Indian breakthrough taps gravity to help road-rail travel

October 24th, 2008 - 9:29 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 24 (IANS) An Indian breakthrough will help road-rail travel ride on gravity power alone that can potentially save the world 70 percent of fossil fuels required for the purpose every year.Rajaram Bojji, a product of the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, who holds 17 international patents and has helped script an engineering marvel like the Konkan Railway, has explored and developed the knowhow to tap gravity.

Rajaram, who filed his latest patent application in the US this July, told IANS from Hyderabad that it is “an evolutionary initiative that can possibly free the world of its dependence on fossil fuels, underlying much of the volatile price rise”.

The futuristic technology could be a boon for a country like India, possibly helping it save billions of dollars spent annually on oil imports, accounting for 65 percent of our current requirements, the rest being met with domestic output, he added.

But by 2025, when the demand for energy will double, India is expected to import 90 percent of its oil requirement, according to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington DC-based think tank.

“The eventuality is bound to push petro-prices dangerously beyond sustainable levels, which can be averted only by gravity power,” added scientist-engineer Rajaram.

The non-polluting technology is based on a simple concept - the conversion of potential or stored energy like gravity into kinetic or moving energy to drive the wheels of transportation, minimising carbon emissions and warming levels.

Some of the most visible examples of gravity use are hydropower-driven turbines to produce electricity or overhead water tanks to keep taps running. In the medieval ages, trebuchet or huge slings hurled 150-kg projectiles 300 metres to breach enemy defences.

Rajaram, former managing director, Konkan Railway, said his technology, unlike other sources of renewable or alternative energy like sunlight or biofuels, would not require heavy investment or land and can work with existing infrastructure even in developing countries.

Significantly, a group of the world’s top ecologists and economists have reportedly warned that unchecked cultivation of biofuels could spell ecological disaster. They cited the example of grain-based ethanol as a lesson in perils of embracing solutions without addressing their long-term implications.

The new techonology requires replacement of internal combustion engines (road) and locomotives or traction motors (rail) with a set of flywheel storage, battery pack and electromagnetic coupler, all driven by Gravity Power Towers (GPTs).

They would be placed three of four kilometres apart, along routes crisscrossing a city, state or a country. The expenditure incurred on this switchover would be more than compensated by vast savings in fuel, he added.

Basically these intelligent and networked microprocessor-based systems would coordinate the entire operations and their timings, besides collecting, storing and routing gravitational energy through transmission cables embedded in low, mid and high speed lanes to drive vehicles.

For instance, as soon as the driver enters a low speed lane with the help of the battery pack, he switches on the electromagnet, which couples with a cable embedded in its middle and energises the flywheel and battery pack that keeps the vehicle running.

He can also shift to mid (70 kmph) or high speed (120 kmph) lane by detaching and reattaching with the respective embedded cable. If he wants to park his vehicle, he quits the lane, using stored energy from the flywheel battery pack.

The towers would also collect kinetic energy, released by trains and vehicles as they are halting, to store it as potential energy for use later. During the off-peak hour period, this information exchange among GPTs would enable the recovery of 70 percent of delivered power with the help of electrical energy.

In case of railway tracks, transmission cables will be mounted inside a metal guide box located in their middle to power trains, eliminating overhead wires, for speeds up to 360 kmph.

These tracks will be flanked by metre-high side-walls to prevent derailments and to bring the train to a halt in emergencies with special side bearing wheels.

(Shudip Talukdar can be contacted

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