By guest blogger, Stan Thompson
The Centre for Railway Research and Education at the University of Birmingham, UK, hosts this year’s International Hydrail Conference (IHC) on 3 and 4 July and the trend is clearly toward putting hydrogen on the main line.
Hosting the Hydrail Conference in the UK was the idea of U. Birmingham Ph.D. candidate in hydrogen railway technology, Andreas Hoffrichter, who also presented at the 2010 Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO-ICHET) hosted the 2010 IHC but, due to the world economy’s impact on travel budgets, there was no Conference in 2011. The University of Birmingham’s ability to regain lost momentum has been invaluable in continuing development of hydrail technology and raising the public’s awareness of its potential.
Hydrail Conferences have always featured prominent academics but this year the bar has been raised. Presenters include Fellows of the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Until 2010, Germany had been conspicuously missing from the slate of 15 countries who have presented at the six IHCs. But this year three presentations bring German perspectives, including one of the very earliest hydrail visions: a wind power to hydrogen electrolysis design that predates even Denmark’s similar 2005 proposal.
The rising price of copper and public pushback from visible electric superstructure makes track electrification more problematic every year. The costs of highway fuels, railway diesel and jet fuel are cross-elastic, driving up both travel costs and the price of everything that moves to market. This economic impulse, plus growing concern about the climate impact of extracted carbon energy, makes hydrail an increasingly attractive alternative.
If Stanford University’s “unzipped carbon nanotubes” prove a viable alternative to platinum fuel cell catalysis and the Savannah River National Laboratory and University of Toronto commercialize thermochemical water splitting, hydrail trains and streetcars could arrive well ahead of schedule.
To see previews of this year’s International Hydrail Conference presenters and subjects, visit “http://hydrail.org/conferences/speakers-and-presentations”.
Registration for the 2012 International Hydrail Conference in Birmingham, UK, is available online.