It turned out be a site that hadn’t been updated since 2003, so I guess it’s just new to the ITT site. Anyway, the hanging system described therein bares a striking resemblance to the system I have been piecing together. So much so, that I emailed the designer out of courtesy, telling him he deserved credit for a lot good ideas that many people (including me) thought were mine. A lot of what I have come up with has evolved as this blog has progressed and my thought processes have been fairly transparent. Yet it appears I could have just gone to this guy’s site and lifted almost every idea from him. So much for original thinking. Anyway the guy’s name is Tad Winiecki and he apparently started a motorcycle gang once that Unimodal (SkyTran) founder Doug Malewicki joined. Tad thought Doug’s designs were pretty unfriendly to handicapped and elderly, (That’s for sure) so he started playing around with his own designs. Particularly intriguing is his concept for creating track from roll-formed steel. Anyway, Tad, I really didn’t steal your ideas…Honest!
Speaking of SkyTran, I have long thought that the combination of PRT and high-speed levitated travel was an odd one. Whereas the concept of going fast in podcars is nothing new, it seems to me that the “bread and butter” of PRT is in neighborhood travel. The acceleration and deceleration distances, and rounded corners of a high-speed track would seem incompatible with city layouts and traffic dynamics. Inductrack technology assumes the need for wheels at startup. I would submit that it would be best to just use those wheels for most urban use, not because wheels are better, but because the track would be so over-priced for its low-speed function. That being said, the Inductrack technology is pretty remarkable. As I understand it, in a nutshell, it involves an unpowered bed or track on which a permanent magnet studded sled will levitate as long as it is kept moving. I believe a breakthrough aspect is this; it seems that to varying degrees there exists a “magnetic friction” which is produced as repelling magnets are drawn across each other. Apparently “Inductrack” is very efficient at controlling this effect. Although Mr. Malewicki sees this invention as useful for PRT, and NASA is interested in it for launching rockets, I see another use. It seems to me that they have invented the perfect magnetic bearing. I don’t know how it would miniaturize, but for large scale or platter type configurations it would seem to be ideal. I would be interested in how it would work in wind generators for example.
Speaking of wind generators, on his Jpods website, Bill James raises the possibility of covering PRT track with solar panels to power the “podcars”. (Yes, I am trying to warm up to the term after it was pointed out to me that podcars produces better search results than PRT.) Anyway the concept of supplying energy along the track rather than “piping” it in has a certain appeal, although I would question some of Mr. James’ premises. One thing that I learned years ago is that the energy “density” of solar radiation is not all that great. Far greater is the energy density of wind, although the fact that it cubes in power every time the wind speed doubles also means the reverse – as the wind slows, the extractable energy falls off a cliff. None-the-less in windy parts of the country it’s there for the taking. Here is a picture that caught my eye recently.