The Transport Internet™ and Foodtubes™
Contact: Noel Hodson firstname.lastname@example.org
Imperial College Transport Engineering - discussion group.
Imperial College Jan 2015 Presentation Slides
Imperial College Jan 2015 Presentation Slides
|TRANSPORT INTERNET SLIDES|
I confess to having been an accountant from the age of 17; so my instinctive approach to projects is via business forecasts. I worked on transport statistics for more than ten years, to reduce commuting to work and business travel; by working from home by computer – Teleworking – working at a distance; or, in America, Telecommuting – commuting at a distance. Greater London EXCEL model
The promotion of Teleworking, from 1987 to date – has been successful. Today - About 12% of people work at home by computer on any one work day and most of us use laptops & mobiles to be location-free. My last fee for advising a major employer on The Economics of Telework, was in 2003 – from the World Health Organisation in Geneva – shortly after drafting Telework Guidelines for Transport for London, who employ 1,000+ desk workers in Victoria Street, Westminster.
Employers no longer need Telework Consultants, so I turned my attention to reducing freight traffic – and came up with the – The Transport Internet™. Academics took the concept and made it a practical engineering proposition.
The Transport Internet™ & Foodtubes™ will carry Food and Other Goods.
We have focused on Food because after Water, food is the next heaviest, necessary, daily cargo. We all have to eat – and the food has to be transported from farm to plate. The water we use is 120 times heavier than the food we cart home from shops. Also, focusing on food – or in its broader context – on Supermarket goods, is helped by the global statistics on food transport. One of the facts that emerge from the mass of data is that 25% of all freight vehicles carry food – or supermarket goods. Some studies show that 30% of all freight vehicles are engaged on food deliveries.
In our calculations we add “Other Suitable Goods” – non-food goods for homes, factories, colleges, and so on; which with food, replaces 50% of the freight vehicles travelling on our roads and rails – and via our airports and seaports. The other half carry goods that are too large to fit into the Cargo-Capsules; such as sofas, armchairs and double beds.
But – if you can imagine London streets with half the number of vans and lorries – and imagine Dover with half the number of freight vehicles crossing the Channel, as our pipelines will also be installed under seas, you will start to see some of the advantages of The Transport Internet™.
The engineering principles are based on Minimum Weight Vehicles (MWVs).
Let’s consider the water we each use. A bath-full of water is very heavy – it comes in clean – goes out grey – and is transported by pipelines. IF, IF… all our water were to be delivered and taken away by trucks; every road, worldwide, would be gridlocked. The delivery trucks would weigh many times their cargoes – would also carry heavy loads of diesel fuel – and need large drivers, munching hedgehog sandwiches.
After a month or two of such chaos and waste of energy – some bright engineer would invent pipelines. Fortunately, mankind invented the water pipeline before the internal combustion engine – about 5,000 years before.
The engineering questions are – “What are we trying to transport? And what is the most efficient vehicle?” It comes down to the parcel-to-vehicle weight ratio. For water – we convert the entire transport infrastructure of iron trucks, noisy engines, metalled roads, railways, signals, police, loveable parking wardens, fuel supplies – and hedgehog eating drivers – into pipelines. Mankind transports only the goods we want. We do this at very low cost, silently and invisibly.
Mankind has done the same with gas and oil. The world today has a million kilometres of large diameter pipelines. These pipes are installed in all regions – over-ground, underground, through mountains, deserts and wilderness, through cities and under oceans. Our civilisation would collapse without these silently flowing cargoes.
The Transport Internet™ applies the same pipeline principles to Food supplies. It is a pipeline system for dry goods. It uses only 8% of the energy currently used to transport our food (and other goods). 92% of the diesel or energy used now for this transport, today, is not used to move the cargoes, but to move the vehicles – lorries, vans, trains, ships and planes.
Pipelines have been around for 5,000 years – pneumatic powered capsules date back to about 1850. In this project we considered but abandoned the cast iron, steam and huffing and puffing of glorious Victorian engineering – “The great iron horse that crosses the prairies” in favour of lightweight electricity and 21st century software.
When we first assembled the Foodtubes Team, in 2005, we focused on pneumatic powered capsules running through the pipelines, picturing larger version of the 6 inch or 31 cm wide air driven capsules that still whizz around some stores – recently revived to shuttle documents around banks.
However, pneumatics require valves, pumps, gates and many moving parts, and will not work well on the scale envisioned for The Transport Internet™. Instead we immobilised the power source and made it part of the pipeline infrastructure by embedding the drive coils for a Linear Induction Motor between the rails in the pipes on which the capsules run. The skeleton of the capsules are rectangular boxes measuring 1 x 1 x 2 metres and sit on wheeled bogies which remain on the rails while the cargo is loaded or unloaded. The soft-iron or other magnetic material plate that forms the other half of the LIM is incorporated into the bogie. The capsule cases are likely to be customised for major users e.g. such as TESCO.
Network control software is used to track the position and speed of every capsule with high precision and to apply the power to the LIMS as required. Additional coils are located at junctions, including sidings at each loading or delivery location, to steer the capsules with no moving parts or points in the rails. The boxes containing the goods are simple and inexpensive and are loaded and unloaded automatically by robots at high speed before returning the capsule to the circuit.
The LIMs we will use are about the size of a briefcase.
