FoodTubes: Totally Tubular Idea For Delivering Food Pneumatically
For decades, the pneumatic tube was the fastest way to move the printed word; huge networks existed in Paris, Prague and Pneu York. But as the need for moving paper was replaced by fax and then email, the networks were mostly closed down. But Matthew Lasar of Ars Technica writes that in the UK, one company is proposing a totally tubular "transport industry internet" called the Foodtubes Project.
Imagine a 1,500 kilometer underground FoodTubes ring circling the UK. The packet-switched-style network would connect all major food producers and retailers via 3,000 kilos of smart grid controlled air pressure pipe. The Foodtubes capsules, spaced one meter apart, will race about in gangs of 300 or so at 100kph. As many as 900,000 will be in circulation at any given moment, either zipping around beneath London and Liverpool or being loaded and unloaded at freight dockets.
The Foodtubes website claims that "Across countries like the UK, FOODTUBES will annually save up to 8% of man-made CO2 and other global-warming agents and street-level air pollutants."
It's not so farfetched. In Europe (and New York's Roosevelt Island), vacuum systems are used for garbage.
In America, William Vandersteel of TUBEXPRESS proposes a nationwide network of freight transport using linear induction motors. He notes:
A major advance is to segregate the transportation of freight from the movement of people by moving freight underground where it operates without interfering with surface traffic. In this day of rapidly advancing technology, it is astonishing that we still depend on man-handled trucks which have been in use with little change for almost a century.
Of course, just like the fax and internet killed the pneumatic tube networks, the MIT food printer might do the same to the proposed Foodtube system.
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