Tracked Hovercraft – (The Modern Magic Carpet)
In the quest for energy saving, one aspect of the problem seems to receive very little attention.
Almost all forms of transport except for the glider, parasail and parachute seem to be overburdened with excess mass. The mass is mostly involved in providing the motive force to propel a vehicle, with further items required to change it’s direction and slow it down, and yet more mass is required for protection of the occupants. The mass of the vehicle itself is usually somewhere between 10 and 20 times that of it’s occupant, and it is of course the combination that has to be accelerated and decelerated.
If the ratio of vehicle mass to payload mass could be substantially improved, our energy efficiency would improve in the same ratio, all other things being equal.
This concept takes everything out of the vehicle except for the passengers and luggage, plus a few items to ensure creature comforts, eg. seats, protection against the elements, plus the necessary controls. There is no motor, there are no brakes, and no fuel is required. Everything is stripped down to minimum configuration.
To explain how all this is possible, a short diversion will be made into existing technologies. The principal of the hovercraft is simply that a cushion of air is able to support mass, and with a few additional controls, the mass can be moved. This is in fact a relatively new application of an old principle, for compressed air has been used for many years in mechanical laboratories to lift heavy weights over very smooth surfaces so that they can be moved to precise positions. By supplying a flexible skirt, and increasing the volume of air available, the concept also works over comparatively rough surfaces, and over water.
Up till now, the supply of air has always been integral to the hovercraft, or in the laboratory – the weight – for that enables independence of movement. If we restrict the independence of movement, however, another method becomes possible; ie. to supply the air from outside the vehicle – from underneath.
Consider an enclosed hovercraft-like vehicle positioned over a row of nozzles, each of which releases compressed air on demand. When air is released, the vehicle will rise, and hover at a height where the vehicle’s mass is balanced by the pressure inside the chamber enclosed by the flexible skirt. A controlled release of air from the chamber would enable the vehicle to move, and as long as it stayed over the valves supplying the compressed air, it would continue to move.
If the nozzles are built into a track, then the vehicle would be able to move around the track with power being supplied externally.
The vehicle itself is reduced to some seating capacity, some protection against the elements, and some protection for the occupants in the event of collision. The mass of the vehicle, however, has been drastically reduced, and the energy efficiency vastly improved.
Technical details, such as the design of valves to switch compressed air, at what pressure the air is supplied, which angle the valves are set at for directional control of the vehicle and braking, and the controls required to navigate from start to destination along the track, are not part of this document, but may be covered later. The control of the valves themselves, such that air would be released when the vehicle was in the correct position overhead, could be by any number of technologies, eg. inductive loop, Hall-effect switch, radio link, etc. The valves would close automatically when beyond control of the vehicle.
Tracks may be multi-lane, at ground level, or overhead with fewer lanes. Overhead construction is seen as particularly useful, for the reduced loads involved when compared to conventional overhead railways, would lead to considerable saving on construction materials. This saving would be at least partially offset by the complexity of the system, for it has to supply motive power as well as support, with air compressors sited at suitable intervals along the way.
As far as I am aware, this concept is unique, and is hereby donated to the Public Domain. It may not be patented, claimed as Intellectual Property by any other individual or company, or the world otherwise deprived of it’s possible benefits, with the exception of allowable patents etc. on system components that may be designed and supplied by companies providing installations.
1st. June, 2001.