Efficient transport drives employment, trade and economic growth, but increasing levels of traffic raise concerns about safety, health and the environment. European research aims to maximise the benefits of mobility and minimise its negative effects, keeping people and the economy on the right track.
More competitive air travel
Europe is one of the world's leading exporters of aeronautics products and services, and the sector is vital to the economy. With increased global competition, innovation is needed to provide more cost effective products and services.
With more people flying than ever before and demand growing fast, better safety and security systems are vital to ensure there are fewer accidents and more secure aircraft.
Air travel is vital to the European economy, but it has a heavy environmental toll. Technological advances are needed to cut emissions and noise, especially with demand for flying predicted to rise in future.
Researchers are working on pioneering concepts in air transport. These smart technologies will help the sector meet the challenges it faces, and provide flights for the 21st century and beyond.
More competitive water transport
Research in the waterborne transport sector aims to stimulate growth and help Europe maintain and strengthen its position as a maritime superpower.
Safer water transport
As demand for waterborne transport increases, a key challenge is to maintain and improve safety standards. EU researchers are now aiming for a 'zero accidents' target, as well as improved crashworthiness of vessels and improved passenger safety.
Waterborne transport is presently the most environmentally sustainable mode of transport. EU research aims to ensure that this positive environmental record is maintained and improved, especially as traffic on the seas increases.
New 'smart' technologies are being used in the shipping industry to enhance safety, performance and competitiveness. Advances such as remote sensing and intelligent networks have considerable potential.
More competitive rail transport
Changes to railway systems across Europe are needed to meet the transport demands of the 21st century. Research into new technologies and infrastructure aims to create better quality services in a cost effective way.
Big increases are expected in the volumes of passengers and goods moving by rail. Steps to improve safety and security must accompany efforts to increase the capacity of railway networks, and work towards a common approach across Europe.
Railways are one of the greenest forms of land transport for journeys over relatively long distances. Cleaner and more efficient rail technologies are key to meeting the growing demand for transport in a sustainable way.
Smart technologies and improved communication systems can improve the quality of railway services, both for passengers and freight, and contribute to efforts to improve safety, sustainability and cost effectiveness.
More competitive road transport
Efficient vehicles and reliable road systems reduce costs for industry and allow companies greater flexibility. In addition, European car manufacturers need to harness innovation to remain competitive.
Road accidents are one of the greatest dangers that the public face on a daily basis. Researchers in the EU work to make vehicles and roads safer for drivers and pedestrians, and improve information and training.
Road traffic has increased greatly in recent years. While individual vehicles are becoming more efficient, the overall environmental toll of road transport is rising. EU researchers work to advance sustainable driving technologies.
How can driving be done more intelligently? European research teams are trying to answer this question, developing vehicles and road systems that are easier to use, safer, cleaner and more convenient.
Computer-aided system to instruct train drivers
Using technology to train the train drivers
The train driver's job is getting more complex due to changes in technology and increased cross-border travel. As ever, safety remains a key issue, but drivers also need detailed instruction on how to use the latest equipment and how to work in an increasingly interoperable rail network.
The EU-funded 2TRAIN project aims to develop computer-aided training simulation technology and instructional scenarios. The goal is to help the EU's train drivers work safely and efficiently in an increasingly harmonised rail network.
The focus is on improving general driving skills and operational abilities, while helping drivers to handle hazardous situations. 2TRAIN seeks to draft new European standards for driver training and provide best practice guidelines for the use of computer-based training technologies.
The project will assess existing driver training technology and instruction practices before going on to develop its own training simulations. 2TRAIN will devise instructional scenarios, which will have a strong focus on training to handle crisis situations.
The behaviour of trainees will be compared to predefined target behaviours established by the 2TRAIN team. These results will be stored in a database and used to create a 'virtual instructor' that can orchestrate the project's computer-based training modules and simulation scenarios.
Radically improving the car-making process
Can AC-DC 'super-charge' the business of making cars?
The automotive industry is complex, and not just in terms of the components and cars it produces. The ways in which cars are made and factories plan their work are equally important in terms of developing an efficient business that gives customers what they want.
The EU-funded AC-DC project aims to develop methods that will improve the car-making process. It will devise innovative ways to help factories plan their work and produce their vehicles more efficiently. The proposed changes will make it possible for manufacturers to deliver a partially customised car within five days.
Car manufacturers and suppliers, along with research institutions and academics, are involved in the project. They feel that new manufacturing techniques - which produce partly completed, modular chasses - offer plenty of scope for last-minute customisation of certain add-on parts, such as engines or wheel sets.
This approach could revolutionise a car buyer's choices and such flexibility would really give the European automotive industry a competitive edge. But how will it be possible?
The project promises to develop a way for car manufacturers to improve their product ordering systems in terms of cost, speed and reliability. The goal is to provide customers with a 100% guarantee of delivery.
To achieve this, AC-DC will develop a planning process involving the whole supply chain. Work will focus on delivering a system that reduces stock levels in the supply chain while permitting last-minute addition of new products. The project will have to cover a range of time-management, quality control and testing issues if it is going to be able to deliver a car in five days.
In order to achieve its goals, the project will examine the use of innovative and flexible production techniques which exploit mechatronics to make modular car chasses. Essentially, mechatronics combines electronic and mechanical engineering (and computer software) in a unified manufacturing process.
Aircraft landings will be safer thanks to innovative shock absorber
Aircraft landing gear gets a 'shocking' makeover
Aircraft can weigh thousands of tonnes, so when they land at speed it is vital that the landing gear is strong and reliable. Traditional landing gear use shock absorbers that work passively, which means they can be adjusted by technicians to cope with the most frequently expected loads or set to handle the maximum possible load.
But there can be huge variations in the way loads impact on a plane's shock absorbers - when landing - a situation that can prevent traditional passive shock absorber from performing at complete efficiency. So is there another way to get planes down safely?
Researchers working on the EU-backed ADLAND project think there is. They have been exploring the use of 'active' shock absorbers on aircraft landing gear. An active system uses sensors that can recognise the type of impact load before activating the energy absorbing components in a way that guarantees optimum performance of the shock absorber.
ADLAND has been assessing the different technologies needed to develop an active system. Work has included close examination of valve-based and fluid-based shock absorbers.
The project was committed to putting its adaptive landing gear through a rigorous impact-testing programme. A full scale, in-flight test of the selected design was also high on the ADLAND agenda.
A fully workable and commercially exploitable active shock absorber system for landing gear has the potential to improve aircraft operations and boost safety, particularly at airports.
Reducing risk at sea
Risk calculation system aims to make ships safer
Sadly, there are plenty of examples of ships getting into difficulties in high seas, leading to loss of life and cargo, pollution spills and the occasional sinking. As a result, the maritime industry is constantly looking for ways to make ships safer in poor conditions.
Modern technologies may provide a way to improve matters as they can be deployed to calculate risk and so save lives. The ADOPT project received EU funding to develop a system that can predict a ship's motion in stormy conditions and then assess potential problems.
The aim is to produce a system that can be used by captain and crew as they try to make the correct ship-handling decisions and set the right course in difficult situations.
ADOPT will develop a 'toolbox' of technologies - including a digital satellite system - that will be able to sense a heavy-seas environment and predict ship response to it before offering a number of risk control options. The system will be able to link up with existing ship systems and monitoring devices such as GPS and radar.
The project team intends to produce a user display that can deliver information to the crew in a straightforward and practical way, which will be vital if they are trying to cope with extreme conditions and a badly rolling ship. The measuring of ship motion and data collection will be carried out in sea trials while usability will be assessed in a mission simulator.
New onboard systems will keep air travel safe and efficient
A new generation of navigation and communications technology for aircraft
Air traffic levels are set to double in volume between 2000 and 2020. The popularity of flying sets the aviation industry a couple of challenges - it needs to have systems in place that can help handle air traffic efficiently whilst ensuring passenger safety.
New systems that exploit satellite technology will have an important role to play in keeping busy skies running smoothly. ANASTASIA is an EU-funded project that aims to develop onboard communications, navigation and surveillance solutions that can be used in commercial airlines.
The project will carry out research into technology that can exploit Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as the Galileo and GPS satellite networks. The aim is to develop an onboard system that can provide accurate and safe world-wide navigation at an affordable cost.
To improve communications, the project intends to design and build a cost-effective prototype system that can meet European air traffic management requirements. Research will be carried out to exploit higher bandwidth services and to develop the necessary onboard communications equipment.
Efforts to develop a surveillance system will run parallel with the project's attempts to produce its onboard communications and navigation systems.
The project team expects to run simulations and flight trials to test any new technologies. The aim is to offer civil aviation workable, evaluated options for incorporating satellite systems into aircraft operations by 2010.
Banking on new wing technologies to improve flight performance
Project points the way to smoother flights and lighter planes
There is a great deal of pressure on the commercial aviation sector to reduce emissions - quite a challenge when one considers that air traffic is growing year on year due to consumer demand.
Technology to produce lighter, stronger and more fuel efficient aircraft holds the key to making positive changes. The EU-funded AWIATOR project focused on improving the performance of aircraft wings to increase flight efficiency.
The project sought to develop new technologies that could reduce aircraft weight and find ways to cut down on the impact made by wake vortices, which are streams of turbulent air generated by wings in flight.
AWIATOR has created a number of new technologies that will help the aviation industry do away with the need for very heavy wing structures. Researchers devised a gust sensor that can be mounted on a wing's leading edge.
The sensor detects pressure pockets and wind shear - the cause of many a bumpy flight. This information is then sent to the wing where tiny devices that act like mini-flaps - another project innovation - are able to ensure an aircraft remains stable.
By manipulating the aerodynamics of an aircraft's trailing edge, these innovations can be combined with a lighter wing structure to improve the safety and efficiency of a flight - and provide a smoother ride for passengers. And a lighter aircraft needs less fuel, which means greater economy and fewer emissions.
The AWIATOR team also examined the way an aircraft generates wake vortices, which can disrupt the flight of other planes that get too close behind. This is a real problem for the commercial airline sector because large distances must be maintained between incoming flights to keep aircraft safe, which, in turn, has a detrimental effect on airport capacities.
The team tested a variety of wake-reducing devices, winglets and spoilers in a bid to improve the aerodynamic performance of aircraft.
Safe, effective cleaning of ballast water will protect world's oceans
How do we stop aquatic species from hitching a ride on the world's ships?
The world's shipping fleet moves between 3 and 12 billion tonnes of ballast water each year. But this essential process carries a major problem - annually, more than 10 000 aquatic species hitch a ride in ballast water to find new homes that are inappropriate and potentially threatening to local ecosystems.
