Current projects

Feasibility of Underground Pneumatic Freight Transport in New York City, sponsored by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Agreement No.7643 (4/1/03-8/1/04).

This project investigates the feasibility of using pneumatic capsule pipeline (PCP) for underground freight transport in New York City (NYC). Six different applications of advanced PCP systems in NYC were considered including: (1) temporary PCPs for transporting materials in and out tunnels during tunnel construction, (2) a dedicated PCP for transporting municipal solid wastes from nine transfer stations in NYC to a large landfill in a neighboring state, (3) a dedicated PCP for transporting mail and parcels from (to) five locations in NYC to (from) Washington D.C. and the cities in between along the East Coast, (4) a network of underground PCP tunnels of 7 ft diameter in NYC to transport any freight that is normally transported on pallets, or in crates, boxes or bags, (5) a special PCP to dispatch containers from (to) the ports of NYC to (from) an inland inspection/intermodal-transfer station in New Jersey, and (6) a special PCP to ferry trucks from (to) the food center of Hunts Point to (from) a nearby highway interchange.
Of the six potential applications studied, the first five were found to be far more cost-effective than using trucks, which is the current means of freight transport in 97% of cases in NYC. The study found that in adding to reducing freight transportation cost in NYC, the use of PCPs will greatly benefit the City in other ways as well including reducing traffic jam on the City’s streets and highways, reducing air pollution and accidents caused by trucks, improving New Yorkers’ quality of life, and enhancing economic development.
For more information about the project, please read the ASCE article and/or the project final report in the section “Company Publications”. (Note: Please feel free to download the article and the report for detailed reading).

An Electromagnetic Pneumo Capsule System for Conveying Minerals, sponsored by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), U. S. Department of Energy (DOE), Grant No. DE-PS26_03NT41757-1 (9/1/03-11/30/04).

The purpose of this project is to conduct research to design and develop a new advanced pneumatic capsule pipeline (PCP) system for transporting minerals and mine wastes. The system is to be driven by linear induction motors (LIMs), and it uses capsules that run on guided rails inside the pipe (conduit) of 1 m by 1 m cross-section. The system is expected to be a major improvement over the current PCP systems, which use blowers instead of LIMs, and use capsule wheels with rubber tires rolling freely inside the pipe. The use of LIMs instead of blowers enables capsules to pass through the entire pipe system from inlet to outlet unimpeded, thereby greatly enhancing throughput and system capability. The use of capsules with steel wheels running on rails greatly reduces contact friction, thereby drastically reducing energy consumption of the system. It also facilitates control of the motion of capsules at pipeline branches, inlet and outlet. The study is expected to result in the development of a revolutionized advanced PCP system for use in mining. Use of such a system in mining in the future will result in large cost savings and reduced energy consumption to mining companies. It also helps the environment by reducing the use of trucks for transporting minerals and mine wastes. The scope of work of the project includes: (1) deriving all the equations needed for the design and operation of this special PCP system driven by LIMs, (2) using the derived equations to design several systems of the advanced PCP for analysis and optimization, (3) analyzing the system performance under various conditions in order to determine system characteristics and to optimize the design of the system, (4) calculating the energy efficiency of the optimized systems, and (5) determining the costs and the cost effectiveness of the optimized systems of PCP, and comparing the results with the costs of using trucks and railroads to transport minerals and mine wastes.
For more information on the project, please read the final report of this project which will apper on this website in January 2005.
Compacting Fly Ash to Make Bricks, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase-1 project, Grant No. NSF-DMI-0419311 (7/1/04-12/31/04).

Fly ash is a byproduct of burning coal for power generation. It exists in large quantity at the nation’s coal fired power plants. So far, only about 30% of fly ash generated in the United States is utilized; the remaining 70% is wasted and enters landfills or slurry ponds. Previous research has found that by mixing Class-C Fly ash with a small amount of water, the mixture can be compacted into bricks which, upon curing at room temperature, become as strong as concrete bricks. The fly ash bricks also have good water absorption property and low permeability. However, they are weak in freezing/thawing property, causing the bricks to deteriorate prematurely when used outdoor in cold climates. The purpose of this NSF grant is to improve the freezing/thawing properties of the compacted fly ash bricks, so that such bricks can be used economically anywhere in the United States.
In this project, the freezing/thawing property of the flyash bricks will be improved by five different approaches: (1) adding a small amount of fiber to the flyash before compaction, (2) adding some cement or lime to the flyash before compaction, (3) using a special sealants to coat the bricks, (4) using improved flyash-to-water ratios and better mixing of fly ash with water, and (5) using an improved mold design that can make better. The effectiveness of using each of these approaches to improve the freezing/thawing property of the flyash bricks are being tested and assessed in this study, together with a determination of the cost-effectiveness of each of the approaches.
Due to the simplicity of the process in producing such fly ash bricks and the low cost of the raw materials (fly ash and water) – it is expected that the fly bricks can be produced at a cost significantly less than that of either the concrete brick or the vitrified clay brick. Therefore, once the freezing-thawing property of the fly ash brick is significantly improved, the brick is expected to have a large market and a bright future.

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