The rise of freight airships could go down like a lead balloon with traditional aircraft companies but could also represent a new high for Asian companies seeking to exploit new ways to reach world markets, according to research published in the International Journal of Aviation Management.
Barry Prentice of the I.H. Asper School of Business, at the University of Manitoba, Canada and Yui-yip Lau of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, in Kowloon, Hong Kong, and currently working alongside Prentice in Manitoba, explain how the reinvented technology of airships has come apace in recent years and is a far cry from the trial and error methods and primitive materials used to build the giant Zeppelins of yesteryear. They have thus developed a new conceptual model, which they refer to as the value-density cargo pyramid, to help them analyze dedicated cargo airplanes, sea-air logistics, sea containers and transport airships, through the busy trade corridors between Hong Kong and Europe and North America.
The benefits of airships over “conventional” freight vehicles – airplanes, ships, trains and trucks, for instance, is that they can fly over land and sea, access coastal ports, airports and reach remote inland regions too. “The transport airship is a disruptive technology that has the potential to modify freight transport markets, change geographical advantage and alter world trade patterns,” the team explains. They point out that these advantages coupled with relatively low costs and a smaller carbon footprint might make airships the freight transport choice of the future sooner than the conventional couriers anticipate.
However, airships could simply fill a niche rather than out-competing conventional aircraft. Airships are slower than airplanes, but have much bigger capacity and loading doors and so could reduce the economic barriers for the carriage of low-density and low value-perishable cargoes that are usually sent by even slower marine routes. “This is a sizeable market, and one that does not necessarily erode the markets of established carriers,” the team points out.
“Both technical and economic reasons lie behind the 80-year delay in the commercialization of large freight carrying airships, but in the 21st century no obvious technological barriers remain. The race is on to create this new transportation mode and the first-movers will have an advantage,” the team concludes. We are looking forward to the day when someone will actually be able to calibrate the value-density pyramid.
Learn more: Flying the flag for an airship revolution
Prof. Lee Wing-bun and his research team at the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering have developed a system named “Compound eye for high-density 3D imaging”. This innovation was inspired by the physiological structure of flies’ compound eyes. Applying ultra-precision rolled plate machining technology, this low-cost system realises higher quality of images.
Adopting microlens arrays composed of 12,000 microlens, the technology can acquire realistic 3D images of objects at both near and far fields and achieve “shoot first, focus later” effect. By processing the captured images, this technology provides a solution for image distortion caused by conditions such as insufficient light and inadequate resolution.
This technology can be broadly applied in imaging applications, including high precision surface profile, displacement and velocity measurements. In future, such type of lens can be used for optical cameras for medical devices, Lytro cinema cameras, 3D scanners, as well as the production of 3D images and movies etc.
The invention won a Gold Medal and the Prize of Association “Russian House for International Scientific and Technological Cooperation” at the 44th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva.
The novel mask, developed by Professor Wallace Leung of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, is made out of multiple layers of different types of nanofibres, which filter nanosized particles.
Layering the nanofibres provides a large surface area, enhancing the natural movement of particles and their interception by the fibres. It also allows users to breathe comfortably since air flows freely through the multiple layers without much resistance.
Conventional masks made from microfibres cannot effectively filter nanosized particles such as the influenza A virus, or the more seriously damaging MERS and SARS viruses, which can cause serious infections, illness and even death. Many Asian countries also deal with serious airborne particles from pollution and forest fires, which are too small to be filtered by conventional microfibre masks.
Different types of nanofibres can be used in some layers of the mask to provide additional functions. For example, incorporating a layer of titanium dioxide and other semiconductor composite nanofibres in the mask converts pollutant gases, such as nitrous oxide, to harmless substances when the fibres are exposed to visible light, even under room light conditions. Also, incorporating chitosan nanofibres in the mask can provide antibacterial functions when the fibres become wet from sweat, for example
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU or HKPU) is a public university located in Hung Hom, Hong Kong.
The history of PolyU can be traced back to 1937, and it assumed full university status in 1994. It is one of the funded institutions of the territory’s University Grants Committee (UGC).
PolyU has an international faculty and student community and has developed a global network with more than 440 institutions in 47 countries and regions. PolyU offers 220 postgraduate, undergraduate and sub-degree programmes for more than 32,000 students every year. It is the largest UGC-funded tertiary institution in terms of number of students.
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Hong Kong Polytechnic University research articles from Innovation Toronto
PolyU breaks the world record of fastest optical communications for data centres
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has achieved the world’s fastest optical communications speed for data centres by reaching 240 G bit/s over 2km, 24 times of the existing speed available in the market. Compared to existing alternatives in the market, the technology developed by PolyU has reduced the cost of data transmission per unit to just one-fourth, and therefore is practical for commercialisation purposes. Speedy transmission at a significantly low cost for data centres enables end users to widely use new forms of communications such as immersive videos, augmented reality and virtual reality.
On a societal level, the increased transmission speed will open up a new era for Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT) applications, driving innovation and technology advancement.
With this breakthrough, around 10,000 persons can stream 4K video at the same time, compared to only 400 persons under the current available speed.