The BaWaPla project aims to change all that by developing innovative ballast water treatment technology. About 100 million tonnes of sediment is moved around in ballast water each year and- it is this sediment that provides sea-life with a benign environment in which they can survive even a lengthy journey.
BaWaPla aims to provide a self-governing system that will clean ballast water and so reduce sediment levels. Along with filters and UV technologies, the system will use active substances - for example, chlorine, ozone, hydrogen peroxide - to help disinfect ballast water. The project team will look into ways of using sea-water itself to produce these active substances through a process called electrolysis. If successful, the electrolysis process would do away with the need for ships to carry or store dangerous chemicals.
The EU-backed project will test its ballast water treatment unit at sea under real conditions. If successful, BaWaPla will provide the shipping industry with a safe, economical and technically complete system. This will not only reduce species movement, but also reduce the cost of cleaning ballast tanks and getting rid of ballast sludge.
Boosting communication services for air traffic control
New technologies could 'future proof' air traffic communications
Good quality, reliable radio communication between aircraft and air traffic control teams is obviously very important for safety and operational efficiency. But as the skies get more crowded, there is a pressing need to update traditional narrowband VHF - very high frequency - radio systems.
Narrowband VHF radio is arranged into a number of channels to allow controllers and pilots to talk to each other, and to send data. Unfortunately, increasing demand for radio channels has led to congestion on the VHF spectrum, notably over European skies. Long term, this means that the traditional system will not be able to offer the capacity or performance required by the air transport sector.
So is there a solution? The EU-funded B-VHF project explored the use of new technologies based on a broadband VHF aeronautical communications system.
As the name suggests, broadband for VHF radio communications is able to handle a wider range of frequencies and can carry much more information than the current narrowband systems.
Therefore, a system based on broadband would be capable of supporting more users at any one time, which will improve the capacity and efficiency of air traffic communications. The project also aimed to fulfil security and safety requirements for future voice and data services at an affordable cost.
The B-VHF team examined technological, operational and institutional issues related to the use of a broadband-based radio system before designing and testing a prototype. Performance simulations have been carried out to assess the new system's effectiveness.
The project has pointed the way forward for air traffic communications by demonstrating the potential of the B-VHF system. In addition, it also showed that it is feasible to overlay broadband VHF onto existing narrowband systems without disrupting operations.
Helping researchers reduce noise from transport
Drawing together research to CALM transport noise
Noise pollution from transport is a major concern for European citizens. Noise from cars, trains, ships and aeroplanes can severely affect people's quality of life. In fact, it has been estimated that at least 80 million Europeans have to cope with unacceptable levels of transport noise.
The EU-funded CALM II project brought together research on transport noise that has been carried out in Europe's laboratories and universities.
CALM aimed to boost networking in this field and provide better ways of disseminating knowledge and project results. The CALM team also identified areas for future research, and looked closely at ways to help the newer EU Member States with their noise research activities.
CALM ran three workshops which enabled noise reduction experts to swap ideas and results. In addition, a project database was developed to house hundreds of pieces of information on noise research, as well as various project results. And more than 105 noise reduction projects are now showcased in CALM's 'blue book' - the information is also available on a CD.
The work should help project teams to maximise their future research activities and will complement efforts to meet the EU's noise reduction targets, which have been established to combat transport noise pollution and its effects on human health.
Developing ceramic parts for the road and rail sectors
Exploiting ceramic technology to improve transport
Over recent years, engineers have designed and made ceramic components for use in vehicle engines and brake systems. This is because ceramic components have a number of advantages over their metal counterparts - for example, they tend to be lighter, they do not expand as much when exposed to heat and are more hard-wearing.
The drawback is that it is difficult to mass produce complex parts using ceramic materials. Now an EU-funded project call CarCIM is looking to change that situation. It aims to harness a ceramic injection moulding process called 2C-CIM, which is capable of large-scale production of complex-shaped ceramic parts at a reasonable cost.
The project will use the 2C-CIM process to produce ceramic components that have longer life cycles and shorter production times than current manufacturing techniques can provide. To achieve its goals the project team will have to develop new materials and feedstocks that are suitable for 2C-CIM. Tool-making technologies will also have to be improved to ensure that the injection-moulding process can deliver high-precision products.
The end results will be applicable to the road and rail sectors, which are both looking to exploit more efficient, durable and lighter parts in a bid to reduce emissions and improve efficiency.
As part of its brief, the project is going to develop and test the following products: ceramic brake pads for high-speed trains, ceramic glow plugs, ceramic gear wheels, and ceramic valve seats. The project's findings should eventually help to improve the competitiveness of Europe's ceramics producers and open up new markets for their advanced products.
Monitoring overhead rail lines for a more efficient network
Keeping the trains running on time with new sensor system
Overhead contact lines, which provide electrical power to trains, run for thousands of miles across Europe's rail network. The sheer size of the system presents infrastructure managers with a number of challenges when it comes to maintenance and repair: they need to know where the problem is and what caused it.
The EU-funded CATIEMON project aims to find a solution by developing sensor technology to assess the condition of overhead line equipment and train pantographs (the arms deployed by trains to collect electricity from the overhead lines).
The project team intend to equip pantographs with fibre-optic strain sensors that will enable a train to detect problems on the overhead lines such as wear and tear in the contact wires. The train will be furnished with a GPS device that will show line managers exactly where the problem is on their network.
Often it is the pantograph itself which causes damage to overhead lines. The project is addressing this issue as well. Researchers are developing an inspection gate for rail infrastructure managers that will be able to detect faults in pantographs.
The gates will harness an array of electrical and fibre optic sensors, as well as laser measuring technologies. They will be able to detect the number of working pantographs on each train while assessing their condition. The gates will measure the pantographs' minimum and maximum contact forces, the amount of uplift they produce and the state of their electrical current collectors.
The aim of the project is to provide rail infrastructure managers and rolling stock operators with a system that offers clear information about the state of each other's equipment.
CATIEMON's monitoring devices will be sensitive enough to give railways the chance to carry out preventative action before more serious damage occurs. That should keep trains moving and reduce delays.
Fuel-cell technology for the next generation of aircraft
Cleaner, greener fuel cells to power aircraft
The next generation of commercial aircraft will use electrical systems instead of traditional pneumatics and hydraulics. These fly-by-wire creations offer scope to use fuel cells to provide electrical power. Harnessing this technology could offer a number of advantages such as reduced fuel consumption, less noise and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
An EU-funded project called CELINA has been looking into the potential of fuel-cell systems for these new types of aircraft.
The research team examined fuel cell capabilities and their technical performance to see if they can really provide aircraft with a primary source of electrical power.
Work centred on testing current fuel-cell technologies under aircraft operating conditions. The aim was to assess different fuel-cell systems and their applicability to aviation before identifying the technical steps required to develop an airworthy fuel cell power system.
Care was taken to fully understand the aircraft's power needs, especially its electrical network and air conditioning requirements. CELINA's goal was to provide accurate operational scenarios to show how fuel-cells would cope with the task of being the primary power provider. The team looked at fuel-cell behaviour in terms of issues like performance output, thermal management, cooling and air supply.
The project also explored fuel-cell safety and certification issues. The need to develop an emergency power supply network was also high on the agenda.
CELINA's target was to offer a complete assessment of fuel-cell technology in terms of making aircraft more efficient, improving passenger comfort and helping aviation to reduce its environmental impact.
Ambitious project seeks huge environmental gains for aviation
Greener technologies for aircraft
Over recent years, concern has grown over the contribution that air transport makes to global warming. In addition, people living near airports complain about aircraft noise.
In response, Europe's key aviation industry players have joined forces with the European Commission in a massive project that aims to reduce pollution and aircraft noise by developing 'greener' technologies and production systems.
The Clean Sky project is a public-private partnership that will spend €1.6 billion to reduce air transport's impact on the global environment. The goal is to speed up the invention of breakthrough technologies and cut the time it takes to get finished products to the market place.
Accelerating research will help the Clean Sky project contribute to the European aviation industry's key environmental goals, which include significantly reducing CO2 and nitrous oxide emissions and cutting down aircraft noise. Clean Sky also aims to assist in the development of a greener product-lifecycle for aircraft.
To achieve its goals, the project will work across a number of technology domains, including Eco-design, which places protection of the environment at the heart of product design, development, manufacture and use.
Eco-design is about minimising the use of raw materials, especially non-renewables, while cutting back on emissions and waste. Clean Sky's eco-design remit also includes helping the aviation industry to recycle wherever possible.
The use of renewable materials and energy is at the centre of this green design process - it has to be if aircraft parts are to be successfully recycled. In addition, the project will find ways to eliminate the use of harmful and toxic materials, both from the aircraft production stage and during maintenance procedures.
Aviation goes green - on a wing but not a prayer
Greener technologies for aircraft
Europe's key aviation industry players have joined forces with the European Commission in a massive project that aims to reduce pollution and aircraft noise by developing 'greener' technologies and production systems.
The Clean Sky project is a public-private partnership that will spend €1.6 billion to reduce air transport's impact on the global environment. The goal is to speed up the invention of breakthrough technologies and cut the time it takes to get finished products to the market place.
Accelerating research will help the Clean Sky project contribute to the European aviation industry's key environmental goals, which include significantly reducing CO2 and nitrous oxide emissions and cutting down aircraft noise. Clean Sky also aims to assist in the development of a greener product-lifecycle for aircraft, from design and manufacture through to maintenance and decommissioning.
To achieve its goals, the project will work across a number of technology domains, including SMART fixed wing aircraft.
The goal here is to devise technological solutions that will help the aviation industry to reduce aircraft fuel consumption by 10 to 20%, and noise by between 5 and 10 decibels. The project researchers also intend to improve flight comfort and safety, while enhancing aircraft agility and behaviour.
Sky Clean will take existing research in this field and try to improve it for the next generation of civil aviation aircraft. The objective is to develop a smart wing design that can reduce drag while an aircraft cruises. In addition, researchers will try to find ways of reducing the loads aircraft have to cope with during turbulence.
The project will also assess the viability of altering an aircraft's configuration in a bid to produce a more efficient and economical flight. That could include investigating different engine positions and making modifications to aircraft tail sections.
Environmentally friendly plastic boat hulls and lorry trailers
Producing recyclable plastic hulls and lorry trailers
Composite fibre and plastic materials are used to build strong, lightweight structures - such as leisure boat hulls - which are extremely corrosion resistant. However, there are some drawbacks to using composites because they traditionally use room temperature-curing resins such as polyester and vinyl ester. These emit solvents during manufacture which is bad for the environment and the end product is also difficult to recycle.
To address these issues, an EU-funded project aims to develop environmentally friendly boat hulls and flatbed trailers for lorries made out of lightweight fibre-reinforced thermoplastic that is environmentally friendly and easy to recycle.
