carriage a month.
  • The sides of the trains are one piece aluminium extrusions.
  • Sub-assemblies designed with suppliers feature in the design.

In addition, there has been a complete rethinking of everything about the design, manufacture and operation of the train.

The aluminium extrusions that appear to make up the sides of the train are revolutionary, with inner and outer skins and strengthening ribs between, probably being extruded in one pass, giving the following advantages.

  • High strength
  • Light weight
  • Thin train sides for greater interior width.
  • Simple, fast, affordable manufacture.

What helps is that train sides and roofs are simple shapes with a constant cross-section. Cars have much more fancy shapes.

It got me thinking about where the technology to create these aluminium extrusion was developed.

Bombardier are a Canadian company based in Quebec and Canada is the third largest produce of aluminium.

So I did a quick Internet search for “aluminium extrusion research canada”!

I found this page entitled Aluminium Technology Centre on the National Research Council Canada web site. This is said.

NRC ATC provides technological solutions for its clients in the aluminium transformation sector by offering direct access to cutting-edge scientific infrastructure and expertise in assembly process development and aluminium forming. The main aluminium transformation technologies available include adhesive assembly, various welding techniques (laser welding, friction stir welding and robotic arc welding), semisolid casting, forming and extrusion, as well as techniques for evaluating mechanical resistance, environmental sustainability, and metallurgical and chemical characterization.

The large-scale laboratory, measuring nearly 1200 m2, contains oversized equipment: two robotic welding cells connected to a 10-kW laser, a friction stir welding machine, a 1000-ton forming press, and a 650-ton injection molding press.

The Aluminium Technology Centre is based in Quebec.

Bombardier has recently designed the CSeries airliner, which is causing an immense row with the protectionists in the Badlands, the other side of the border.

But airliners have many complicated aluminium components, so is this Aluminium Technology Centre, a key part in driving the cost of the CSeries down?

It should be noted that extensive use is made of aluminium-lithium alloy is used in the CSeries, to save weight.

So have all of these advanced methods of using and forming aluminium been shared with Derby?

It would appear that they have!

Reading about the CSeries, it would appear that have been as radical about thinking about the design of this airliner, as Derby has been about the Aventra.

Conclusion

Could Belfast’s problem have been caused by the same technology that is giving strength to Derby?

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Internet Age Just Starting, Says Tech Guru

The title of this post is the same as the title of a short article in the Business section of the Sunday Times.

It is a summary of an interview with Marc Andreesen onside the Business section.

Some points raised.

  • The next wave of technological disruption will affect law, medicine and construction.
  • The basic cost of starting an Internet company has fallen dramatically
  • There’s something really special happening at the intersection of medincine and computer science.

I certainly agree with the title of the article.

August 27, 2017 Posted by | Computing, Health, World | | Leave a comment

Technology Doesn’t Have To Be Complex

This article on the Rail Tecjnology Magazine web site is entitled Easing The Capital’s Cramped Carriages.

On the London Overground, the Class 378 trains are Electrostars with an air suspension.

Note the rubber suspension bag between the bogie and the car on this Class 378 train. As more people, dogs, buggies and heavy bags are loaded into the train, more air is pumped into the suspension bag to keep the train level, so that the train rides better and passengers don’t have to step up and down to get in.

The pressure in the bag gives a very good estimate of the number of passengers in each particular carriage in the train.

The Rail Technology Magazine article describes how this information is collected and  then processed and distributed to the iPads and iPhones of station staff, so they can direct passengers to the least crowded parts of the train.

I have read that other train manufacturers are working on sophisticated head-counting software using CCTV cameras, as I saw deployed on a 141 bus in Transport for London’s Latest Plot To Get Us To Climb Stairs. That device has disappeared, so I suspect there were problems, privacy issues or it just cost too much.

The system on a Class 378 train must be a lot simpler and cheaper to install, especially if the train has been wi-fi enabled. The Class 378 trains don’t have wi-fi, but many Electrostars do.

As information is always key in any system, it can lead to various developments.

