Evacuated Tube Transport (ETT) could revolutionise the way we travel in the future. Using airless and frictionless vacuum tubes, passengers would travel in enclosed pods at speeds of up to 4,000mph (6,500kph), greatly reducing journey times. It would be safer, cheaper and quieter than trains or aeroplanes.*
airliners are already being researched and developed, and could enter
commercial service within the next 25 years.*
would have a cruising speed of Mach 5 - or 3,800 mph - allowing them
to fly from Europe to Australia in less than four hours. With a range
of more than 20,000 km (12,000 miles) they could perform this journey
without refuelling. They would have excellent subsonic and supersonic
fuel efficiency, avoiding the problems inherent in earlier supersonic
aircraft. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, hypersonic airliners
will be environmentally friendly. Powered by liquid hydrogen, their
only waste products will be water vapor and small levels of nitrous
advantage is that, while the 150m-long designs will be larger than previous
jets, they will actually be lighter than Boeing 747s and could utilise
conventional airport runways. They will have moderate take-off noise,
ways, they will be the spiritual successor of Concorde.
will likely be windowless, however. The heat generated by traveling
so fast will make it difficult to install windows that are not too heavy.
One solution to this problem might be the installation of flat screen
displays projecting images of the scene outside.
roadways are a relatively new concept. If developed, they would allow
highways, roads, parking lots, driveways and pavements to create electricity,
using photovoltaics. Traditional asphalt and concrete surfaces could
instead be replaced by super-strong, self-healing glass and solar panels
capable of being driven and walked upon.
the production of clean energy, these hi-tech surfaces would have other
advantages. In northern climates, for example, they could heat themselves
with embedded heating elements (similar to the rear window of a car),
eliminating ice and snow buildup. Cities would no longer have the expense
of snow removal and the problems caused by the chemicals (salt, magnesium
chloride, etc.) used to maintain clear roads. Businesses would no longer
have to worry about keeping their parking lots cleared, while homeowners
would no longer have to suffer through winters of shovelling or ploughing
snow off their driveways and sidewalks. A large number of deaths and
injuries would be prevented just by keeping the roads safe and dry.
could be built in, creating "smart" roads that dynamically
responded to traffic, weather, emergencies and other events. For example,
if an animal tried to cross, oncoming drivers would be instantly alerted
and given plenty of time to slow down.
vehicles would benefit tremendously. They could be recharged at any
conveniently located rest stop, or at any business incorporating solar
road panels in their parking lots. Owners could plug their cars in and
recharge them while shopping or dining out.
would offer a decentralised power source - replacing all of our current
centralised power stations. Roads and pavements would become the power
grid, producing a secure and stable network of energy that would be
impossible to shut down by terrorists or anybody else. The days of widespread
power outages would be history. The need for unsightly utility poles
and relay stations would also be eliminated.
take roughly five billion 12' by 12' solar road panels just to cover
the roads, parking lots and driveways in the USA. Imagine the manufacturing
requirements: so many new jobs would be created that it might very well
become the "New Deal" of the 21st century. Workers could be
retrained from obsolete jobs such as coal miners and asphalt workers
with new "green collar" jobs. Unemployment rates would plummet.
Vast sums of money would be injected back into the economy. Given the
political will and financial commitment, this revolutionary technology
could produce the biggest mobilisation of workers since WWII.
one organisation in the USA has obtained funding to develop prototypes. Solar Roadways,
run by Scott and Julie Brusaw, has been awarded a $100,000 research
contract by the US Department of Transportation.*
the near future, the availability of cheap energy is likely to become
a major issue as fossil fuels begin to decline. Ship transport will
be among the sectors most directly affected. Even if peak oil lies further
into the future than currently predicted, another trend coming into
play is the need to drastically reduce CO2 emissions. A recent study
by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) claims that emissions
from the shipping industry now stand at roughly 1 billion metric tons
per year.* This is nearly
3% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions, or eight times the total CO2
released by all volcanoes on Earth.* If shipping were ranked as a country, it would be equivalent to the
6th largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.*
oil and global warming have spurred efforts to create new and more efficient
ship transport systems. There are many technical and operational means
by which this is being achieved. These include new propeller and rudder
designs, more flexible use of engines, waste heat recovery, better route
planning, improved weather routing systems and autopilots, speed optimisation
and improved slot time and turn-around systems in ports and canals.
exciting, innovative and longer-term solution is the use of solar and
hybrid technologies. The car industry is already beginning to go electric,
with a majority of new vehicles predicted to be electric or hybrid-electric
by 2030. Eventually, the shipping industry could see widespread adoption
of electric too.
boats became popular in the 1880s, a trend that continued until the
1920s, when internal combustion engines took dominance. Since the energy
crisis of the 1970s, interest in this quiet and potentially renewable
marine energy source has been increasing steadily again, especially
as solar cells are now available - making possible motorboats with unlimited
ranges like sailboats.
practical solar boat was constructed in 1975 in England. The first commercial
solar passenger boats appeared in Switzerland in 1995, capable of short
excursions on lakes. The first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by a solar
boat was achieved in 2007 by the 14m (46ft) long catamaran Sun21.* Another milestone was achieved in 2009 when the first cargo ship to
use solar power was launched in Japan. The 60,000 ton, 200m (660ft)
vessel can generate 40 kilowatts of solar power, which covers only 0.2%
of the ship's energy for propulsion, but its company hopes to increase
As of 2011,
PlanetSolar is the world's largest 100% solar powered boat, with
a length of 31m (101ft) and a maximum speed of 14 knots (26 km/h). Powered
by 470 square metres of solar panels, it is set to circumnavigate the
Earth, stopping at cities along the way to raise public awareness of
power becomes cheaper and more efficient, companies are now looking
to the future with a number of more advanced design concepts emerging.
One such company is Sauter
Carbon Offset Design. Its primary objective is "...to reduce
GHG emissions by 50 to 100% in boats by optimizing and applying the
full range of well-established technology in shipbuilding, and when
applicable to employ the cutting edge advances to come out of the automotive
and aerospace industry."
on their website, solar isn't the only form of alternative energy that
can be applied to ship transport. Assisting sails and/or giant kites
utilising the wind can be incorporated too. In optimal weather conditions
and using the right materials and setup, these could offer surprisingly
strong power.* Energy
from passing waves captured by Motion Damping Regeneration (MDR) could
also be used.
continues to decline, perhaps even disappearing within 50 years, larger
bulk carriers may transition to solar and hybrid technology. Below is
one such concept. The "Black Magic" tanker is a 125m long
solar hybrid vessel that would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75 to
100% - harnessing energy from the Sun, wind and waves to charge a lithium-ion
hypothetical structure that may become a reality later this century
is a transatlantic tunnel. If built, this would allow undersea transit
between Europe and North America. At speeds greater than 5,000 mph (8,000
kph), passengers could travel from London to New York in less than an
the use of nanotechnology, automation and robots, the tunnel could be
built surprisingly quickly. It would be controlled largely by AI. Carbon
nanotubes and powerful geo-sensing devices would be paramount in the
structure's design; these could self-adjust in the event of undersea
earthquakes, for example.
would use a maglev system and would operate in a complete vacuum. This
would eliminate air friction, enabling them to reach hypersonic speeds.
of such a project would be in the region of $88-175bn.*