CLEANMOULD will make composite materials using liquid thermoplastic resins which contain no solvents and that offer higher levels of performance than conventional thermo-set techniques. What is more, thermoplastics can be recycled into short fibres and used in a variety of industrial processes.
Project researchers will assess the strength and mechanical properties of the new thermoplastic composites by building two test products - a 13.6-metre flatbed semi-trailer and an 8-metre boat hull.
The project's manufacturing process offers many potential benefits. Lorry trailers made from the new material would be low in weight, which will allow truckers to carry more payload. This means fewer journeys, fuel savings and lower emissions. In fact, the project team aims to produce a flat-bed design that could lead to a 7.5% fuel saving compared to a conventional trailer.
For the boat hull, CLEANMOULD aims to increase strength, durability and impact resistance to offer a longer lifespan compared to current composite hulls. The new processes should also reduce the amount of labour needed to make boat hulls. Combine that bonus with the product's technical innovations and the project could end up giving European manufacturers a marketplace advantage over foreign imports.
Improving the competitiveness of inland waterway transport
Using Europe's inland waterways to take trucks off the road
Europe has a dense network of rivers and canals that are used for inland waterway transport. Barges, tankers and container ships use these maritime assets to deliver a myriad of goods deep into the heart of Europe.
Nevertheless, the network remains relatively underused, a situation which must change if Europe is to ease growing road and rail congestion. The EU-funded CREATING project has been looking at ways to improve the performance of the inland waterway system.
The project's goal was to develop ideas that could bolster logistical operations and ship design concepts. Researchers took a broad approach to the challenge by assessing developments in areas such as hydrodynamics, fuel economy, environmental impact and safety.
They explored ways to reduce hull resistance and improve propulsion. They also looked into the use of alternative fuels and exhaust and combustion technologies that could reduce emissions. To optimise operations and safety, the CREATING team analysed issues related to vessel construction, navigation and manoeuvrability.
Project results look set to improve inland waterway performance in a number of areas. To reduce the environmental impact of ships and boats, CREATING recommends the use of low sulphur fuels, speed controls and the addition of catalysts and particulate filters.
The project designed a vessel with an advanced pneumatic loading and unloading installation to improve dockside operations. It also chose a design for an inland reefer, which is geared to carrying pallets, as the best solution for shipping bananas on the Rhine - this should provide a competitive alternative to transportation by truck.
In addition, the project developed the concept of a roll-on roll-off vessel with a shallow draught that could substantially improve services between the Danube's various terminals. CREATING also designed a new inland waterway tanker that can safely carry chemicals.
Fleet of buses points way towards zero emissions future
Fuel-cell buses will help public transport clean up its act
Hydrogen fuel cells generate power via an electrochemical reaction. They are a wonderfully clean source of fuel, which offer zero emissions of carbon dioxide and other polluting and harmful gases.
But how practical can their use be in mass transport? The EU-funded CUTE project aimed to find out when it carried out the world's biggest trial of fuel-cell powered, low-noise buses.
CUTE wanted to test the feasibility of using fuel-cell technology for urban transport provision. The project's fleet of 27 buses covered more than 1 million kilometres and carried more than 4 million people in nine European cities. The trial was a huge success: the buses produced zero emissions and ran safely throughout the test period, which lasted about two years.
To keep the buses running, CUTE designed, built and ran nine hydrogen supply chains and re-fuelling stations. The project produced and used more than 192 tonnes of hydrogen, of which 100 tonnes came from renewable resources. About 9 000 re-fuelling operations were completed.
CUTE has proved that the dream of emission-free public transport can become a reality. The dividends could be huge in terms of improving the quality of life of people who live in urban areas.
The project has spawned more research into the practical application of fuel-cell technologies. It will also help to keep Europe's transport industry ahead of the competition as the world switches on to the benefits of cleaner and 'greener' fuels.
Building pavements using recycled materials
Pavement project aims to cut energy use and construction costs
Building pavements is an expensive business in terms of using raw materials and energy. Asphalt surfaces are becoming more costly to produce, largely due to the rise in oil prices, while concrete pavements use cement - a notoriously unsustainable product.
ECOLANES is an EU-funded project which is looking into ways to produce pavements in a sustainable manner by exploiting new manufacturing techniques and waste materials. The project team has decided to focus its efforts on producing concrete surfaces because they are more cost effective to make than asphalt pavements.
Nevertheless, cement and steel reinforcements for concrete pavements take a lot of time and energy to produce. To tackle these issues, ECOLANES has set itself the task of making a product that will reduce pavement construction costs by between 10 and 20%. It also aims to reduce construction time by 15% and energy consumption by up to 40%.
Project researchers will extract steel fibres from recycled tyres, which will then be incorporated into a concrete mix along with pulverised fly ash and recycled aggregates. New techniques and equipment will be developed to disperse the steel fibres into the wet and dry concrete mixes. The project intends to produce a concrete that can be used by traditional pavement-laying machines.
The ECOLANE pavement will be rigorously load tested using a machine that travels over the concrete surface to check its ability to withstand wear and tear.
The project also intends to build demonstration pavements in Cyprus, the United Kingdom, Romania and Turkey.
The fact that the ECOLANE pavement will be cheaper to manufacture may well make it attractive to poorer European countries that have inadequate pavement networks.
Setting the agenda for smarter, cleaner urban transport
Urban transport research - bringing it all together
Urban transport research is multi-faceted because it takes in a variety of modes and a range of technological issues. It also has to address a range of economic, social and cultural issues.
But with 80% of Europeans living in urban areas and the majority of the EU's gross national product being generated in towns and cities, it is vital that policy-makers and the research community get their priorities right when it comes to urban transport.
EURFORUM stands for the European Research Forum for Urban Mobility and its goal was to carefully assess urban transport research needs. The EU-funded project used its remit to talk to a number of stakeholders, including transport users, operators, local authorities, governments and the research community.
The forum set out to use this consultation process to identify priority areas for research that needed coordinating at European level. It also aimed to identify and promote research strategies to improve 'green' urban transport. (Users and operators from across Europe played a key role in these deliberations.)
Taking a broad approach, the forum examined ways to ensure that research could be linked to other issues relevant to urban transport development, such as town and land-use planning.
Intermodality - which helps people to use road, rail and other transport modes in a seamless and efficient way - was high on the forum's agenda. It sought to bring together research communities from different transport sectors to promote mutual understanding and joint working.
These activities found their way into the forum's Strategic Research Agenda, a document which lays out research priorities and the means to implement them. The aim was to cover issues relating to all modes so that research priorities can be tailored to meet Europe's future urban transport needs.
Improving the reliability of Europe's trains
A first-class service for Europe's electric-powered trains
Every year, thousands of people travel on trains which obtain their electricity through the link between a pantograph - a jointed arm that conveys current to the train - and overhead line equipment, known as catenary.
However, this system is prone to a number of problems that can reduce a train's reliability. Speeds are limited because catenary equipment wobbles, while defects in wiring frequently result in suspended services. Rail network operators from Germany, France and Italy estimate that together they suffer about 308 days of delays every year because of pantograph/catenary failure.
Despite these issues, very little research had been carried out to improve pantograph/catenary performance. The EUROPAC project, which is co-funded by the EU, aims to change that.
EUROPAC brings together major players in the European rail industry.
Their aim is to improve the interoperability of pantograph and catenary equipment in a way that can be applied throughout Europe's rail network. The project has been working to improve the reliability of overhead line equipment and develop maintenance regimes based on preventative measures.
Specifically, the project will develop a prototype trackside monitoring station that can detect, identify and assess defects in a pantograph in real time. A prototype onboard monitoring system will also be built to detect similar problems with catenary equipment.
The project will help infrastructure managers plan their maintenance schedules more effectively, both for rolling stock and catenary equipment. In addition, EUROPAC will reduce manufacturers' development costs. Increased productivity and economies of scale derived from improved interoperability will eventually improve the competitiveness of Europe's rail transport system.
'Virtual institute' helps everyone stay safe on the road
Smarter approach to improving road safety
High numbers of road casualties constitute one of the most severe problems facing Europe. Passive safety measures aim to reduce the risk of fatalities and injuries when accidents happen.
APSN (Advanced Passive Safety Network) is a permanent, self-sustaining organisation with jointly executed research activities and a flexible structure. One of its main aims has been the creation of the 'Virtual Institute for Secondary Safety' bringing together complementary institutes and companies to share resources and capacities and to perform joint research projects.
From mathematical models of the human body and crash-test scenarios to innovative tools for the design, implementation and evaluation of intelligent safety systems, and the reduction of injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists, APSN is helping to develop new technologies that will ultimately improve safety for all European road users.
Containers that can move smoothly from rail to road
Bringing road and rail together for seamless freight transport
At the moment, much of Europe's freight is moved by road because it is seen as the most practical mode of transport. Rail freight operations, while popular, are limited because they cannot get goods directly from a factory or port to their final destination.
But rail is capable of making much of the journey - if only it was easier to move goods between trains and trucks so both modes could share the load. The EU-funded FastRCargo project is looking for ways to resolve this issue by developing a transhipment system that can easily and speedily move goods from road to rail and vice versa.
FastRCargo is exploring ways to fit standardised container units onto both trucks and rail wagons. The goal is to produce a seamlessly integrated system for rapid loading and unloading.
The research team will carefully assess future demand for rail freight services before building the system components. Loading and unloading processes will also be closely examined to ensure the project's concepts are extremely safe and easy to use.
FastRCargo will build a demonstrator to study the practicality of its designs and to evaluate the potential of the system. The end results, including all the components and equipment built by the project, will be tested with the help of a user group drawn from the commercial world.
The dividends could be huge: if successful, the project could herald a shift of goods from road to rail as freight companies see the value of a more flexible transport infrastructure that is based on a practical, standardised transhipment system.
In addition, there are wider societal benefits in getting more freight on to rail, which is a less polluting mode of transport than road. Fewer trucks also mean less hold-ups and bottlenecks on Europe's congested road network.
Making fuel-cells work for heavy-duty transport
Cleaner fuels for trains, trucks and big ships
Fuel-cells that generate power through electrochemical processes are cleaner and greener than traditional diesel and petrol engines. However, current fuel-cell systems are not efficient enough to meet the needs of heavy-duty transport.
The EU-funded FELICITAS project addresses this issue head on. Its goal is to develop fuel-cell technologies that are capable of powering ships, trains and large trucks.
Fuel cells and their associated powertrains - the parts of a vehicle that convert power to movement - have to be robust and capable of running for a long time if they are to provide a practical alternative for freight and mass transport.
For road and light rail applications the project team is aiming to improve the performance of what are known as polymer electrolyte fuel-cells. The objective is to develop fuel cell clusters, which will improve the durability, efficiency and power dynamics of these types of cells.
