Always on the move

We live in moving times. And quite literally: Mobility, both of people and goods, has probably never been greater than in our globalized present - apart from the restrictions imposed by Corona, of course. And this is unlikely to change in the future. "Panta rhei" then, with emphasis on the former.

This means developing new concepts and ideas on how we can manage this increased flow of people and goods both quickly and (energy-)efficiently as well as in an environmentally friendly and safe manner. Autonomous vehicles, which we reported on in one of the last issues, are already on the roads, in limited numbers, though, but the trend is clearly rising.

Things are also happening underground. Tesla founder Elon Musk, for instance, is pushing the so-called Hyperloop, a system of virtually airless tunnels in which capsules - pods - transport people and goods from A to B - faster than by air. First, however, the vacuum tubes for the pods have to be built. In September, Swissloop Tunneling, a team of students from ETH Zurich based at Empa, took part in the Not-A-Boring-Competition initiated by Musk in Las Vegas - and got kudos for their innovative Groundhog Alpha drilling rig. And their colleagues from the Swissloop team presented their brand-new floating pod "Simon Ammann" almost simultaneously, in the presence of the pod’s namesake.

But researchers also want to further improve familiar technologies, be it the combustion engine, which is (still) indispensable in some applications, or rail traffic, for which they are developing a sleeper that allows trains to roll much more quietly.

Michael Hagmann
Head of Empa communication

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