Like pneumatics, LIMs also date back to Victorian times. Encased in resin, they are the first solid state electronics – wholly reliable – in use safely all over the world. Currently they are being tested by the US to launch planes off aircraft carriers. Terminal 5 Heathrow uses them to cart luggage round its system. There are thousands of LIMs used in Disneyworld and other fairgrounds.
The LIMs enable our cargo-capsules to have no engines, no internal propulsion at all. The cargo-capsules are therefore ultra-lightweight vehicles - MWVs. The capsules can be made of fibre-glass, carbon fibre, aluminium and other lightweight materials.
Even carrying quarry stone, the large diameter pipelines will last 100 years before major overhaul (Dr Jonathan Carter – Imperial College Engineering – 2009). In forecasts we assume a 50 year life.
The pipes can be made of concrete, steel, iron, or, our preference – from polyethylene. Polyethylene has been proven for decades in the water, oil and gas pipeline industries. It is not only easy to install polyethylene pipes using no-dig-technology (no open trenches in the streets above) but burying polyethylene, made from oil, also sequesters or stores carbon and helps to combat climate change gases.
Many non-engineers cannot imagine how The Transport Internet™ pipelines could be installed to serve, say the whole of Greater London - and eventually the world. The concept is too large to easily envisage. But installation – and the resulting commercial factors – is broken down into bite sized civil-engineering and financeable chunks.
A typical Dense-Urban Circuit is installed as a 100 km loop or circuit, costing $4M per km; mostly underground for security and aesthetic reasons, with 400 Terminals – entrances and exits. The cargo-capsules all travel in the same direction, returning empty capsules to their base stations free of charge. Imagine a circuit installed in Croydon, London – with 130,000 homes to feed (via the shops) – it will take 1,400 food & general goods vehicles per day off the streets – and so relieve Croydon’s chronic gridlocks. The Croydon Circuit will run from a cargo-transfer depot on the M25. It will cost about $400 million and make $60 million profit a year.
For several reasons – installation, loading, handling, tracking etc. we currently plan for the pipelines to be 1.5 metres in diameter – with capsules varying in length up to 2 metres – about the size of a large man - and having a lesser diameter - for wiggle room – room to negotiate junctions, bends and inclines. Specialised capsules will include ones that are refrigerated, shorter (to climb tall buildings and be easily handled), transparent for visual inspection; and ones for dirty or dangerous cargoes. Very specialised capsules, Pipeline Inspection Gauges – PIGS, as used in the pipeline industry, will be equipped to deal with engineering and blockage problems. Our current commercial plan also budgets for maintenance shafts from the surface.
A Typical-Circuit might then be installed in the next district, say in Richmond, similarly of 100 km, and the two circuits will be interlinked.
Because there are no valves, doors or barriers, cargo-capsules can run freely through both circuits. The wider effect – say for Greater London – is like a honeycomb of Typical Circuits. For long distance travel – say, London to Manchester – elongated loops will be installed. Eventually a loaded capsule could be sent from Cape Town to Edinburgh with no human intervention. Speeds will vary from as low as 5km per hour in very dense networks – to 150km per hour on long connecting runs.
Dense Urban circuits, where there are many thousands of homes – are both the most useful to society and the most profitable to own. Urban, Rural and Wilderness Circuits can be installed at far lower cost than Dense Urban circuits – but will carry less traffic.
The recommended transport-price per capsule is a one-price-fits-all of $5 or £3 - using the same logic as the Victorian postal service one-price Penny Stamp. The revenue will be automatically divided across all circuits travelled – similar to the way telephone charges are shared across networks. We calculate the base cost of transporting a capsule at $2 dollars, less than any existing freight system – earning a 70% profit. Skilled professionals can check & change the 50 variables in our Greater London EXCEL model.
Each Terminal – entrance or exit – for example an entry point shared by a row of shops or offices – will be fenced into a security cage. Registered senders (and receivers) will have access to Terminals using a Transport Internet™ Debit card – which also acts as an identity key to the secure area. All capsules will be auto-scanned – many times per journey – for banned cargoes – particularly people.
The Transport Internet™ (TTI) cargo-capsules are no more of a security risk than the millions of cars and freight vehicles travelling the roads & rails today.
One reason for setting the maximum size of cargo-capsules as 1 metre x 2 metres is to accommodate man-handling at Terminals. Many capsules will emerge at and be sent from remote Terminals, say, on farms, where they will be handled by one or two persons – by hand. Much larger capsules – say filled with bottles of beer, could be far too cumbersome.
In engineering terms, it may be obvious that to create a global Transport Internet, all our pipelines must be built using the same dimensions, protocols and specifications; to allow capsules free passage everywhere. Our project Team’s main function is to coordinate the design and to act as guardian of the standard specifications.
Similarly the commercial specifications and the pricing need to be co-ordinated. All Circuit-Owners will buy and sign a Franchise Agreement.
The Transport Internet™ Inventors have invested £1.5 million to date in this idea. We own the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The broad overall concept for The Transport Internet™, using pipes and LIMs, we are advised is not readily patentable; but we have prior published the concept and do own defensible copyright and design rights in all the work since 2005. Our legally defensible patents, several dozen, will vest in the detail of the “How-To” work, in the engineering blueprints, the commercial blueprints and in the controlling software. These protections will all be put in place alongside the first major financial and engineering step – to build a 3 km Sales Demonstration Circuit – currently planned to be sited at Spadeadam, Cumbria, UK.