The project will address similar issues when looking to improve the performance of solid oxide fuel cells, which are used in maritime transport.
Researchers will design and develop fuel-cell powertrain concepts. Using simulations, the project will be able to evaluate various technical parameters and explore reliability issues and lifecycle costs.
Efforts will also be made to improve fuel-cell regeneration technology - this is important when bearing in mind the fact that heavy-duty transport is often used for long-haul journeys.
Laser technology to help aircraft cope with turbulence
Hi-tech laser measuring gear will help pilots detect atmospheric hazards
For a number of years, the aviation industry has been looking for ways to help aircraft detect atmospheric hazards like wake vortices, wind shear and clear air turbulence. LiDAR systems, which use pulses of laser light to detect distant objects, appear to offer the most potential.
While LiDAR equipment can be used to measure atmospheric conditions, current models are not really practical for use on commercial aircraft. They are too big, weigh too much and use too much power. What is more, they are not that reliable and are quite costly.
The FIDELIO project aimed to change this situation by developing a LiDAR system that can be safely and efficiently installed onboard aircraft. A key focus for researchers has been the development of fibre laser technologies. These are known to have significant advantages over the solid-state lasers currently used in LiDARs.
Fibre lasers offer more flexibility because they allow the main body of the laser to be placed away from the scanning head. This makes it easier to install in an aircraft. Fibre lasers are at least twice as efficient as their solid state counterparts - they use less power and so are more cost effective to run.
LiDARs using fibre lasers also weigh less than traditional models - a real bonus for use in aviation - and are easier to keep cool. The project team was confident of keeping costs down when producing their prototype system due to the fact that fibre lasers harness technologies that are found in everyday telecommunications products.
Testing of the FIDELIO LiDAR system was scheduled to take place on a runway to measure wake vortices, which are formed when an aircraft's wings produce lift. The project established a 'Users' Club' to explore end-user requirements for the new system.
Making shipping safe, efficient and environmentally friendly
Project harnesses technology to give shipping operations a helping hand.
Modern ship systems produce huge amounts of data that is vital for navigation, safety and general operations. The challenge for crew and ship owners is to put this plethora of information to good use so they can run their ships as efficiently as possible.
An EU-funded project called FLAGSHIP looks set to give busy crews and shore-based support teams a hand by creating a range of tools and systems that will present ship's data in a rational and useable way. Using the latest information technologies and computing power, FLAGSHIP will develop methods for collecting and interpreting information in a bid to improve onboard operations.
FLAGSHIP's systems will help manage a range of issues, from maintenance planning and equipment checks to monitoring navigation and cargo manifests. The project even aims to help crews deal with bureaucracy by developing a system that will speed up checks on rules and regulations. FLAGSHIP will also produce methods to help ships cope with emergencies, such as those caused by fires or bad weather.
Both freight and passenger services look set to benefit from FLAGSHIP's work. The project also expects to develop monitoring systems that will help to assess the state of a ship's hull - such an innovation could end up extending the life of a ship. In addition, new fuel use indicators produced by FLAGSHIP should improve energy efficiency by up to 10%.
New system will improve flight safety
Safer skies technology aims to minimise accidents.
Air traffic levels are set to triple in the next 20 years. Inevitably, crowded skies are likely to lead to more air accidents, especially if there is no improvement to existing in-flight systems.
The FLYSAFE project addresses these concerns: its goal is to invent new aircraft safety systems that will keep accident rates from rising. In particular, the EU-funded project aims to develop a new, all-embracing system for flight safety called the Next Generation Integrated Surveillance System (NG ISS).
What will the NG ISS be able to do? Firstly, it will provide a state-of-the-art 'tactical alert management system', which will help air crews deal with situations that require an immediate response. In addition, NG ISS will be able to anticipate weather-related problems, along with a range of traffic and terrain issues, that could occur during a flight. In fact, the project is also committed to developing a weather management system that will provide pilots with the ability to interpret meteorological data.
The project will also streamline operating procedures and improve the way crews interact with their aircraft by developing new instrument displays.
As research for its innovative work, the FLYSAFE project team will study situations that cause the most accidents, such as loss of control and approach and landing problems. Aircraft collisions, crashes into the ground and adverse weather conditions will all be closely examined.
Project results should help Europe's aeronautical research council (ACARE) meet its air safety targets (see link below).
Improving the environmental performance of heavy duty engines
Cutting big engine fuel consumption and emissions
Trains and large trucks rely on heavy duty engines that are much more powerful than anything found in a car. Such workhorses must be capable of running for about 600 000km and built to withstand high mechanical and thermal stresses.
Research has taken place to make these huge units more environmentally friendly. The EU-backed GREEN project aimed to find ways to cut both their fuel consumption and emissions.
GREEN strove to find the best combination of engine components, subsystems and exhaust after-treatment systems in a bid to reduce outputs of CO2 and other harmful pollutants.
The project team also looked into ways of developing subsystems for a new, more efficient combustion process. Activities included creating a 'closed-loop' emission control system that contained both the engine and the exhaust after-treatment section.
The project sought to develop solutions to cut fuel use without reducing engine efficiency or power output. To tackle this issue, the researchers examined new engine designs, along with advances in turbo-charging and variable compression ratio systems.
Hopefully, any breakthroughs will be applicable to both the rail and road sectors. The team also took care to ensure that its innovations are compatible with the use of bio-fuels which are used as replacements for diesel.
For heavy-duty gas engines, such as those used in urban transport systems, the aim was to achieve lower gaseous emissions but with diesel-equivalent fuel consumption. The focus was on improving variable valve management systems and developing better gas injection and cooling systems.
Developing cleaner, more efficient marine engines
Marine engine technology to cut emissions
Large marine diesel engines are about ten times more efficient in terms of energy consumption per load carried than their road transport counterparts.
However, before it is taken out of commission, a typical marine engine will use about 500 000 tons of fuel. In its lifetime, such an engine will also produce 60 000 tons of nitrogen monoxide (NOx), along with 2 000 tons of CO2 and 3 500 tons of particulate matter.
The EU-backed HERCULES project focused its efforts on developing engine technologies and components that will make marine power plants more efficient and reliable. The project team wanted to cut down on the harmful emissions produced by these engines and reduce the amount of fuel they use.
HERCULES worked on a basket of different technologies that, when combined, could make engines 'greener'. Developing innovative engine control systems, turbo-charging and new concepts for leaner combustion were some of the research areas covered by the project.
The work embraced new developments in thermodynamics and mechanics in a bid to produce advances in intelligent engine design. A range of prototype components were manufactured and rigorously assessed. Some project systems were even put through their paces in full ship board tests.
The project has managed to develop new technologies that will help to cut emissions of NOx while improving engine efficiency. Outputs of other gases and particulates will also be cut thanks to the work of the project. In addition, HERCULES has provided an impetus for further research that will make ship engines even cleaner and more efficient.
Robot will keep hulls 'ship-shape'
Robotic system will help keep ships safe and clean
An EU-funded project is developing a robotic device that will be able to carry out underwater inspections and maintenance of a ship's hull.
HISMAR stands for Hull Identification System for Marine Autonomous Robotics. The project team hope that its robot will be able to check a hull's structural integrity and carry out cleaning tasks.
The project is using a basket of technologies to develop the HISMAR system. Optical technology will be used to enable the robot to track a hull's surface features. The machine will also be able to saturate a hull with a localised magnetic field which can detect struts and other structural features.
The robot will attach itself to a vessel using an electromagnetic system. The researchers are also examining different methods to clean a hull and remove debris.
The end result should be a flexible and versatile system that can be launched whenever a ship is in port or at anchor; it can also be used in dry dock. The device will also be able to carry out some of its tasks at one port and then be re-launched to carry on where it left off at subsequent stops.
If successful, the project could provide a great boost to the EU shipping fleet. A dirty and encrusted hull can reduce efficiency and increase fuel consumption, and hull failures - although rare nowadays - can be dangerous and costly. HISMAR will keep maintenance costs down and extend the working life of a vessel.
Bringing down the cost of rail infrastructure
Using research to extend the life of railway lines
Railway infrastructure - which includes tracks, signalling, switching and related equipment - is expensive to install, maintain and renew. In fact, infrastructure accounts for about 70% of a railway system's total costs, and, annually, millions of euros are spent across Europe to keep rail tracks in good order.
What is more, pressure on infrastructure budgets is likely to grow as demand for passenger and freight services continues to expand. Now, an EU-backed project called INNOTRACK has brought key players from the rail industry together to find ways to reduce infrastructure life-cycle costs. The project wants to cut these costs while improving the reliability, availability, maintainability and safety of infrastructure.
INNOTRACK's efforts in this area could not be more timely as rolling stock - trains, carriages and freight wagons - are increasing in speed and weight, which is likely to put infrastructure under even more strain in the coming years.
To achieve its goals the project will analyse the kind of problems and costs associated with rail track maintenance and then look for solutions in four key research areas: track support structure, switches and crossings, rails, and track maintenance and renewal logistics.
INNOTRACK hopes to provide rail infrastructure managers with new, more reliable infrastructure components, along with innovative methods for assessing maintenance needs and a way of accurately calculating a track's life-cycle costs.
The project will also strive to produce common European standards for track design solutions that can respond to higher traffic demands and performance needs without compromising safety.
Disseminating research on quiet road surface technology
Spreading the word on low-noise roads
According to recent estimates, more than 30% of Europeans have to cope with road traffic noise levels that are above those deemed acceptable by the World Health Organisation. In addition, about one in ten people suffer severe sleep disturbance because of road noise.
These figures speak volumes about how such an issue can affect people's quality of life and health. The INQUEST project intends to gather together and disseminate knowledge relating to low-noise road surface research that has been developed by previous EU-funded projects (most notably the SILVIA project).
INQUEST will run a series of workshops for policy-makers, road engineers and road authorities. Priority will be given to providing information to the newer EU Member States (i.e. those that have joined the EU since May 2004). These countries have less experience in this field of research than other EU members.
The project will also establish a users' network which will set about classifying and labelling low-noise materials and technology. The aim here is to encourage the harmonisation of equipment and procedures.
The work will inform efforts to standardise low-noise road surface technologies. This issue is now moving up the agenda of European and international standardisation bodies.
Adjustable wheelsets allow trains to deal with different track widths
Adjustable bogies will cut track-gauge problems down to size
Europe's rail network does not have a uniform track width. Therefore, when trains want to move from one track gauge to another their wheel sets must be changed, which is a time-consuming business.
The EU-funded INTERGAUGE project aims to come up with an innovative solution to this problem and so contribute to the greater interoperability of Europe's rail network.
The project's main goal is the development of adjustable wheelsets which will make it easier and safer for freight trains to move to and from different track gauges.
