Shipping goods from furniture to food could be transformed by a new transport network called the ‘physical internet.’ It is built on similar principles to the internet, which revolutionised the way information flows around the word, including open access and global interconnectedness. Researchers hope to make it a reality by 2040, when a fully autonomous network should be in place.
Almost 20 years after Concorde was grounded, civilian supersonic aircraft seem ready to take off again. New technology is pushing a new generation of aircraft forward, but challenges remain, from regulations to plain old economics.
With air traffic set to increase 5% every year until 2030, scientists are looking at how to make aeroplanes more sustainable. But with current batteries making electric aircraft far too heavy, hybrid fuel and electric models could point the way forward for greener air travel - and could become airborne within 15 years.
The pandemic left a visible imprint on car, bus and bicycle use – and at its height brought about cleaner city air – but it also disrupted another, less obvious but highly polluting sector: freight transport. Coronavirus plunged millions of planes, trucks, trains and ships into a massive experiment, disrupting supply chains as national borders closed and industries shut down. Researchers and industry are now looking to see if any of the changes will stick.
Today, aviation is responsible for 3.6% of EU greenhouse gas emissions. Modern planes use kerosene as fuel, releasing harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But what if there was another way?
People in cities experienced cleaner air during lockdowns, but a permanent shift to greener modes of transport and habits is ‘extremely complex to achieve’ given how much space is devoted to cars and the groups resisting change, says Dr Basile Chaix, who studies the health trade-offs we make as we travel.
Moving more goods by water could reduce pressure on roads and cut emissions, yet Europe’s shipping industry is held back by labour shortages. Automated shipping – which would work in a similar way to self-driving cars – could help expand capacity but safety and regulatory hurdles remain.
Lithium-sulphur batteries, which are lighter and cheaper than today’s models, may be the next generation of power cells that we use in electric cars or mobile phones – if scientists can get them to last for longer.
By 2030, a fifth of the fuel that motorists put into the petrol tanks of their cars could be alcohol, according to research concluding that new petrol and ethanol blends can reduce carbon emissions from Europe’s transport sector with little additional cost to consumers.
Producers must act now to ensure survival, say experts.
In-depth knowledge of supply chains and pre-certification scheme could reduce medical supply disruption.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.