The transport industry has transformed over the past few decades with numerous innovations in technology. From steam engines to rechargeable car batteries, the industry has heavily invested in the use of sustainable energy and new innovative technologies that could enhance fuel efficiency whilst minimising environmental impacts. The most prominent development is the invention of electric vehicles.
There are however several limitations at present which hinder the use of electric vehicles and, primarily, the fuel-consumption and range of fuel has been a challenge yet to be satisfactorily overcome in the industry. Alternative energy storage systems such as hydrogen-powered vehicles and trains are currently being researched to understand the full application of hydrogen fuel cells and assess the stability and safety of such application. Additionally, safety is the most important aspect in the industry, and it must be considered when developing new technologies for any application.
A carbon footprint measures the total greenhouse gas emission caused by a particular action or event of an individual; it has been commonly applied in the industry to illustrate the carbon footprint related to taking different forms of transportation. Because of this, the industry aims to reduce its carbon footprint when developing new innovations and technologies.
Improving Safety features
Safety will always be the number one concern whenever dealing with transportation issues, and it has been a major focus for research in the transport sector for many decades. Improvements in the overall safety of a vehicle does not just include improvement made to airbags or crumple zones, but may in future rely on developments made in AI and sensor technologies to avoid a collision or other accidents.
Electric Vehicles and Alternative fuels
As consumers, governments and companies adopt greener practices, this will continue to push developments in electric vehicles and alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen. Improvements in the efficiency or capacity of batteries used in electric vehicles will continue to be a major source of R&D in the sector as more forms of transport, such as air travel, attempt to make the move to electric vehicles.
Development into more sustainable materials
To cut the carbon footprint of transportation, many companies are investigating supplementing building materials with less carbon-intensive alternatives. This could include using more sustainable polymers in aeroplane seating or implementing more recycled materials in the construction of railways.
Development of a pre-curved rail process
In the rail industry, specialist suppliers are normally used to create pre-curved rails to assist in the building of the curved railway panels; however, one of our clients was given only two weeks’ notice from the client before work had to begin on site. This meant that the specialist suppliers did not have the capacity to produce the pre-curved rails in the quantity required for the project. As a result, our client needed to investigate how it could produce the pre-curved rails without assistance from the specialist suppliers.
Specialist suppliers conventionally use a system comprising of a series of rollers to create the pre-curved rails and bend them into shape. The company would not have been able to use the same equipment on site as the machinery can only be operated safely in a large factory space, so the company needed to find an alternative method that would allow it to produce the curved rails using equipment that would be readily available on site.
The company began by assessing how it could form the pre-curved rails without access to conventional equipment. They initially designed a system comprising of a series of lifting jacks to fix the rail in position and bend it into shape; they also designed systems using several different types of lifting jack located at different points along the rail. They found however, that they were unable to create a system with enough strength to adequately bend the rail.
This led to the company developing a process that made use of a JCB Loadall telehandler to bend the rail once fixing the end points in place. Several attempts were required to ensure that this process could bend the rails accurately. This involved testing different attachments on the telehandler (such as chain slings and camlocks) to see which could most accurately bend the rail, with the company finding that the camlocks were not as effective at bending the rail into position as the chain slings were.
The company also encountered issues with the rail springing out of position as soon as the force from the telehandler was relieved. Initially, when the company bent the rail into shape using the telehandler, they could only clip the central two sleepers in position before releasing the force from the machine to try and save time. However, this was inadequate in helping to maintain the curved shape of the rail. As a result, after several iterations the company realised that all the sleepers needed to be clipped in position prior to relieving the force from the telehandler to help ensure that the rails were held in place accurately.
As a result of this work, the company successfully developed a process that allowed them to create and install pre-curved rail panels on site without needing conventional equipment. The company also managed to reduce the amount of time it took to position and install the required sleepers from 60 minutes to 10 minutes.
Alternative energy storage systems such as hydrogen-powered vehicles and trains are currently being researched to understand the full application of hydrogen fuel cells and assess the stability and safety of such application. Additionally, safety is the most important aspect in the industry, and it must be considered when developing new technologies for any application.
Klara has a MSc in Sustainable Energy Futures from Imperial College London and believes R&D plays an integral role in facilitating the UK energy transition. As co-founder of the Warwick Women’s Engineering Society, Klara is passionate about driving long-lasting change and fostering sustainability through cross-cultural collaborating and promoting diversity in STEM.
Our team of in-house technical R&D experts are best placed to find the R&D within your business. Book your free consultation and discover how much your claim could be worth.
R&D Tax Analyst