INTERGAUGE has placed special emphasis on producing workable results that can be applied to the transport of dangerous materials such as gas, petrol and chemicals.
To that end, the project team aimed to develop a prototype rail tank car with adjustable wheel sets that can carry petrol. The researchers set themselves the task of producing a car and wheelset combination that is capable of high speeds (120 kph) and able to manage large axel loads. A durable, low weight construction was the goal.
The project sought to devise theoretical track layouts and switching station technology. It also aimed to construct a track gauge changing station and the relevant equipment required for its operation. Finding ways to automate and monitor the switching process were particular research goals.
Project results could help improve Europe's rail freight operations, making them more efficient and cost-effective. This in turn could encourage European industry to move more freight off busy roads and onto rail, helping to reduce traffic congestion and emissions.
Giving European shipyards a competitive edge
Helping shipbuilders streamline design and building methods
The EU-supported InterSHIP project aimed to increase the competitiveness of European shipbuilders by developing ways to improve the design and manufacturing of complex one-off vessels.
But why bother with such a task? Well, the shipbuilding sector faces a number of challenges relating to its working practices. For a start, design and construction is not renowned for being smoothly integrated, and ship builders, suppliers and owners do not always work well together in the production chain.
The upshot is that the sector is not very good at estimating costs, particularly when it comes to large one-off jobs such as building cruise liners and large ferries.
Research work focused on improving the collaborative working environment in a bid to reduce delays and costs. Most crucially, InterSHIP looked at making improvements in the early design phase, where up to 80% of construction costs are defined.
The project set about developing ways to identify and quantify costs more accurately; it also explored the value of using total quality management concepts.
Additionally, the research team assessed advanced hull manufacturing techniques, including innovative welding technologies and methods to increase the automation of ship-fitting processes. It also checked the viability of using modular building solutions for one-off ships - something that is used in other industries to cut costs and speed-up production.
E-procurement and innovative logistical systems were examined by the InterSHIP team as it looked to improve the buying process and find ways to run yards more efficiently.
Project results are to be disseminated to Europe's shipbuilding community, which is of course keen to obtain a competitive edge over foreign yards.
Sensing technologies to improve road safety and increase capacity
Intelligent road technology will make the driving experience safer - and less frustrating
More and more vehicles take to Europe's roads each year, which causes traffic congestion and increase physical strain on the road network. What is more, over 40 000 people are killed in road accidents annually in Europe.
It sounds like a nightmare situation - but an EU-backed research project called INTRO has been trying to deal with this raft of issues. INTRO explored the use of sensing technologies, traffic management databases and the latest electronic communications to improve road safety and find ways to help the hard-pressed driver beat the traffic jams.
INTRO's objective was to find practical, cost-effective ways of providing motorists and road operators with accurate real-time information about road surface issues and traffic conditions.
To do this the project harnessed sensors that already exist in roads and cars. For example, the INTRO team used car ABS and EPS (electronic stability sensors) systems to provide data on road friction levels. The information was used to update skid resistance databases.
The team then worked on finding ways to present this complex information to road users in a clear, useable way. INTRO came up with an innovative web interface, which allows users to access stored data through a system that displays the road network complete with friction hotspots. In addition, road authorities can use this data to target maintenance where it is needed most.
Furthermore, these technologies can also be used in tandem with road sensors to relay information to drivers and engineers about surface conditions and temperatures.
INTRO also explored the use of sensors that check vehicle position and speed as a way of plotting and estimating journey times. This information could be used in traffic monitoring systems to help drivers plan their journeys and avoid busy roads.
LEDs light the way toward communications revolution
Car-to-car communications - a trick of the light?
Europeans are familiar with wireless networks when it comes to using their computers. But how many of them know that LED lighting technologies can be harnessed to produce an alternative kind of wireless communications system?
LEDs can modulate, or flash, at very high speeds, which means they can send encoded messages. Research in this field is moving rapidly, and there are many potential uses for communications systems built around LED technology.
The EU-funded ISLE project has been examining ways to use LED lighting that will eventually allow vehicles to communicate with each other and roadside infrastructure, such as traffic lights. The project team aimed to develop technology for a new generation of LED headlamps.
LEDs have huge potential, not just in terms of communications: they are very reliable, offer a long service life and require less volts and energy to run than conventional bulbs.
The research centred on simplifying headlamp production processes. The goal was to develop an injection-moulded unit that contained all the headlamp components.
The ISLE team tested the feasibility of its communication concept in lab tests. A key consideration was making sure that an LED can modulate without a drop in light levels.
The project developed an LED device capable of producing low and high beam outputs. It also manufactured samples of white-light emitting LEDs - the kind required for use on the road - along with a number of other optical components.
It may seem far-fetched now, but LED communications could revolutionise the way motorists receive information while driving. Cars fitted with LED decoding systems will be able to have information displayed on a screen, or through a voice synthesiser. They could receive messages from roadside infrastructure or other vehicles about local conditions, possible delays or traffic accidents.
The road to less noise, lower fuel consumption and safer journeys
Investigating new road surfaces
Road transport has liberated the average European and made it easier to move goods about; but such advances have come at a cost. More than 40 000 people die on Europe's roads each year and noise pollution caused by cars, lorries and buses remains a blight on many lives. And of course a lot of people are now worried about the pollution caused by road transport.
Can three issues be tackled at the same time? The people behind an EU-funded research project called ITARI aimed to develop tools and methods that will make it easier to analyse the potential of new road surfaces in terms of lowering noise, reducing fuel consumption and improving safety.
The project's goal was to set new standards in the way road surface materials and technologies are measured in a 'virtual' environment. Such activities offer a cost-effective alternative to testing that is undertaken in full-scale experiments. This traditional 'trial and error' method is expensive and time consuming because road surfaces often have to be re-laid during testing.
ITARI aimed to develop models and design tools to help road designers and engineers assess the interaction between tyres and road surfaces - the so-called rolling resistance. That information could be used to assess grip in the wet, surface noise and potential fuel use.
Only by getting the balance of factors right can road engineers and infrastructure planners hope to produce improved road surfaces in the future.
Using methanol as fuel onboard ships
Methanol fuel cells could help shipping become more sustainable
Methanol has great potential for use as a renewable, relatively clean source of energy. However, international regulations do not currently allow ships to use it as a fuel. But with fuel-cell technologies now being developed for the maritime industry, it may be time to look again at the issue.
The EU-backed METHAPU project aims to do just that. It will test the potential of methanol for maritime fuel cells and develop the technical knowledge required to justify its use as a fuel at sea.
Currently, there are plenty of fuel cells on the market, but those using solid oxides look most promising for sea-going vessels. That's why METHAPU is building and testing a prototype solid oxide fuel-cell unit that uses methanol.
The yearlong tests will be carried out at sea where vital data about the unit's efficiency and emissions will be gathered. If successful, the project could pave the way for methanol's use as a fuel source for some of the world's biggest cargo ships.
But it is vital that the research team continue to work on regulatory issues as well. At the moment methanol can only be carried as freight. In addition to addressing regulatory obstacles, the research team is also looking into ways to safely bunker, store and distribute methanol for use by ships.
The project team hopes its work will lead to the commercial use of methanol fuel cells and stimulate further research into sustainable, greener fuel sources for the maritime sector.
Monitoring system to keep traffic moving
Road monitoring makes for more safer and efficient road use
Driving can be a dangerous business, especially when one considers Europe's accidents rates. About 40 000 people are killed on Europe's roads each year, and many more are severely injured. It stands to reason then that highway authorities and emergency services are looking for more effective ways to respond to incidents - and keep traffic moving safely and smoothly.
The EU-funded MISS project sought to help slash accident figures. It aimed to develop a monitoring system that can sense and predict natural and infrastructure problems on the road.
The goal was to use surveillance and IT technology to build an operations centre that can manage road monitoring activities and services run by the police, civil protection agencies and highway authorities.
By bringing these bodies together, the MISS project team hoped to improve administrative and operational processes. Each vehicle would be fitted with a 'black box' which can collect data about local environmental and road infrastructure conditions. This information would then be sent back to the operations centre via a radio communications network. Technologies such as GRPS are likely to be harnessed to improve communications activities.
Back at base, the operations centre will be loaded with databases and information on the road network - this will help emergency services plan routes to and from incidents in a more efficient way. Clerical staff in the centre will be able to contact vehicles linked to the MISS system and provide information about congestion and other traffic issues. The project also promised to look into ways of providing risk assessment simulations.
Field trials of the MISS system were set to take place in Italy. The overall mission is to make travelling on Europe's roads a safer and less frustrating experience, as well as improving the efficiency of important roadside services.
Modular braking systems for high-speed trains
Project to build universal high-speed train brakes
A high-speed train's brake system is a vital component in terms of safety and operational efficiency. And developing brake technologies has become very important in terms of moving Europe towards a fully interoperable rail system, where trains can travel across national borders.
The EU-funded MODBRAKE research project has taken up the challenge of developing a modular brake system for high-speed trains that run on Europe's rail network. A modular system would have all the necessary component parts for a brake - these parts would be contained within an all-in unit that would be relatively easy to fit to a train.
The goal is to reduce the complexity and cost of this key system by producing an interchangeable standardised brake module. The intention is to apply the new brakes to trains and universal locomotives that are capable of reaching speeds greater than 190 km/h.
MODTRAIN focuses on developing standardisation at the modular level, rather than for specific components. This approach will allow different manufacturers to keep developing their own technology - this should ensure that research and development keeps moving forward.
The project will make an assessment of existing standards and regulations for brake systems before defining requirements for a modular system. It will then design, develop and test prototypes.
The researchers also promise to produce coherent inspection and testing criteria to assess the safety and reliability of their proposed system. In addition, they will evaluate the life-cycle costs of the brake system. Standardisation bodies will be asked to examine the finished MODBRAKE design and system.
The benefits of developing a modular brake system are potentially huge: economies of scale will lead to increased productivity and reduced manufacturing costs for Europe's railway sector.
All aboard for an integrated European railway system
Building trains that can run on all of Europe's rail network.
The EU is keen to see a fully interoperable European railway network, which would eventually mean that people and goods could move from one part of Europe to another without the need to swap trains. Legislation has been put in place to help Europe move towards this ideal and the rail industry is undertaking research that will help to speed up the interoperability process.
The EU-funded MODTRAIN project has been developing and testing train systems and parts in a bid to make rolling stock more interoperable and standardised.
MODTRAIN brought together Europe's principal railway manufacturers, operators, suppliers and professional associations. The project team worked closely to develop and test interoperable running gear (bogies and associated equipment), train control systems and onboard power systems. MODTRAIN also assessed possible improvements to the way people interact with trains.
