Futureof Physics: the use Of Magnetism and Electricity in FutureTransportation
Futureof Physics: the use Of Magnetism and Electricity in FutureTransportation
Theimpact of human activity, especially the transport operations, in theenvironment is a major concern in the modern world. Currently, about87 % of the total energy consumed globally is fossil fuels thatincrease the risk of environmental pollution (Mearns, 2014). This haspressured scientists and environmentalists to explore alternativesources of energy that can be used to drive the global economy, withthe major focus on the transport industry that is mainly supported byfossil fuel. The main alternative that gives a promise of aneffective transport industry include magnetism and electricity.Although magnetism and electricity have been in use for domestic andindustrial purposes for many years, their exploitation and use in thetransport industry is minimal. This paper will address the use of thetwo alternatives (magnetism and electricity) sources of energy in thetransport industry with a focus on the mechanisms of theirapplication and potential benefits.
Thehistory of electricity dates back to 600 B.C., when Thales of Miletusdiscovered that amber became charged when rubbed against anotherobject (The American Heritage, 2007). However, the idea of producingelectricity in large scale was conceived in 1660 when the first crudemachine that produced static electricity was made. These initialdiscoveries formed the basis of significant advancements made in thenineteenth century, including the production of batteries andelectro-deposition of metals. This paved way for the production ofenergy that could be tapped and used in industries and homes.Magnetism, on the hand, was discovered following the realization thatsome pieces of metal, known as lodestones, behaved in stage ways andalways faced the same direction. By the twelfth century, the Chinesewere using lodestones as compasses, especially for sea navigation(Gardner, 2007). The wide application of magnetism and electricityfor domestic and commercial purposes has given way for theirexploitation in the transport industry to resolve the underlyingchallenges, such as emission of greenhouse gases, high cost, and therisk of depletion of fossil fuels.
Theuse of magnetism in the transportation Magnetic levitation technologyhas a great potential to change the way people travel in the nearfuture. Magnetic levitation, also known as maglev technology involvesthe use of magnetism to float trains on special tracks (Museum ofScience, 2014). Although the idea of floating trains on specialtracks was conceived in 1904 by American rocket scientist, RobertGoddard, the desire to research and implement the concept was firstdone in Germany and Japan in the 1970s (Balestreire &Hollenberger, 2005). The motion of magnetic levitation trains isproduced by magnetic fields and magnetism. The magnetic field isgenerated by high powered electromagnets. The train has a magnetictrack with capacity to repel other magnets that are fixed on thetrain, which in allows the train to float on the special track asshown in Figure 1. Some magnets are placed on the sides of the trackand others on the sides of the train to prevent the train fromleaving the track. The train is propelled forward by a movingmagnetic field.
Figure1: Maglev train
Source:The American Heritage (2007)
Maglevtechnology is a fertile field of research that gives a wide range ofalternatives that scientists can use to improve the efficiency of therailway transport system. Currently, there are three types of maglevsystems in operation, including electrodynamics, electromagnetic, andinductrack system. The electromagnetic system, also known astransrapid applies electromagnets in the track or car to provide thepropulsion and lift forces that move the train (The AmericanHeritage, 2007). The electrodynamics system applies superconductingmagnetic coils instead of electromagnetic coils. The third type ofsystem known as inductrack is still in the development phase and itssuccessful production will eliminate the need for the use of constantelectrical energy. The successful implementation of maglev technologywill result in the construction of a high speed railway transportsystem, reduce the environmental impact of the transport industry,reduce the cost of maintaining railway lines and steel wheel sincemaglev does not cause friction between train and track, and reducethe cost transport.
Theuse of electricity in transportation
Althoughthere are several electric transport machines that are currently inuse, research to refine and enhance their efficiency for futuretransportation is ongoing. Some of the transportation machinespowered by electricity include electric skateboards, electric bikes,electric motorbikes and scooters, electric buses, and electric rails.
Electricskateboards are modified types of skateboards that are propelled byelectric engines and their thrust is controlled by a radio frequencyremote. Similar to regular skateboards, an electric skateboard issteered by shifting the weight of the rider (Greenwit Limited, 2007).Originally, electric skateboards were designed for off-road and localtransport because they can traverse gravel, hard sand, grass, anddirt. The speed of each model depends on the type of battery used asa source of power. For example, skateboards powered by SLA batterytravel at a maximum of 20 km / h and skateboards powered by LiFePO4travel at 30 km / h (Greenwit Limited, 2007).
