Rail is a safe and efficient mode of transportation, a feat of human engineering, cooperation and capability which allows millions to move effectively over large distances without the need of private individual transport. The efficiency of the industry is well-known; energy to passenger/km rates make rail the greenest option available from the current choice of public and private transport.
Rail has been tipped as the option of choice for short and medium haul journeys by some governments – a move already taken by the French government by banning short-haul national flights in favour of rail when journey times are under two and a half hours.
With foreseeable heightened pressure on existing lines and evermore extreme weather conditions, how will the rail industry cope to ensure that passengers are kept safe and comfortable?
We can find the answer in the durable materials which play a leading role in modern carriage design.
The challenges in modern carriage design
If the rail industry is to take its rightful position as the preferred mode of transport in major developed countries, simply being the greenest will not suffice. Here are some main considerations which have to be continuously addressed to ensure that passengers keep on using the railway;
Strengthening attractiveness by ensuring stellar safety, health and hygiene standards and achieving passenger comfort and amenities worthy of a twenty-first century service. Not only are vibrations a simple annoyance, it makes securely fitting elements such as HVAC systems necessary in order to avoid hazards. Other instances such as cold weather can cause issues with electrical equipment as temperature directly influences the speed electrons travel through a given circuit. So ensuring the correct temperature of systems is critical to both passenger safety as well as comfort. How does one material solve both of these instances?
The wonder material
Railway carriage design does not seem the most dynamic endeavour yet the two main challenges in maintaining safety and comfort are always at the forefront. These considerations stand at the core of a new complete user experience overhaul which is taking place within the carriage, based on new sophisticated technology which completes the user experience, from temperature regulation to entertainment. As such, only material of the highest resistance, endurance and quality is used so that operating costs are kept to a minimum in regards to continuous servicing and maintenance.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Silicone rubber is a wonderful material. It is an inorganic synthetic elastomer, made from a cross-linked silicon-based polymer containing silicon together with hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, offering a unique combination of chemical and mechanical properties which organic elastomers cannot match. Widely used in a variety of industries, it is non-reactive, stable, and resistant to extreme environments, stresses and temperatures.
Silicone parts are produced in varied formats from sheets, flexible profiles and fabric constructions to moulded parts. Silicone is therefore a durable material which performs over very large working-hour timespans and in differing environmental conditions.
Silicone rubber has an unmatched resistance to weathering and other environmental factors such as extreme cold temperatures. This means that its properties do not change over time even after exposition to the harshest environments. High-temperature silicone rubber is also resistant to ozone, oxidation, ultraviolet light, corona discharge, cosmic radiation and ionising radiation.
Vibration is a particularly relevant problem for the rail industry. Silicone provides excellent vibration, shock and acoustic dampening properties for ﬂooring systems and underground applications where vibration levels peak. As well as being very flexible its molecular structure also helps defer harmful vibrations away from critical electrical systems and fittings.
Silicone in carriages
Thanks to its aforementioned capabilities, silicone is used extensively in both the interior and exterior of train carriages. In the interior, silicone is used for door seals, inter-car connectors, insulation, HVAC gaskets, LED and monitor displays, lighting seals, wiring ducts, just to name a few! In the exterior, silicone helps seal both lights and doors, as well as the braking system and other elements of control such as control panels. Omhvo’s silicone heating solutions have both the maximum classification in fire and smoke EN 45542-2 HL3 as well requirements EN50264 and EN50306 for insulating and sheathing materials and other components.
Why silicone heating solutions?
Adding a heating element to silicone rubber results in a durable and flexible heater. This is conventionally achieved by sandwiching a heating wire or etched-foil circuit between two silicone layers. Ohmvo has been producing in-house modified silicone that pushes the heating capabilities of its silicone heaters substantially past the industry’s accepted standard of 180ºC to a scorching 240ºC.
Thanks to the flexibility of silicone, these heaters are fully customisable. Leading the industry, Ohmvo is capable of producing heaters at hair-thin 0.4mm thickness which makes their heaters ideal for even the most complicated spaces or elements.
Here are a few examples of how heated silicone helps the railway industry keeps everyone using the service both safe and comfortable:
Cockpit heating; drivers are given clear visibility thanks to heating within the panes through demister solutions for windows and rear-view mirrors. Within the cockpit silicone heating solutions can also be found on the cockpit floor and even driver’s pedals.
Doors and steps can be fitted with heaters ensuring that ice and frost are kept at bay. This wards off deterioration of electromechanical systems and also provides a safe footing for passengers when alighting the carriage.
Bogies are the contact point between the train and rail. Cold can thus pose a serious threat to both the mechanical and electrical systems of the bogies. With Ohmvo’s flexible silicone heating solutions the temperature of electro-mechanical systems is maintained, warding the systems from the worst of the cold and ensuring maximum safety in the process. It should be noted that Ohmvo has been at the forefront of new anti-icing technology for the railway industry. Ohmvo’s use of layers of glass fibre within its flexible heating mats help achieve a perfect heat transmission that keeps the moving parts of the train free of ice.
A twenty-first century service has to offer a comfortable environment to its users. Boarding a carriage which is warm and cosy is as easy as installing silicone heating mats under the floor and individual seats. Sitting smugly in a chair while the winter tries its worst is arguably the most civilized, and green, way to travel.
Leading the industry in flexibility and efficiency
Ohmvo may not be the biggest but is definitively one of the top players in its niche thanks to its flexible heating solutions which are way ahead of those of the competition.
The adventure started over seven years ago and in this time, Ohmvo has not only gained the trust of the rail industry, but also counts food, pharma and aerospace as part of its growing clientele.
This has been largely thanks to its expertise in chemistry and thermal management which has allowed Ohmvo to manufacture innovative silicone heating mats and thermically conductive silicone compounds which break thermal barriers and improve heater efficiency to 4W/cm2.
How we help others achieve their goals
If you require a totally customisable solution to your problem, please do not hesitate to contact us. A core part of our business strategy is developing new formulas, so far we have been involved in over 200 different designs and patent. So let us know what you need and we will strive to offer the solution which best fits your needs.
We are proud of our accomplishments however we know that heating solutions are more related to problem solving than product manufacturing. This is why we listen to our customers, cooperate and design exclusively for you. This is what we love to do and strive for perfection in doing so. What is good for you, is good for us.
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