Research was carried out with the operational requirements of the next generation of intercity trains and locomotives in mind. The aim was to maximise the degree of standardisation without losing operational performance.
The project examined ways to standardise certain components such as water pumps, suspension dampers and drivers' cab equipment. MODTRAIN also developed a driver's cabin console and used SNCF simulator equipment to test its performance.
For train carriages, the researchers developed concepts for an interoperable door system and looked into improving access for disabled passengers. The team carried out mock-up tests to verify the advantages of their proposed layout. They also developed and tested innovative emergency information systems and suggested improvements to the way information about a train's operation is presented to staff and passengers.
New car engines for a cleaner, more fuel-efficient future
Engine research aims to boost the motorist - and the environment
Europeans love their cars, and that is not going to change anytime soon as more and more of them hit the road every year. However, both car makers and car buyers know that something has to be done to reduce the negative impact of car use, both on the environment and - as oil goes up in price - the motorist's wallet.
The EU-backed NICE project focused on developing a new combustion system for a car engine that can use almost any type of fuel. The goal is to achieve levels of fuel efficiency similar to the most environmentally friendly diesel engines whilst offering a near zero output of emissions. NICE's creation will be tested to see how well it runs on bio and alternative fuels and gases.
The technologies developed by the project could and should lead to the creation of new, innovative diesel or petrol engines that will secure the long-term competitive future of Europe's car-making industry.
Every aspect of the combustion engine's operation is being analysed by the team, from the use of spark ignition and compression technologies to super-charging. Adapting combustion to handle alternative fuels will of course be a key consideration.
Hi-tech computer modelling techniques are being harnessed to produce workable designs for a project that brings together more than 20 key players from the automobile industry, including car makers, engine suppliers and experts in fuel technology.
The project will help the automotive industry contribute to European efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport. And as Europe strains to cope with petrol prices, leaner, more efficient engines are likely to be in even more demand than they are now.
Promoting urban transport research to a wider audience
Taking urban transport research from 'niche' to mainstream
Urban transport solutions are often bespoke - developed in a particular town or city, bearing in mind local challenges, needs and resources. Nevertheless, such innovations could have a wider application; the problem is that results and outcomes are not always disseminated.
That is where the EU-funded NICHES project came in: its goal was to bring together urban transport research activities from across Europe and promote the most promising concepts to a wide audience.
The project literally wanted to move research actions from their 'niche' positions to the mainstream. The goal was to showcase research that could make urban transport more efficient, competitive and sustainable.
NICHES realised that not enough is being done to coordinate and disseminate urban transport research between cities. In addition, few strategies exist to move tailored research into common practice, and stakeholders do not often realise they have mutual needs and interests.
To improve the situation, the project brought together the main players in urban transport innovation, namely transport authorities, industry, researchers, operators and user groups.
Working together, they focused on finding 12 innovative urban transport concepts that had the potential for wider application. That meant looking at feasibility issues, good practice, design and transferability in four areas: seamless mobility services; innovative approaches to city logistics; new non-polluting and energy efficient vehicles; and innovative demand management strategies.
NICHES has even handed out awards to the local and regional authorities with the most promising measures, which included a car-sharing scheme in Bremen, Germany; an integrated freight management initiative in Emilia Romagna, Italy; clever traffic and parking management in Barcelona; and the use of recycled cooking oil to run buses in Graz, Austria.
What is in store for Europe's road network?
What will Europe's roads look like in 30 years?
Every year, large amounts of money are spent building and maintaining Europe's huge road infrastructure. Such efforts need careful planning, so it's a good idea to look ahead to gauge future needs.
The NR2C project did just that. It examined future requirements, problems and issues related to the road network to assess how things might look in 2040. The goal was to provide policy-makers and engineers with valuable information so that they can make the right decisions in relation to the use, design and construction of Europe's roads.
The EU-funded project aimed to develop reliable, smart, safe, green and human solutions. Its team of scientists and engineers designed models that can be used to assess urban road projects. They also examined innovative technologies that could be harnessed to tackle road noise and vibration, and problems related to air and water pollution. In addition, the project studied materials that could improve road durability and bridge lifespans, along with ways to improve road maintenance and driver vision in poor weather conditions.
New thermal spray system to improve marine engine durability
Making marine engine components more reliable
Large diesel engines are the workhorses of the marine transport world. But despite being economic and reliable, these engines still require regular maintenance to avoid breakdowns.
Components in the engine exhaust system are particularly vulnerable to heat-related stress and corrosion. Cylinder-head parts, such as valve spindles and seats, work to introduce and expel gases from an engine. They need regular maintenance and reconditioning if an engine is to be kept working efficiently.
One way to help ensure these components work well for longer is to treat them for heat resistance and corrosion during manufacture by using thermal spray technology. Thermal sprays provide engine parts with wear-resistant coatings that are applied at high temperatures.
Now an EU-funded research project called OFIENGINE aims to improve this method of protection by developing what is known as an oxy-fuel ionisation (OFI) spray system. The OFI process uses a mix of gases to deliver the coating in a more efficient way than some other thermal spray techniques.
OFI spray methods hold the promise of reducing process costs for coating components by up to 50% compared to more established spray technologies.
The project team aims to build a prototype spray unit and treat various engine exhaust components with the OFI method. The goal is to reduce maintenance and service requirements for coated components and cut the cost of their manufacture.
The team hopes to increase the wear and corrosion resistance of valve spindle components. The OFI treatment will also be tested on other engine parts such as piston crowns and valve bottom heads in a bid to improve their ability to resist heat and corrosion.
OFIENGINE intends to make its OFI spray technology, and the engine components manufactured using the new process, available to the market place.
Improving landing procedures at Europe's airports
Landing protocols will help airports to tackle noise, emissions and safety
Increasing demand for air travel is causing capacity problems at many European airports, leading to delays, frustration and negative environmental impacts. More flights mean local residents have to cope with increased noise and emissions.
But what can the aviation industry do to improve the situation? One EU-backed research project has been working to devise new aircraft approach and landing procedures that will reduce noise and emissions while improving airport capacity.
The OPTIMAL project aimed to find ways to allow airports to carry out more aircraft operations at any one time and help them to handle landings more efficiently in low visibility. Of course, throughout its work the project kept safety at the top of the agenda.
Testing took place using real flights at six European airports, which helped the project to produce a number of important results. New procedures have been devised that utilise the continuous descent approach. This uses less fuel and makes less noise than the conventional 'stepped' approach method where pilots have to accelerate and decelerate a number of times before landing is completed.
To increase airport efficiency and capacity, the project also examined the use of satellite technologies to help guide difficult landing approaches. The researchers also came up with ways to improve cockpit vision and a set of air traffic control tools.
The project results will be used by Europe's air traffic management community and Eurocontrol, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation.
In-vehicle monitoring of exhaust emissions
Sensors will assess a vehicle's polluting habits
Every motorist knows that their car produces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that are bad for the environment and human health. It is possible to monitor how much a vehicle's exhaust pumps out, but this tends to take place intermittently, often during inspections for road worthiness.
Now an alternative way of monitoring exhaust emissions is in the offing, thanks to the work of an EU-funded project called Opto-emi-sense. The project set out to develop an in-vehicle sensor system that can continually monitor emissions of polluting gases, such as CO2 and nitrous oxides, as well as hydrocarbons and particulates.
The research team used optical-fibre sensors - a technology which makes it possible to detect pollutants across a wide spectrum and measure gas temperatures. The project was able to produce a fibre-optic sensor that is small and robust enough to be fitted to a range of road vehicles. The sensor will be capable of checking engine efficiency in terms of compliance with EU emission regulations.
The project also developed a micro-control unit for the sensor which allows it to interact with other systems in a vehicle. The goal is to provide the driver or engine control system with clear and unambiguous information about exhaust emission levels.
While the sensor is based on the most advanced fibre-optic technologies, many of the products used by the project team, such as LEDs and photodiodes, are mass produced, which should mean production costs can be kept down.
Such an innovative and competitively priced product is likely to appeal to European car manufacturers as they strive to develop environmentally friendly vehicles whilst remaining competitive in world markets. And the sensing unit is portable, so there is no reason why it could not be adapted for use on trains and ships.
Cutting the risk of oil tanker spills
Making oil tankers safer to reduce pollution disasters
Oil spills from tankers usually spell disaster for local marine ecosystems and coastal areas. That is why preventing pollution caused by shipping accidents is a major priority for the EU and its Member States.
In recent years safer ship designs have come on-stream, which has improved safety records. And the EU has banned single-hull tankers from its waters. But much can still be done to minimise risks. The EU-backed POP&C project focused on finding ways to prevent and tackle oil spills that could be incorporated into ship design and operation.
Researchers aimed to develop methods to measure potential oil spills from tankers; produce ways to prevent pollution; and develop a framework of action to deal with spills should the worse happen.
To make this possible, the project team had to set about identifying and ranking the various hazards a tanker can face, such as collision and grounding, fire, explosions and structural failure. Using this information POP&C aimed to estimate the likelihood of a ship sinking and any consequent pollution risks.
Preventative measures and post-accident drills will be designed to minimise the impact of accidents. Decision-support tools and crisis-management scenarios generated by POP&C should help ship crews and emergency personnel reduce spillages and thereby protect the environment.
Monitoring ship engine oil to prevent breakdowns
Keeping ship engines up to speed with oil sensor kit
Large diesel engines that are used to power container ships do not come cheap - in fact they can cost upwards of about €1 million each. At any one time, these huge units can circulate up to 70 tons of lube oil, which is essential for efficient engine operation.
However, this oil is open to contamination so has to be checked regularly by ship engineers, but sample analysis has to take place in an oil supplier's lab - this presents huge practical problems because ships are often thousands of miles away from their testing stations.
The EU-backed POSSEIDON project aimed to do away with this cumbersome, time-consuming method by developing a sensor system to check oil quality onboard ship and in real time.
The project's goal was to devise a system that could assess oil viscosity, water-in-oil ratios and levels of impurity. Such a system would be a great boon to crews the world over, allowing engineers to predict oil degradation and take action before any problems occur.
Onboard assessment would improve engine efficiency and protect units against breakdown or long-term damage. It could also optimise the use of oil and cut down on engine repair costs.
The project aimed to develop a demonstrator system, along with support software and procedures to ensure ship crews can use the new technology in an efficient way.
Reducing transport noise in Europe's towns and cities
Aiming for a quiet life - project seeks to cut noise made by road and rail
Noise from road and rail transport is a real blight on urban living that has a negative effect on people's quality of life. The problem could potentially get worse as urban centres grow and traffic levels build.
The EU-funded QCITY (Quiet CITY) project aims to tackle this issue head-on. It is looking into ways of decreasing surface transport noise, especially in built-up areas. QCITY team members aim to find solutions that comply with new EU noise legislation which can be exploited by local authorities and industry.
