New materials for the superstructure of railways

March 16, 2016 in

    MSc Project by Science Matchmaking

    Rolf Dollevoet

    03/01/2016 - 10/01/2016


    science desk,

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    A team of three students was commissioned by Strukton Rail to conduct a research to identify new materials for the construction and production of the superstructure of railways.

    The current main materials for railway track are steel, crushed stone, concrete and copper. The science matchmaking team examines the possible innovations in the choice of materials for the construction and production of the various specified parts of the superstructure of the track. The requirements for track materials become more strict as traffic loads on railways increase and the room for out of service maintenance decreases drastically.

    New materials like synthetic materials, metals and fibres are already being used for various purposes in a range of different industries. In the railway industry composite plastics are used for train components, sleepers and catenary poles. Some of the new materials may have specific characteristics that will allow higher loads on track and less maintenance actions. In the research, the requirements for the various rail track components have been considered as the main criteria for the selection of new materials. First, the students looked into the traditional materials and the strengths and weaknesses of these materials mapped. Then they investigated which of the available new materials could be an alternative. Composites, alloys, shape memory alloys, piezoelectric materials, self-healing materials and synthetic foams were considered. A SWOT analyses was used to identify the potentials for use in the superstructure of railway track. The results show that metal composite wiring, composites catenary masts and memory metal elements have a potential for use in the superstructure. The options for application of composites products look promising. Memory metal may need additional research.