  • Modern station displays can be updated to show the train loading.
  • There may be cases where train loading affects the platform a train would use at a terminus.
  • Automated messages about train loading could be displayed on the train.
  • Detailed train loading information must be useful in designing a train interior and also station layouts.

I suspect that those behind this project have got lots of applications.

August 23, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 2 Comments

The Globalisation Of Health Care

This article on the BBC is entitled World’s smallest MRI helps tiny babies.

It shows how healthcare is becoming an increasingly global collaboration.

The idea for the machine was developed in the University of Sheffield and the machine was built by the American company; GE Healthcare.

Medical research is like this, with often more than two companies and countries playing their parts in producing a successful breakthrough, often many years after the original idea.

I just wonder how Trump’s America First and tax policies will affect developments like this.

Will his new tax rules, mean that if an American company is involved in a development like this, that the device will have to be manufactured in the United States, when perhaps to manufacture it in the country, that owns the IPR might be better?

I can see researchers not wanting to get involved with American companies, when other countries can offer deals with no nasty strings attached.

There’s only going to be two winners with some of Trumps tax ideas; lawyers and accountants.

 

January 23, 2017 Posted by | Health, World | , , | 1 Comment

Theresa Mentions The B-Word

On today’s Andrew Marr Show, Theresa May has just said that she has setup a review into battery technology.

I can’t find anything else.

However, I did find this snippet in The Sunday Times, when I bought the paper.

Ministers will pledge to invest in digital, energy, construction and transport infrastructure in each region. Funding is already earmarked for an institute to develop new battery technology.

That is probably something we need.

January 22, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

German Trains With Batteries

One of my Google alerts found this article on Rail Journal, which is entitled DB to convert DMUs to bi-mode hybrid trains.

This is said.

GERMAN Rail (DB) has announced it is working with technical universities in Chemnitz and Dresden to develop bi-mode (diesel and electric) trains with lithium-ion battery storage. Between 2017 and 2021 DB intends to convert 13 existing Siemens class 642 Desiro Classic DMUs to hybrid bi-mode configuration.

It seems the Germans share my belief that trains with batteries are the future.

September 19, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Could Hamilton’s 55-Place Penalty Be Good For The World?

If you want a good explanation of how Lewis Hamilton ended up with a 55-place penalty in a 22-car race, then this article on the BBC, which is entitled Belgian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton’s grid penalties explained.

It does what it says in the title.

This extract, which describes the new technology in Formula One, is significant.

Governing body the FIA realised that the turbo-hybrid engines were highly complex pieces of kit, as well as introducing revolutionary new technology.

How revolutionary? A road-car petrol engine has a thermal efficiency – its ability to convert fuel-energy into usable power – of about 29%, a figure they have been stuck at for decades. A road-going turbo-diesel can be as efficient as about 35-40%.

Modern F1 engines, the best of which produce more than 950bhp, are approaching 50% thermal efficiency – and exceed it when the hybrid system is on full energy deployment.

It is a truly amazing step forward in technology in such a short amount of time, and these advances will soon filter down to road cars, which was the whole point of introducing them into F1.

So that means that if your vehicle does say 29 mpg, then in perhaps a decade, its equivalent will be doing over 50 mpg, as increased thermal efficiency translates into less fuel usage.

There is a lot of innovative technology generally getting itself involved with the humble internal combustion engine and where they are used.

  • Engines, whether petrol or diesel will get more efficient, in terms of energy efficiency.
  • Engines will get lighter and smaller.
  • Transmission and braking will increasingly be electric, with onboard energy storage.
  • Energy storage for larger applications like buses, trucks and trains, will use alternatives to batteries.
  • Engines will become more complex and will be controlled by sophisticated control systems.

It is definitely a case of |Formula One leading the way.

But I suppose Formula One is one of the few places where there is an incentive to be more efficient.

With passenger cars, more efficient vehicles have generally sold better. But an incentive is probably needed to get people to scrap worthless and inefficient vehicles.

