In an increasingly interconnected world, innovative public transportation has become a necessity. Throughout Europe, especially in metropolitan areas, public transportation plays a huge role in getting people from point a to point b. Not only is public transportation usually free or very cheap, but in Europe it is becoming increasingly more efficient.
The London metro area, specifically, is on the verge of having one of the world’s most accessible rail systems. The new railway, which will be known as the Elizabeth Line, will become operational in 2018 (1). Crossrail Ltd, the company backing the project, has been working on this rail system for over 7 years. The progress over this time period has led to phenomenal results; 10 new stations are in development, containing top of the line artwork, modern building designs, innovative structures, and strategic placement. On top of new railway stations, Crossrail will also make upgrades to 30 more stations in the greater London metro area (1).
In addition to beautiful artwork and design, the placement, speed, and accessibility of the Elizabeth Line will make it a one of a kind transportation system. 24 trains, spanning a length of 650 feet each, will run every hour and in every direction (1). The railway will likely reduce traffic and congestion in the city’s most busy areas, including the business and leisure districts. Furthermore, the Elizabeth Line will connect citizens of London’s outer suburbs to major inner-city areas in a more fashionable time frame. The Elizabeth Lines’ dual integration system will allow travelers to connect to the already existent forms of rail systems, including London Underground and National Rail (1). Londoners are anxiously awaiting the Elizabeth Lines’ arrival, considering it presents the option to travel the city in a timelier manner.
The construction of the Elizabeth Line, however, is no easy task: it has both historical and obstructive implications. Lying directly below the new Liverpool Street station for the Elizabeth Line are approximately 3,000 individual skeletons. These ancient corpses lie in what is called the Bedlam Burial Ground. It is believed that this burial ground contains so many corpses due to a case of ancient bubonic plague. In the hopes of maintaining a portion of history and studying the corpses, it is required that hundreds of archaeologists carefully dig up the bodies before the construction resumes. Analyzing and storing 3,000 corpses is no easy task, and will certainly present a barrier to Crossrail’s goal of staying on schedule. Crossrail’s impressive construction techniques, visual renderings, and outsourcing of construction, however, suggests that they are up to the task.
The Elizabeth Line will have a lasting skills legacy and a highly positive impact on the economic position of the United Kingdom. More than 550 apprentices have been trained in a range of disciplines, including construction and quantity surveying throughout the project (1). Teaching younger adults the techniques used in the construction of the Elizabeth Line will allow further generations to reconstruct innovative wonders in a similar fashion and quality. In terms of the economic impact the Elizabeth Line will have on the United Kingdom, the benefits are vast. It is expected that this project will have created the equivalent of 55,000 full-time jobs during the course of its construction, and that it will add $55 billion to the United Kingdom’s economy. These projected economic and employment prosperities are coming in a critical time for the nation. With Brexit on the horizon, any money and jobs that are added to the nation’s economic sector will provide more breathing room for the UK in rebuilding their nation from an independent standpoint. Elizabeth Line is proof that an innovative approach to public transportation can serve benefits beyond the common eye, even supporting the heart of a country’s economy.
(1) Barker, John. “Crossrail Transforms London Transport to Move Millions.”Metro, Metro Magazine, 20 Sept. 2016, http://www.metro- magazine.com/rail/article/715511/crossrail-transforms-london-transport-to-move-millions
(2) Crossrail Project. “Crossrail Archaeology: Bedlam Dig Begins at Liverpool Street Station.” YouTube, commentary by Jay Carver, 10 Mar. 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgri-kerlom.
Image:© Phartisan | Dreamstime.com - London,5, 11th, 2015 Waterloo Underground Station
In 2012, Uniper Benelux and ENGIE Energie Nederland announced a partnership in order to construct project ROAD (Rotterdam Capture and Storage Demonstration Project) by the year 2015. ROAD, located in the Maasvlakte harbor of Rotterdam, is now one of the world’s first underwater power plants capable of capturing and storing CO2 (1). The practical use behind ROAD is to store excess CO2 that is emitted by fossil fuels such as oil and gas. Netherlands is playing their part in reducing global temperatures by storing CO2. CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) is the key to reducing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere and ROAD’s energy conversion mechanism utilizes CCS to function prosperously. The project directors of ROAD plan to capture five million tons of CO2 between 2015 and 2020 (1).
Before delving further into the development and functionalities of the ROAD project, it is paramount to understand the short, yet extensive, history of carbon capture technology that has led to such a modern day innovation. Coal-based power plants have always given off large amount amounts of CO2, heating up the earth’s atmosphere. In the 1970’s, environmental awareness turned into panic as scientists began to scramble for methods that would allow for coal plants to reduce their carbon footprint. The Carbon Capture and Sequestration Program at MIT was initiated in 1989, eventually leading to the creation of CCS technologies in the early 21st century (2). In the winter of 2008, the world’s first CCS system came online at the Schwarze Pumpe coal power plant in Germany (3). Little did the German scientists working on Schwarze Pumpe know that the amount of carbon dioxide they were storing at that plant would be minimalistic in comparison to CCS technologies 8 years later. The potential for storing captured carbon dioxide has grown six-fold in the last decade; Schwarze Pumpe’s storage facility has a 42 MW capacity, while ROAD’s capacity is 250 mW (4).
