Getting Somewhere With Flying Fish
June 14, 2010
In Canada, transportation accounts for a full 36 per cent of our total greenhouse gas emissions. Cars, trucks, airplanes and freight trains — they all take Canadians and Canadian goods where they need to go, and almost all consume some form of refined petroleum, which is responsible for 49 per cent of Canada’s emissions.
But there are unconventional ideas on the horizon that could change the way we move around, from natural gas-powered vehicles to jet engines powered by garbage. But some of the future’s vehicles are bound to be weirder than others.
Take, for example, a flying fish being developed by Swiss scientists. Built to mimic the contraction of muscle tissue, this floating, fish-like dirigible would be capable of moving through the air without the aid of a propeller, or the heavy mechanical components of an engine. Quiet and manoeuvrable, it uses electrodes installed along the polymer that makes up the fish’s “skin” to attract one side to the other. The result: a gentle, swimming motion.
At the moment, the 8-metre prototype is only able to move at a slow walking speed, and there are serious real-world considerations of to be taken into account, like sudden winds or other inclement weather. But there’s definite potential in any design that can reduce air and noise pollution at the same time.
The trout-like airship also isn’t the only prototype to suggest an entirely different approach to motion in the vehicles we’re already used to seeing. Kinetic road plates are already being used to capture the impact of passing cars to generate electricity, and vehicles like smart bikes and so-called EcoCabs are adding human locomotion to the power of an electric engine.
While the world waits for its skies to fill with enormous airborne fish to carry us away, though, Canadians already have a broad selection of fuel efficient cars to improve the way they get around. But now that you know that the future has flying fish in it, it might be a little harder to get excited about excellent fuel mileage.
Would a trout have a higher km/l ratio than a salmon? Only the future will tell.