Power, weight and energy

An image of project Gamera from its website

Urban energy comes to mind again in Europe. Despite the official statements on the need to develop alternative energy sources and to install large trans-european energy lines to use the Spanish sun or the Scottish wind, it seems clear that oil will still be here for a moment. So, the issue of efficiency becomes central.

Can we learn from other fields? transportation brings some elements. The incremental reduction of airplane weight due to composite materials and, more recently, to additive manufacturing techniques (3d printing) has been joined by aerodynamic improvements. Overall, an addition of succesive 2%- 3% reduction of oil use has made the current airplanes far more efficient than their predecessors. It is also worth noting that the increase in overall traffic has been relevant during the past decades, so this has become a Jevons paradox (increase in efficiency coupled to a strong increase of overall consumption).

in aeronautics the essential element is the weight of a given aerodynamic shape able to withstand forces and deliver performance. You can really go quite far along this way, as Gamera, the research project by the Univeristy of Maryland, shows in the case of a human-powered helicopter. Far from operational or even practical, but intresting. What can be thought of in terms of urban planning, in which weight is not necesarily the central element? to be seen in the next posts…

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