September 25, 2020

Airships can become a cheap and efficient replacement for cargo ships

Airships can become a cheap and efficient replacement for cargo ships

Many scientists are concerned about pollution.atmosphere and global warming, so they are exploring various ways to prevent a crisis. A team from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis suggested using airships again as an environmentally friendly and more efficient alternative to shipping.

Economic and environmental benefits

Transport accounts for about a quarter of all emissions of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, and for sea shipping about 3% of this volume, and this indicator is gradually growing. However, scientists recently suggested using airships again to transport goods between continents.

Airships rely on air currents, so they have clear advantages over cargo ships in terms of both efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.

Jet air currents move in the westdirection at an average speed of about 165 km / h. With such winds, an aerostat lighter than air can fly around the globe in about two weeks (while the ship will take 60 days) and spend only 4% of the fuel consumed by the ship.

Researchers from the International InstituteApplied system analysis also suggest that airships be used not only for transporting goods, but also hydrogen, which can be used both as lifting gas and fuel. As the hydrogen economy develops, this will bring additional benefits.

Safety comes first

At the mention of airships, many people stillSince then, associations have arisen with the tragic disaster of 1937 in Hindenburg, when 36 people died as a result of the ignition of hydrogen, and this mode of transport began to be considered unsafe. Since the IIASA proposal does not completely exclude such a risk, it is not suitable for passenger traffic.

However, scientists say that the risks of firesignificantly reduced when using new materials that are lighter, more durable and resistant to fire, such as graphene. In addition, they offer to lay flight routes bypassing densely populated areas, as well as provide for a system of self-destruction in the stratosphere, and safe evacuation of cargo (for example, using parachutes) in case of problems in the operation of the aerostat.

Most modern airships usehelium instead of hydrogen as a lifting gas. Since helium is an inert gas, its use is safer, but it is less effective, since such vessels are heavier than air, and many times more expensive than hydrogen. However, in the coming years, some companies plan to start using helium balloons to deliver goods to remote regions.

Airships can become a cheap and efficient replacement for cargo ships

Efficiency and feasibility

The most energy intensive part of the workflowis a decrease when the lift gas of the airship must be under pressure. If the energy released during depressurization (during ascent) can be collected, stored and reused for descent, this will significantly reduce energy consumption. In this case, hydrogen fuel on board can be supplemented by solar panels on the surface of the hull.

However, according to IIASA, if you startIf aerostats are used to transport goods right now, it will be 10-50 times more expensive than using ships, which are already a mature technology that has been developing for hundreds of years.

So that the airships can compete withby ordinary sea transport, the freight industry will need to invest at least $ 50-100 billion in the development of this direction over the next two decades.