They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material
The Foodtubes group wants to put goods in metal capsules 2 meters (6 feet) long, which are shifted through underground polyethylene tubes at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, directed by linear induction motors and routed by intelligent software to their destinations.
The group, which includes an Oxford physics professor and logistics experts, wants £15 million to build a 5 mile test circuit, and believes the scheme could fund itself if used by large supermarkets and local councils, and could expand because it uses an open architecture.
China has an 850 meter long tube maglev system for moving coal. Magplane Technology also wants to move people and freight.
The group has developed a plan for the London borough of Croydon, which would link all the food outlets, schools and other major buildings in the London borough of Croydon. “It would cost £400 million to build and, if run by the council or a consortium, it would make £80 million a year,” said Hodson, who says Transport for London has also expressed an interest.
The proposal uses lightweight capsules, which are roughly the same size as the cages that are carried by supermarket lorries, Hodson explained. They are moved by an electromagnetic “kick” from linear induction motors built into the side of the underground tubes and, at junctions, are steered one way or another by other linear motors operating under computer control.
The energy savings over road distribution would be huge, since around 92 percent of the diesel burnt by a lorry is used to transport the vehicle itself, which spends much of its time driving around almost empty
A ring-main of 1,500 kilometres might initially circle the UK, linking loops that connect to all major food producers and retailers making approximately 3,000 kilometres of pipe. The capsules will travel at high speed, at say 100 KPH, and be computer addressed and controlled. Approximately 30 to 50 capsules replace 1 road lorry of 44 tonnes. Spaced 1 metre apart the 3,000 kilometres network could accommodate 300 capsules per kilometre, or 900,000 capsules in circulation. At any one time 50% of capsules will be out of the pipes, being loaded or unloaded – just as road vehicles (HGVs) are off the road network for long periods of time. Thus a 3,000 kilometres network would accommodate 1,800,000 capsules; the equivalent of 36,000 HGVs of up to 44 tonnes (laden); which travel not less than 60,000 kilometres a year at about 2.4 KPL (7 MPG UK), burning 25,000 litres of diesel a year each or 900 million litres of fuel. From weight savings alone, the capsules are 40-50 times more fuel efficient saving 880 million litres per year. Add to this, a far larger TRAFFIC-DECONGESTION impact and a substantial CO2-CLEANED-AIR benefit. 200,000 food carrying HGVs could, in theory, be replaced by 17,000 kilometres of pipelines and capsules, with a UK saving of 40 million tonnes (0.04 B tonnes) of CO2 per year.
Extrapolated world-wide – the saving could be from 1 billion to 4 billion tonnes of CO2 per year, prevented from entering the atmosphere.
Futurama has a famous vision of moving people in tubes.
In 1861, the Pneumatic Despatch Company built a system large enough to move a person, although it was intended for parcels. The October 10, 1865 inauguration of the new Holborn Station was marked by having the Duke of Buckingham, the chairman, and some of the directors of the company blown through the tube to Euston (a five minute trip).
The 550-meter Crystal Palace pneumatic railway was exhibited at the Crystal Palace in 1864. This was a prototype for a proposed Waterloo and Whitehall Railway that would have run under the River Thames linking Waterloo and Charing Cross. Digging commenced in 1865 but was halted in 1868 due to financial problems.
Alfred Ely Beach’s experimental pneumatic elevated subway on display in 1867
In 1867 at the American Institute Fair in New York, Alfred Ely Beach demonstrated a 32.6 meter long, 1.8 meter diameter pipe that was capable of moving 12 passengers plus a conductor.
Modern day Pneumatic tube terminal used in factories, supermarkets, banks/credit unions and medical facilities
Magplane touted in China Ministry of Science and Technology Newsletter
A mini Magplane pipeline transportation system, jointly developed by Inner Mongolia based Magplane Technology, Inc. and US based Magplane Technology, had a successful test run launched on July 9, 2009 at the premises of the Rare Earth Development Park in Baotou. Having a length of 80m, the demonstration line is made up of a fully closed magnetic pipeline and a magnetic cargo compartment. The strong magnetic driving power produced by the linear synchronous motor in the pipeline pushed the cargo compartment to move at a speed of 10m a second. Experimental data show that a magnetic pipeline with a diameter of 1100mm is able to realize an annual transportation volume worth 5 million or 15 million tons of solid cargo, such as coal and iron ores. The demonstration line is designed to provide experimental data for a longer demonstration line (1km) and a commercial demonstration line (12km).
Free from the impacts of climate and environment, the new transportation system is able to cope with complicated and tough terrains, enjoying the strength unmatched by any other transportation tools, in terms of economy, energy efficiency, environment friendliness, and efficiency. It has an energy cost that is only 5% of the highway transportation system.
The initial demonstration of a MagPipe line in Inner Mongolia will be a 500 meter long doublepipe coal transport system with the design transportation capacity of 3 Mega-tonnes per year. The pipeline consists of 6 meter long plastic pipe modules with an I-beam suspension system inside the pipe to carry sets of five coupled capsules. The pipe will also contain non-continuous motor winding modules spaced at 50 meter intervals. A set of Halbach-arrayed permanent magnets on the bottom of the capsules interact with the linear motor windings to provide propulsion. The motor is driven by variable frequency drives outside the pipe to control the speed. This paper describes the preliminary design results of MagPipe system. (7 pages)
The cost of MagPipe pipeline transportation systems
will be project specific and will depend on capacity,
length, terrain, uphill grades on outbound (loaded)
direction, and custom features that may be required.
Two coal transportation routes with large and small
capacities in Inner Mongolia have been analyzed as
follows to assess the economic advantage of MagPipe
coal transportation over truck transportation.
Large capacity application:
Production of 35 Mega-tonnes per year transported 40 km between collection and distribution hubs.
• Using 35-tonne dump trucks, 1 million truck dumps per year are required
• 31.7 million litres of diesel fuel consumed causing severe pollution
• Annual trucking costs @ US$0.08/t-km = US$112M
MagPipe costs to the client
• A 35 Mt/year MagPipe can be designed using larger physical size and higher load factors
• Estimated cost to build = US$220M (two pipelines for round trip)
• Annual operating costs @US$0.011/t-km = US$15M (savings of $97M / year)
The total net cost reduction over 10 years is US$742M.
Small capacity application:
A typical mine to rail head transportation route was selected for analysis:
• 20 km truck route between mine and rail head
• 15 km MagPipe direct route between mine and rail head
• Coal production of 3 Mt/year Trucking costs
• Total costs are between 8 to 11 cents USD per tonne-km
• At the lower estimate of 8 cents per tonne-km trucking costs are US$4.8M / year
• Use of diesel fuel contributes to local pollution
MagPipe costs to the client
• MagPipe cost to build = US$32.1M (two pipelines for round trip)
• MagPipe operating costs at $0.026/t-km = $1.17M (savings of $3.63M / year)
The net cost reduction over 10 years is US$3.7M.
According to our economic analysis, MagPipe transportation solutions are economically superior to diesel dump trucks for capacities above 2 Mt per year
in China. The cost savings increase significantly with capacity and distance. Cost superiority is even greater in other countries such as the United States where
truck operating costs are substantially higher than in China.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.