The process of the ROAD CCS system is divided into four steps: filtration, pipeline navigation, pressurized injection of the CO2 to great depths, and finally, the storage of CO2 in an empty gas chamber underwater (1). The four steps appear as a simple practice, yet state of the art technology allows project ROAD to store CO2 with bull’s-eye precision at an impressive capacity.
Project ROAD is not the first underwater system to store energy, but it is one of the largest facilities to store CO2. ROAD defends the atmosphere from CO2 profusion while creating energy in the proceeding, making it a multi-use energy complex. Since the international economy is dependent on fossil fuels to generate electricity, industrial complexes must continue to work with scientists to discover new techniques that can help reduce emissions. As energy complexes shift towards multi-use functionality, a decrease in CO2 will allow the atmosphere to begin filtering out harmful emissions. However, this change can only be brought on with the proper funding and applied innovation tactics.
Netherlands and major corporations in Western Europe are leading the way in the clean energy revolution. It is of utmost importance that major producers of fossil fuels in the Western Hemisphere continue to follow suit in the environmental revolution that is underway in Europe. There are currently no forms of clean energy that can serve as a reliable replacement for fossil fuels. Thus, it is the responsibility of energy companies and nation states to continue working on preventative methods for fighting carbon dioxide pollution. As new scientific methods allow for expansive growth in environmentally friendly technologies, it is unclear how new discoveries may shift the future for CCS and the clean energy revolution.
(1) Project ROAD 2020. “Introduction Video” Online Video Clip. Road CCS. LVB Networks, 12 May 2011. Web. 12 Aug 2016
(2) "Weyburn-Midale Fact Sheet: Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Project."Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies @ MIT. MIT Energy Intitiative, 7 Apr. 2016. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.
(3) Jha, Alok. "World's First Carbon Capture Pilot Fires up Clean-coal Advocates."The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 05 Sept. 2008. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.
(4) Read, Andy. "Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage." ROAD – Rotterdam Capture and Storage Demonstration Project. SETIS, Jan. 2016. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.
Image: © Hansenn | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-industrial-area-image27103646#res14972580">Industrial area</a>
In yet another long-shot space exploration effort, Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner is backing the Breakthrough Starshot project with $100 million commitment to send a light beam to propel gram-scale ‘nanocraft’ that is aiming to reach Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to Earth, within 20 years of launch (1). Stephen Hawking and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will both serve as advisors to Milner on his board of directors (1).
The science behind Breakthrough Starshot is based on developing laser beam technology. Milner believes that once his miniature satellites leave the Earth’s atmosphere, he will be able to convert sunrays into energy that will power his satellites to travel at a high velocity. Milner plans to leverage the miniature size of his satellites to fight the powerful force of gravity.
Yuri Milner is not alone in his quest for extraterrestrial exploration; there are many well-respected scientific minds and institutions that plan to aide Milner in his research. Milner’s quest for exploring new frontiers has drawn support from many institutions with similar motivations. For example, Cornell University researchers launched 100 prototype “chipsats” on July 6 to the International Space Station, where they will be deployed and tested for their ability to collect and transmit data and stay functional. After a few days of this, the miniature satellites will be allowed to drift off and burn up in the atmosphere (2). The scientific community is eagerly awaiting the results Cornell University will have to offer after their orbital research mission is concluded.
Although he is supported by some of the greatest intellectual minds in the world,
Milner will still run into countless technical problems down the road. Engineering complications and financial commitments will be two of Milner’s biggest threats to the success of his project.
The technology Milner plans to utilize in his venture is still in development and may take decades of research and billions in funding before any scientific conclusions can be made. Milner is certain that this project will take a minimum of a couple of decades, but he is convinced that his plan will send a robotic probe to Alpha Centauri successfully in this century (4).
Even if the team can overcome the technical problems they are faced with, there is no guarantee we will be seeing images of Alpha Centauri any time soon. The $100 million is only enough for research, not enough to fund the full mission, which will be a decades-long, multibillion dollar project on the scale of one of the world’s biggest scientific experiments ever (3).
Yuri Milner’s intellect enables him to foresee opportunities and explore new frontiers before others are even aware of their mere existence. When faced with challenges, Yuri is dynamic and utilizes calculated problem solving skills. Yuri Milner is a strategic, forward-thinking man, and will continue to fight physical and intellectual restrictions that may halt his quest to reach Alpha Centauri, “We have researched about 20 technical challenges, and we believe that none of those is insurmountable”, he says (3).
(1) Swisher, Kara. "Tiny Rockets to Alpha Centauri? Zuckerberg, Milner and Hawking in $100 Million Starshot Project to Launch 'Nanocraft.'" Recode. Vox Media, 12 Apr. 2016. Web. 08 July 2016.
(2) Patel, Neel V. "These ‘Chipsats’ Could Help Us Find Aliens on Alpha Centauri." These ‘Chipsats’ Could Help Us Find Aliens on Alpha Centauri. Space News, 5 July 2016. Web. 08 July 2016.
(3) Aron, Jacob. "Billionaire Pledges $100m to Send Spaceships to Alpha Centauri." New Scientist. Daily News, 12 Apr. 2016. Web. 08 July 2016.
(4) Rittenhouse, Lindsay. "Billionaire Yuri Milner Explains $100 Million Extraterrestrial Search." TheStreet. TheStreet, Inc., 01 July 2016. Web. 08 July 2016.
Image: © Mihai-bogdan Lazar | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-star-field-messier-m39-image25664009#res14972580">Star field with M39</a>