Electricbicycle or booster bike is a bicycle that has an electric motorintegrated into it, which is used as a means of propulsion. Althoughelectric bikes are available in a wide variety, all of them can bepedaled by the rider, which eliminates their description orclassification as electric motorcycles. Trends show electric bikesare taking a bigger share, compared to conventional bicycles. Forexample, EV World Premium (2013) identifies that electric bikes arereplacing the fossil fuel powered bikes as well as small motorcyclesand have already taken a 10 % of all bicycle sales in Germany. Thisimplies that electric powered bicycles are part of future means oftransportation and are likely to replace the regular bikescompletely. Electric bikes use electric motors, rechargeablebatteries, and some form of control.
Figure2: An electric powered bicycle
Source:EV World Premium (2013)
Electricmotorbikes and scooters
Electricscooters and motorcycles are either two or three wheeled plug-inelectric movers. They have rechargeable batteries that drive electricmotors. Earlier models of electric motorbikes and scooters werepowered by nickel-metal hydride, but extensive research has resultedin the production of high capacity lithium ion batteries that canpower motorbikes and scooters. Charging can be done by plugging intoregular wall sockets that take about 8 hours, but some high powerchargers (such as CHAeMO) can take about one hour (EV World Premium,2013). Effective battery swapping has been developed to allow peoplewithout a garage outlet to use their motorcycles and scooters withoutinterruptions from lack of power. Although electric poweredmotorbikes and scooters have been known for many decades, the worldclass manufactures have seldom focused on commercial production ofthese machines. However, the ongoing research aims at production ofmore efficient and reliable motorcycles and scooters for futuretransportation.
Thereare two types of electric buses, including the autonomous andnon-autonomous e-buses. Non-autonomous electric buses are groupedinto three. First, the trolleybus is powered by overhead wires whereelectricity is drawn by one wire and through the other using the roofmounted poles. Secondly, gap buses have no surface or power lines,but share lanes with regular motor vehicles. Power is drawn fromlines that are implanted in the ground through a gap of about 12 cm(Redden, 2009). Online electric vehicles are powered by highfrequency cables that are buried under the pavement. The autonomouselectric buses include the battery powered buses and gyrobus. Theproduction of electric buses is one of the areas of research thathave attracted many researchers. For example, the MassachusettsInstitute of Technology is in the process of developing anultracapacitor with high energy density, which will result in theproduction of more effective e-busses in the future (Hamilton, 2009).
Electrictrain refers to a type of train that is powered by electric current.Currently, there are four varieties of electric train, includingelectric locomotive, battery multiple unit, electric multiple unit,and railway electrification system. The electric current used topower electric locomotive is generated sourced from overhead lines,on-board energy storage, or from a third rail (Hay,1982). Althoughthe power used to drive electric locomotives is mainly generated fromcombustion of fossil fuels, there is a wider range of alternativesources of energy (such as nuclear power, hydroelectric power, windturbine, geothermal and solar power) that are cleaner compared tomobile sources of energy, including locomotive engines. The multipleunit, also known as EMU, a type of electric train have self-propelledcarriages that rely on electricity as the primary motive power. EMUdoes not require the use of detached locomotive because electricmotors are well incorporated in several carriages. The tractionmotors of battery multiple units are driven by rechargeablebatteries. This is one of the most environmentally friendly types oftrain because it is quiet and it does not use fossil fuels. Therailway electrification system does not rely on any on-board mover,but uses supplies power to trams and trains. Although this systemdoes not cause negative effects to the environment, it has severallimitations that include vulnerability to power surge and high costof infrastructure.
Magnetismand electricity are some of the alternative sources of energy thatpromises a more efficient, environmentally safe, and faster transportindustry. Although the two alternatives have been in existence forcenturies, extensive research on their application in the transportindustry began in the twentieth century. The ongoing research on theuse of magnetism in transportation will result in the development ofeffective and environmentally maglev, which will reduce the use ofregular locomotives that are powered by fossil fuel. Electricity, onthe other hand, has a wide of application in transportation, rangingfrom skateboards, bikes, motorcycles, scooters, trains, and buses. Inessence, the use of magnetism and electricity to reduce overrelianceon fossil fuels in the transport industry will make the futuretransport industry safer, reliable, faster, and efficient.
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