Perhaps a properly thought out carbon tax, would accelerate more efficient buses, trucks and trains.

It is interesting to note, that hybrid buses are commonplace, but when did you see a hybrid truck?

Could it be, that local politicians have more control over the bus fleets in their area and many of the worst trucks are run by cowboys, who don’t care so long as they earn their money?

It is also easier to complain about your buses, than say trucks moving builders rubbish around, if they are noisy, smelly or emitting black smoke.

But I do think the key to more efficient buses, trucks and large off-road construction equipment, is probably a mixture of better engines and some better method of energy storage, that means say an eight-wheel thirty-tonne truck, could sit silently at traffic lights and then move quietly away, when the lights go green. A lot of buses can do that! Why not trucks?

I also think that the next generation of trains will use onboard energy storage.

  • It enables regenerative braking everywhere, saving as much as a quarter of the electricity.
  • Depots, sensitive heritage areas and downright difficult lines can be without electrification.
  • It enables a get to the next station ability , if the power should fail.

As modern trains from many manufacturers, are increasingly becoming two end units with driving cabs, where you plug appropriate units in between to create a train with the correct mix for the route, energy storage and hybrid power cars will start to appear.

Intriguingly, Bombardier have said that all their new Aventra trains will be wired for onboard energy storage.

So a four-car electric multiple unit, might be changed into a five-car one with on-board energy storage to run a service on a short branch line or over a viaduct in an historic city centre.

 

August 28, 2016 Posted by | Sport, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Cope With Wind

I was alerted to this development by a report in The Times entitled Airport Technology Signals End Of Delays In High Winds.

This is said on the NATS web site in a page entitled Air Traffic Partners Win Innovation Award.

The accolade was in recognition of ‘Time Based Separation’, an aviation world-first introduced in March to cut delays at Heathrow.

During strong headwind conditions, aircraft fly more slowly over the ground resulting in extra time between arrivals and delays for passengers. Time Based Separation, developed by NATS and Lockheed Martin with support from Heathrow and British Airways, uses live wind data to dynamically calculate the optimal safe spacing between aircraft in order to maintain the landing rate.

Its introduction is on course to halve headwind delays at Heathrow and thereby significantly reduce the need for airlines to cancel flights. The judging panel described it as an “outstanding achievement.”

As someone who many times has landed light aircraft in high winds, and in one case where the aircraft in front had problems, this is more significant than you might think.

And it looks like the problem has been solved, by applying some clever methods in the calculation of plane separation.

It is one of those developments, that will have all sorts of different positive effects, for passengers, airlines and even local residents.

The latter could benefit, as one thing you don’t want to be under, is a large jet airliner, that has to perform a go-around, caused by a less-than-perfect approach.

May 31, 2016 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , | 1 Comment

Could New Technology Help Save Steel Jobs?

One of my first jobs was in the instruments laboratory of Enfield Rolling Mills in the early 1960s. As someone with a mind like a sponge, I never missed storing away every piece of useful engineering and scientific information, I might encounter.

The company was involved in the rolling and the production of materials from non-ferrous metals, like copper, bronze, brass and aluminium. For instance, they did a lot of work with the continuous casting of metals like bronze and aluminium.

The company also used scrap metal as a source of raw material for their processing. One of their problems was identifying the scrap before processing and they had experimented with using a radioactive isotope to see, if it could give them an accurate opinion.

It probably wasn’t the best thing to do!

But since then technology has moved on.

I just wonder now, whether mass spectrometry could correctly identify the exact grade of a large piece of brass, bronze or steel!

If it could, I suspect that we could use our scrap metals to avoid refining new.

So I searched using “automatic steel scrap sorting” and found this page entitled Laser Methods For Automatic Scrap Metal Sorting.

And this page on the Oxford Instruments web site entitled Scrap Metal Analysis, Sorting and Recycling.

Who needs blast furnaces?

We just mine the scrap, rather than send it to China!

 

April 22, 2016 Posted by | World | , | 3 Comments