It is vital that municipalities get help, because under EU rules, they have to prepare noise maps and identify and analyse noise hot spots before preparing action plans to tackle noise pollution. As well as giving theses bodies the tools to do the job, QCITY will provide industry with innovations that will help it to meet its responsibilities.
The project will produce solutions that are easy to implement and that do not cost too much. In order to do this, it is examining ways to cut down on the friction noise produced by a moving vehicle, and looking at how traffic control methods can contribute to a quieter life. In addition, the team is investigating how sound travels in an urban environment - the answers could be very useful to town planners.
All noise-cutting proposals will be rigorously tested in a number of cities across Europe.
Cutting the rail sector's energy use
Boosting the energy efficiency of Europe's railways
Europe's railway sector is keen to become more energy efficient to help cut costs, improve competitiveness and boost its 'green' credentials. At the moment, energy is a key cost for the railways - in fact, Europe's three largest rail networks spend about €1.75 billion a year to meet their energy requirements.
Now an EU-funded project called Railenergy is taking a concerted look at the whole issue of energy consumption and promises to find ways to reduce usage across the whole rail system.
According to the project team, some best practice exists in terms of operational and technical measures that aim to improve energy efficiency, but they do not address the issue in a comprehensive way.
Railenergy has opted to carry out a complete analysis of energy usage - it will look at different rail systems, sub-systems and components to find potential savings. The project's goal is a 6% reduction in energy consumption for European railways by 2020.
To achieve its aims, the project will develop a model to describe and assess energy usage. This analytical tool will help researchers establish energy needs and performance indicators for the rail sector.
The project will then devise and test energy-efficient railway technologies that can be used in trackside and onboard systems and equipment. It will also develop an energy management module which will help rail operators run diagnostic checks on their energy usage.
In addition, the researchers hope to produce energy efficiency targets for rolling stock, infrastructure and traffic management systems.
The project results will help railways reduce life-cycle energy costs across the entire network. In the long-term this will help rail become more competitive, which in turn will support the EU's goal of encouraging a 'modal shift' of passengers and goods from road to rail. It should be good news for the environment too, as outputs of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants will be reduced.
In-vehicle sensor system takes hassle out of driving
Using technology to help drivers REACT to road safety dangers and congestion
Driving can be a hazardous business - every year more than 40 000 people die on Europe's roads. It can also be very frustrating due to rising traffic densities and congestion. Now modern technology is being harnessed in a way that will address safety issues and help motorists avoid blocked-up routes.
REACT is an EU-funded project that aims to develop an in-vehicle sensor system that can warn drivers about hazardous road conditions and traffic build-up. The sensors will be able to provide details about the weather and its potential effect on local roads - for example, it could flash an alert about black ice or heavy rain. The REACT system will also provide a wealth of information about the route ahead, and could warn the driver of the need to slow down if there is heavy traffic about or if road conditions are tricky. These details could help the driver to decide to alter their journey in a bid to avoid bottlenecks and hazards.
REACT offers a considerable step up from current road traffic management systems which are static and limited in number. They tend to be concentrated on busy urban routes, which means there is little coverage on Europe's vast rural road network where the majority of accidents happen. Because REACT is mobile it can provide coverage wherever and whenever it is needed. In addition, it is being designed to complement existing traffic-management systems.
But how would it work? The in-vehicle system will collect data using real-time mobile sensors that assess details such as road friction, visibility, traffic levels and vehicle speed. This information is then sent via satellite to the REACT central server, which uses sophisticated prediction and decision-making models to provide drivers with advice. The server will generate safety alerts, along with recommendations on what speed to drive at and how to avoid congested routes.
The research team includes some of Europe's top technology companies. They believe REACT can make a significant contribution to road safety and help improve traffic flows.
Improving the performance of aircraft tail sections
Aircraft tail sections must go with the flow to become more efficient
Aerospace designers are under constant pressure to improve the performance of aircraft, both in terms of flight capabilities and environmental impact. One area where improvements could be made is the aerodynamic performance of aircraft empennage.
The empennage is the tail section of an aircraft, consisting of the tailplane, fins and the section of fuselage to which they are attached. This is an important part of a plane, as it provides stability and controls pitch and yaw movements, in other words a plane's up and down and side-to-side movements.
Research in this area has been limited, but the EU-backed REMFI project aimed to change all that. Its goal was to increase empennage aerodynamic efficiency while optimising performance and weight.
The project team sought to develop new design concepts for empennage after analysing ways to improve the 'tail-flow physics' associated with this part of an aircraft. REMFI's ultimate objective was to enable the aerospace industry to shorten empennage design cycles and reduce aircraft maintenance costs.
Work included both theoretical and experimental tasks. State-of-the-art computer simulation tools were used to shape new empennage designs. Concepts were then tested and measured in wind tunnels.
Improved aerodynamic efficiency will lead to aircraft using less fuel, which means the project could end up helping to improve the aerospace industry's environmental performance.
Developing broadband antennae for aviation
RETINA project eyes new antennae for aircraft
Satellite technology now makes it possible to deliver broadband services to aircraft as they fly across the world. Air crews benefit as new flight monitoring systems can provide faster and more efficient links with air traffic systems on the ground. And passengers can use broadband to enjoy onboard TV and internet access.
However, there are some technical difficulties to iron out before airlines can make the most of broadband. Reception is a key issue because current aircraft antennae are not particularly suitable for receiving broadband. Many current models are extremely expensive, while others - based on a dish design - prove impractical because they create drag on an aircraft's sleek lines.
The EU-funded RETINA project aimed to provide a low-cost, reliable alternative antenna based on the 'reflect array' concept. Signals are captured by an array and then reflected or bounced into an integrated receiver mast. This approach offers a low-cost, low-profile solution for airborne satellite communications.
The project embarked on rigorous modelling and electromechanical design phases to explore the pros and cons of two competing technologies for the array. The most promising solution - which harnesses ferro-electric materials - was then chosen. Further testing and refinement took place before the RETINA team built a demonstrator antenna.
The demonstrator was put through its paces to see what kind of signal strength it produced, and to find out how it is likely to cope with vibration and temperature changes.
The RETINA team also took an in-depth look at the potential market for next-generation broadband SatCom services to assess likely requirements for new antennae and receiver systems.
Making it safer to abandon ship
Improving ship evacuation procedures and equipment
Shipbuilders are being asked to construct ever larger passenger liners, many of which could end up carrying 5 000 people. Despite this increase in capacity and the growing popularity of ship-board recreation, very little research exists to assess evacuation procedures or rescue methods at sea.
The EU-funded SEACRAFTS project aimed to fill this gap. It set out to improve existing life-saving equipment and develop new evacuation procedures that could improve the reliability of ship rescue.
To inform their work, the SAFECRAFT researchers examined the behaviour of passengers to find out how they cope with a call to abandon ship. The team looked at how well people climb and descend, and their ability to use lifeboat equipment while under pressure. The project also studied the performance of ship evacuation equipment and lifeboat launching procedures.
The project aimed to test its new ship evacuation methods under extreme weather conditions. The goal was to carry out tests using models before going on to build a full-scale prototype of the project's preferred rescue system concept.
SAFECRAFT's objective is to provide cost-effective solutions through the development of life rafts and related equipment that are easy to use and that save space onboard ships.
The project's results should provide European safety equipment manufacturers and ship builders with an innovative edge over competitors. At the same time, the new gear and procedures will provide ferry and cruise-line operators with greater peace of mind regarding passenger safety.
Boosting aircraft security in dangerous times
System aims to scupper onboard threats to make aircraft safer
Over recent years, breaches in security have undermined confidence in the air transport sector. Airlines are understandably keen to protect passengers and crew from danger and take the need to prevent another '9/11' scenario very seriously.
Many of European aviation's biggest names joined forces to work on the EU-funded SAFEE project. SAFEE aimed to build an advanced aircraft security system to provide a safe flight through from departure to arrival. The objective: to counter a range of onboard threats from hijacking to electronic jamming.
The project sought to develop an onboard threat detection system which processes information from sensors placed about the aircraft. Such a system could include the use of audio and video surveillance devices.
The next step was to devise a threat assessment and response management system. This will provide air crews with information about the threat they face and offer potential courses of action to follow.
SAFEE also aimed to develop a flight protection system, including emergency avoidance technology to counter the threat of collision. Work here included plans to develop an auto-guidance system capable of controlling an aircraft to ensure its safe return home should problems arise.
In addition, the project was committed to developing a data protection system that secures both the exchange of information in an aircraft and as it communicates with ground control teams.
The threat-detection system was tested in a mock-up of an Airbus aircraft cabin. Meanwhile, a cockpit simulator put the threat assessment and response management system through its paces.
Increasing the safety of ice-bound shipping
Helping ships cope with sea-ice navigation
Northern sea lanes can be hazardous due to the fact that ships have to negotiate sea ice as they travel from port to port.
Ships have to be strengthened to cope with these conditions because sea ice places huge loads on hulls, propellers and rudders. Nevertheless, even strengthened hulls can be ruptured, sinking ships, crews and cargo. To minimise risks, international regulations cover the design of ice-strengthened ships, but they are not always that well defined.
An EU-funded project called SAFEICE has closely examined this situation in a bid to develop a scientific basis for ice rules. The project aimed to decrease the risk vessels face by devising a winter navigation system that will help them cope with ice-bound waters.
Project researchers used ice-load measurements and models to determine the effect of sea ice on ship hulls. Testing compared the effect of ice on conventional and strengthened tankers. This work provided valuable data for the future development of ice-class rules that will be applicable to large tankers that navigate Russian ports in the Gulf of Finland.
Full-scale and model tests have also provided information that will help to improve the design of ice-strengthened ships that ply their trade in the Baltic Sea. Finnish and Swedish maritime administrations are using the findings to develop new ice rules.
In addition, a risk analysis carried out by the project team has been used to develop safer operational practices for ice-bound waters. These will be deployed to help train officers who work in the Baltic Sea.
Safer train interiors will minimise injury
Reducing the impact of accidents on train passengers
Modern trains are strong, robust and built to withstand accidents. However, while a train may absorb the impact of a crash with often minimal structural damage, a big problem remains: passengers can be seriously injured as they are thrown around their carriages.
Now an EU-funded project is to carry out research in a bid to make train interiors safer and so reduce passenger injuries. The SAFEINTERIORS project will analyse railway accidents and the levels of injury they cause. It will utilise the latest biomechanical research to shed light on the way human bodies move during accidents.
Accident information will be fed into a design stage, where the project team will establish guidelines for safer interior compartment layouts. The researchers will look at ways to balance safety requirements with passenger needs and train functions. They will then design new specifications for interior layout, along with safer furniture and other train equipment.
