MM: Cargo Delivery Zeppelins

In this episode, a look at cargo delivery zeppelins and breathable plastic designed for clothing.

Cargo Delivery Zeppelins

Mention the word "airship" and you're likely to picture the Goodyear Blimp — or the Hindenburg.

But a report in the International Journal of Aviation Management notes that airship technology has moved well beyond those decades-old examples — and that a relic of early aviation could be reborn as a way to economically move larger cargo loads.

University researchers in Canada and Hong Kong developed a model to analyze trade corridors between Asia and North America and Europe, and found that airships could provide an entirely new way for companies to reach global markets.

Although airships are much slower than airplanes, they are also much larger — capable of carrying cargo ordinarily sent by even slower maritime routes.

And unlike conventional shipping, airships can go pretty much anywhere — from busy seaports to remote inland locations. They are also relatively low-cost and feature smaller carbon footprints.

The researchers, however, suggested that the vessels would also fill a unique niche without necessarily hurting other shipping modes — or the companies that manufacture trucks, planes, ships and rail cars.


Could zeppelins help meet growing global shipping demands, or will companies be hesitant to embrace such an unconventional method? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Breathable Plastic Clothing
A team of scientists at Stanford University are working on a new option to keep cool in sweltering conditions. Named nanoPE, this innovative textile is made of plastic similar to that in conventional plastic wrap. The main difference is this new version is engineered to be breathable, which means we can wear it without our bodies suffocating. And because the material is plastic, it offers something clothing fabrics don’t—the ability to let body heat escape as infrared light.
Polyethylene, the material used to make plastic wrap, lets infrared radiation pass right through, but it’s also transparent and holds in moisture. nanoPE is engineered with a porous nanostructure that maintains infrared permeability, but makes it opaque (so you can wear it in public without exposing yourself). It’s then treated it to make it breathable. Researchers found the material kept the surface of a body-heat simulator about 4.25 degrees Fahrenheit warmer and almost the same temperature as bare skin.
The fabric is still experimental, but the team hopes to begin marketing the material in a few years after they figure out how to make it cost-effective at scale, as well as change how the material looks and feels. 


Could this material cut down on energy use for cooling buildings by cooling bodies instead?  Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below. 

More in Industry 4.0