By 2100 it’s expected that 84% of the 11 billion people living on the planet will be living in cities. Because of this our cities are getting warmer, more crowded and are consuming more resources. However, smart ideas that utilise the latest in technology and advanced materials are helping to find solutions that address these challenges to make the cities we live in cleaner, safer and healthier places for everyone.
VIBRANIUM: HOW CAPTAIN AMERICA INFLUENCED THE HYPERLOOP ONE CAPSULE
Speed and accessibility are going to be the name of the game when it comes to how we travel into the cities of the future. Based in the US Hyperloop One is a company set to change the way people travel. Starting out in a garage in LA in 2014 the Hyperloop One team have already developed the world’s first and only full-scale Hyperloop test track and issued 11 routes across the states which it aims to introduce by 2020. Using a custom electric motor to accelerate and decelerate a levitated pod through a low pressure tube Hyperloop One intends to be moving cargo as early as 2020 and people by 2021.
The capsule itself will use “Vibranium” a carbon-fibre composite material
Named after the fictional material used on the shield of Captain America, Vibranium is 8 times stronger than aluminum and 10 times stronger than steel. It is also much lighter in weight – roughly five times less than steel and 1.5 times less than aluminum—reducing the energy output required to propel the capsule.
Travelling at speeds in excess of 760 mph , Hyperloop will dramatically reduce commute times between cities and even continents. The journey for example from Edinburgh to London could be reduced to as little as 30 minutes making England’s Capital a viable daily commute. Hyperloop brings with it shorter lead times, reduced freight spend and slashed CO2 emissions.
3D PRINTING AND SMART MATERIALS HELPING TO BRIDGE THE GAP
As well as futuristic materials such as Vibranium, fibrous composites have recently started to be considered for more structural load bearing components across construction and civil-engineering. Particularly effective in applications that have to stand up to corrosive environments like sewage or the sea, composites have established themselves as a viable, smart competitive option.
The Uyllander Bridge that crosses the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal in the Netherlands is an example of a load-bearing structure that utilises the properties of advanced composite materials. Using composites to replace more traditional materials such as wood and steel, the bridge was constructed with less-delays, was safer and also more cost effective.
Taking it one step further is the team at MX3D. Printing with 6-axis industrial robots MX3D plan to 3D print a fully functional, intricate bridge over water in the center of Amsterdam. MX3D equips industrial multi-axis robots with 3D tools printing strong, complex and gracious structures out of sustainable material.
“Digital Fabrication enables you to make very complex, organic customised structures with only one technique, I think it will be more and more important in the future” Joris Laarman, Joris Laarman Lab
Composites also provide a smart, thermally efficient modular solution for new and existing residential and commercial buildings. At present 23% of all the energy wasted in the UK comes from existing buildings making composites a preferred choice of material as the construction industry aims to meet its target of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment.
Although a lack of codes, standards and design know-how are significant barriers to take-up composites in construction, the challenge to deliver affordable projects presents an opportunity for growth of composites in the UK market. This is one reason why the trade body, Composites UK acknowledge construction as a target of growth as it aims to diversify to hit it’s 2030 revenue target of £10 billion growth in sales.
INSPIRED BY NATURE: SMART BIMETALS THAT REDUCE EMISSIONS IN TALL BUILDINGS
Finding new ways to reduce the environmental impact of tall buildings in cities, advanced engineering and smart composite materials were central to Professor Doris Sung’s idea about how to combat this challenege. Tall buildings require even larger cooling systems to help regulate their internal air temperature. These mechanical systems use huge amounts of energy and add to the heat island effect increasing the air temperature in urban environments by around 1.4c to 5.8c.
Professor Doris Sung’s idea of using bimetal, a composite material that reacts to sunlight and heat to change shape can be used to regulate the air temperature in buildings.
A former biology major turned architect, Professor Sung was inspired by nature basing her idea on the circulatory system of grasshoppers. Grasshoppers have spiracles in the sides of their bodies which let in air to help cool their systems, flushing the air out when the body reaches it’s desired temperature.
Working in the same way the smart bimetal material, when used in conjunction with an engineered building block could eliminate the need for artificial cooling systems.
Smart bimetals could also be used in window frames unfurling to act as a sun block during hot periods and curling back to let in natural sunlight when it cools and the sun moves to another point on the building.
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