In addition, the project will examine the use of new lightweight furniture materials and designs that can absorb energy from crashes more effectively than current products.
New layouts and furniture will be physically tested, and their potential impact on passengers will be assessed using crash test dummies.
According to the project team, rail operators and train designers will be able to use SAFEINTERIORS' findings to improve both present and future train compartment layouts.
Radar system will monitor what lies beneath Europe's rail tracks
Monitoring system will boost rail track safety and operational efficiency
For trains to run smoothly and safely they need rail track that is in good order and well maintained. The ground works that lie beneath rail lines need to be assessed regularly to ensure that they are not about to collapse: engineers need to check for fouled ballast, trapped water and buried objects.
Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is the best tool available to check rail track sub-surfaces. However, current technologies and assessment techniques do not always provide accurate results. Assessment suffers due to a lack of analytical software, and current systems cannot really cope with monitoring tasks across an entire rail network.
Step forward the EU-funded SAFE-RAIL project, which aims to develop a fast and accurate GPR system that can continuously check rail track sub-surface conditions.
SAFE-RAIL's team of engineers, geophysicists and electronics experts has been looking at ways of mounting GPR on a rail car and developing onboard data-processing tools that will provide operators with real-time user-friendly information.
Their system consists of new fast radar that uses innovative antennae to allow precise estimation of ground layers and buried objects. It will offer maximum penetration depth in any terrain.
The team has also been working to develop a high-performance radar control unit that can cope with train speeds of more than 300 km/h. The project's software will permit the networking of information gathered from different radar sensors teams working across an entire rail network. This innovation will help track managers to optimise their maintenance and construction schedules.
The project's commitment to improve the delivery of diagnostic information about sub-surface conditions should also make Europe's rail network safer and more efficient. That means less delays and fewer accidents.
Assessing ways to make Europe's level crossings safer
Improving the safety of level crossings
Every year, more than 300 people are killed in 1 200 accidents on level crossings in the EU. About 90% of these accidents are down to human error, rather than technical problems.
Nevertheless, problems at level crossings represent about 50% of the fatalities caused by railway operations - consequently the sector is keen to find ways to reduce accident rates.
SELCAT is an EU-funded project which is analysing European research into level-crossing safety. The project team will collect, assess and disseminate research results and aims to find ways to help the road and rail sectors exchange ideas. SELCAT will also explore new technologies and appraise their potential to cut accidents.
As part of their work, the SELCAT researchers will assess accident data from accidents at level crossings that occurred in Europe and Japan.
These activities should help SELCAT to not only evaluate the safety performance of Europe's level crossings but also help it to make recommendations for new safety targets and measures.
The results will be of value to road and rail authorities as they look for ways to improve safety at level crossings. The project will hold workshops and special sessions at conferences to disseminate its findings to engineers and transport safety specialists.
The SELCAT team will also undertake a public information campaign to explain level crossing safety issues to motorists. A web portal will be developed to store and explain the project's work along with other research and statistics relating to this area of road and railway safety.
Reducing aircraft noise with technological innovation
SILENCE is golden for aircraft noise-reduction project
The noise aircraft make, especially when taking off and landing, is a real social problem, particularly for people who live near airports. But with air travel expanding and more airports being extended, how do we make life quieter?
Finding ways to reduce the noise aircraft make is a good place to start. The EU-funded SILENCE(R) project assessed concepts that could make modern aero-engines quieter - including low noise fans, innovative turbine technologies and improvements to engine housings. It also looked at ways to modify airframe parts such as wing flaps and landing gear to reduce their noise signature.
The project aimed to cut aircraft noise by up to six decibels and carefully assessed technologies and innovations according to criteria such as cost, weight and performance. The goal was to come up with solutions that could be retro-fitted to existing aircraft and develop ideas that could be harnessed in the development of new aero-engines.
SILENCE(R) has managed to carry out successful tests of 35 prototype technologies, including several advanced low-noise fan rotors and components for a complete low-noise nacelle (engine housing). These innovations were flight tested on an Airbus A320. The project team also tested landing gear fitted with aerodynamic fairings on an Airbus A340.
Overall, the innovations tested achieved an impressive five decibel reduction in the noise made by aircraft.
Lightweight car offers more sustainable motoring
Slimmed-down car could benefit your wallet and the environment
Europe's roads carry about 3 million more cars every year. That means ever-more resources are being used to satisfy the continent's insatiable demand for motoring, not to mention the cost in terms of extra greenhouse gas emissions.
The SLC (SuperLight Car) project offers an innovative approach to dealing with these issues. It aims to develop a new lightweight vehicle body structure that is up to 50% lighter than those currently used to build road cars.
The EU-funded project brings together some of Europe's best known automotive firms. They are keen to develop the know-how and technical capability that is required to design, engineer and manufacture a lighter car that uses 30% less raw materials than today's models. They aim to produce a set of results that could make it feasible to build up to 1 000 lightweight vehicles a day.
The project will carry out research into advanced materials to see which lightweight alloys and advanced steels work best together. Close attention will be paid to what are known as forming and joining technologies (welding, adhesive bonding, etc.) as lightweight cars are likely to be made of mixed materials. The goal is to produce a working model of a lightweight car's front-end structure, along with a fully realised, computer-generated 'virtual' car body.
SLC's team of engineers will examine how their creation would handle crash testing and fatigue issues. Cost will also be an important factor because the aim is to offer solutions that could lead to the mass production of lighter cars by 2012.
If or when an SLC-inspired vehicle makes it to production, the benefits to Europe could be significant in terms of sustainability: lighter cars will need less fuel than their traditional counterparts - which means a reduction in CO2 emissions - and would be made using fewer resources.
New airframe structures will mean lighter planes
Lighter aircraft are in the frame thanks to hi-tech project
With the cost of oil on the rise and with its green credentials constantly under scrutiny, the aviation industry is forever looking into ways to cut fuel consumption. One way to reduce fuel bills and emissions is to try and to make aircraft lighter.
The EU-funded TANGO project set about harnessing hi-tech materials and production processes to develop stronger and lighter airframe substructures.
Traditionally, aircraft wings and fuselages were put together using thousands of individual parts. But now modern technologies mean engineers may be able to do away with this laborious process.
TANGO's research team explored the use of materials such as carbon fibre, lightweight alloys, and fibre and metal laminates to make what are known as composite structures. They also tested novel production methods, such as a variety of welding techniques and the use of resin bonds, to fix composite structures together.
In its search for lighter structures, the project focused on developing four test beds: a composite wing; a composite fuselage; a composite centre box area which holds the wings together; and a metal fuselage.
Rigorous testing has proved many of the project's technologies and techniques pass muster and they are likely to find their way into aircraft production cycles. The TANGO team is confident that its findings could eventually lead to a 20% reduction in the structural weight of a typical civil aviation aircraft.
By making sub-frame construction easier to automate and by using fewer parts, TANGO also has the potential to generate efficiencies on the factory floors of Europe's airframe manufacturers and component suppliers.
Computer software innovations will boost ship design
Virtual world will help produce better ships in the real world
A ship's performance, efficiency and safety are all heavily influenced by its hydrodynamic behaviour, in other words how well its hull flows through the water.
For a while now, designers have used Computational Fluid Dynamics (CDF) to assess flows around ship hulls. CDF is essentially computer modelling and is used alongside traditional physical tests that use real models. But today's CDF methods lack accuracy compared to the results obtained through real-world testing.
The EU-backed VIRTUE project aims to change that situation by developing high precision CDF tools that will provide a complete analysis of a ship's hydrodynamic behaviour.
The project includes marine consultants, academics and software providers. They are bringing their skills together to develop an integrated CDF package that will allow designers to test ship hulls in a 'virtual tank utility'. In this computer-generated environment, CDF will be deployed to simulate ship behaviour at sea in an accurate and comprehensive manner.
The project will generate common standards for the use of CDF data; this will be a real step forward because traditionally these virtual design tools have been developed separately. For the first time, the project aims to tie everything together in a complete package.
If successful, VIRTUE will provide European shipbuilders with innovative software tools that will boost their competitive position. The completed package promises to reduce manufacturing costs by sharpening the design process.
In turn, improved and innovative design and product quality will increase demand for European-built ships the world over.
Making aero-engines more environmentally friendly
'Greening' aircraft engines to reduce noise and emissions
Over recent years, the aerospace industry has been criticised for contributing to global warming and for making the world a noisier place. But air travel is now a necessary part of modern life, so researchers are busying themselves to find ways to improve the environmental performance of the aerospace sector.
The EU-funded VITAL project is doing its bit to significantly reduce noise and polluting emissions that come from aircraft engines. It is developing and validating engine technologies that could provide a six-decibel reduction per aircraft operation and a 7% reduction in CO2 emissions. The aim is to apply VITAL's results to engines that came into service before 2000.
To achieve its objectives, VITAL is designing, manufacturing and testing low-speed fan technologies that can be used in modern airline engines. The project will use lightweight materials - including polymer composites and titanium - along with innovative design solutions to improve the performance of what are known as Very High Bypass Ratio (VHBR) engines. This type of engine is used by many commercial airlines and the proposed changes should lead to a reduction in fuel consumption.
The project team is also aiming to use results from other EU-backed research projects that have used different approaches to make aircraft engines more efficient and less noisy. The goal here is to combine outcomes to provide an eight-decibel reduction in noise per operation and a 18% reduction in CO2 emissions.
Boosting collaboration and innovation in aeronautics
Simulating design and development of aircraft and their engines
By harnessing the latest IT and computing technologies, many industries can produce advanced simulation and modelling techniques which can be used to improve product design. Using virtual technologies can reduce costs and increase product quality before anything is made in the 'real world'.
The EU-funded VIVACE project used these techniques to help the European aeronautics industry to design and test aircraft parts and engines. The project was hugely ambitious, bringing together more than 60 partners who worked together to examine aircraft production throughout the development life cycle.
The project aimed to reduce aircraft development costs by 5%; contribute to a 30% reduction in lead time for engine development; and help to provide a 50% cost reduction in engine development.
By working virtually to produce models and simulations, the researchers were able to re-engineer and improve entire production processes. For example, they assessed how an aircraft's electronic, avionic and hydraulic systems could be made to work more efficiently. They were also able to examine how components such as landing gear, fuselage, pylons and wings behaved under different scenarios, both individually and together.
In addition, simulations gave VIVACE an insight into how much an aero-engine costs throughout its life cycle. This information helped the team to produce scenarios to improve future engine design and production.
In the long run, the project will help to boost the innovative capacity and competitiveness of Europe's aeronautics industry. It should dramatically reduce the time to market for new products, increase integration in the supply chain and cut air travel costs.