Germany Prepares to Launch World’s First Hydrogen Passenger Train

When we talk about hydrogen-powered transportation, cars usually dominate the conversation. According to CityLab, a French rail company is now seeking to bring the energy innovation to trains. The Coradia iLint was unveiled by Alstom at the InnoTrans railway trade fair earlier this month, and when it launches in Germany next year, it will be the first passenger rail service to run on hydrogen power.

Many trains currently run on diesel, a fuel that’s been found to emit harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. The only byproduct released by the Coradia iLint is steam. A fuel cell onboard converts chemical energy from a large hydrogen tank into electricity. At top speeds, a motor propels the train forward at up to 87 miles per hour. Lithium batteries on the bottom of the car store any leftover energy that’s produced.

In addition to running cleanly and quietly, the train will also be carbon-neutral. The hydrogen used to fuel it will be recycled from the waste produced by chemical plants. By using preexisting hydrogen, no additional harm will be inflicted on the environment.

The first train won’t go very far and it won’t be visiting any bustling destinations: The initial route is set for a 60-mile stretch of Germany connecting the town of Buxtehude near Hamburg to the beach town Cuxhaven. But that doesn’t make the accomplishment any less significant. For shorter trips, Coradia iLint presents a cleaner alternative to diesel, and a more cost-effective alternative to converting to electric. Three additional German states have already expressed interest in getting hydrogen trains of their own installed. The first model is set to launch in December 2017.

[h/t CityLab]

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at

Watch NASA Test Its New Supersonic Parachute at 1300 Miles Per Hour

NASA’s latest Mars rover is headed for the Red Planet in 2020, and the space agency is working hard to make sure its $2.1 billion project will land safely. When the Mars 2020 rover enters the Martian atmosphere, it’ll be assisted by a brand-new, advanced parachute system that’s a joy to watch in action, as a new video of its first test flight shows.

Spotted by Gizmodo, the video was taken in early October at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Narrated by the technical lead from the test flight, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Ian Clark, the two-and-a-half-minute video shows the 30-mile-high launch of a rocket carrying the new, supersonic parachute.

The 100-pound, Kevlar-based parachute unfurls at almost 100 miles an hour, and when it is entirely deployed, it’s moving at almost 1300 miles an hour—1.8 times the speed of sound. To be able to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere, the parachute generates almost 35,000 pounds of drag force.

For those of us watching at home, the video is just eye candy. But NASA researchers use it to monitor how the fabric moves, how the parachute unfurls and inflates, and how uniform the motion is, checking to see that everything is in order. The test flight ends with the payload crashing into the ocean, but it won’t be the last time the parachute takes flight in the coming months. More test flights are scheduled to ensure that everything is ready for liftoff in 2020.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
German Nonprofit Gives $1.1 Million to Restore World’s First Iron Bridge in England
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The UK’s Iron Bridge is more than just a pretty landmark. Built in 1779, it was the world’s first metal bridge, a major milestone in engineering history. Like many aging pieces of infrastructure, though, it’s in dire need of repair—and the funds to shore it up are coming from an unexpected place. According to The Times, a German foundation has pledged to pay for the conservation project as a way to improve relations between England and Germany in the wake of Brexit.

Based in Hamburg, the Hermann Reemtsma Foundation normally funds cultural projects in Germany, but decided to work with the UK’s charitable trust English Heritage to save the Industrial Revolution landmark as a way to reinforce the cultural bond between the two countries. The foundation has pledged more than $1.16 million to the bridge's renovation effort, which will cost an estimated $4.7 million in total. Now, the UK charity only has to raise another $32,800 to fully fund the work.

The Iron Bridge was cast and built by Abraham Darby III, whose grandfather became the first mass-producer of cast iron in the UK in the early 1700s, kickstarting England's Industrial Revolution. It was the world’s first cast iron, single-span arch bridge, weighing more than 400 tons. In 1934, it was declared a historic monument and closed to traffic, and the Ironbridge Gorge was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.

“The Iron Bridge is one of the most important—if not the most important—bridges ever built,” English Heritage CEO Kate Mavor told the press.

The techniques used to erect the Iron Bridge were later adopted throughout Europe, including in Germany, leading the Hermann Reemtsma Foundation to call it “a potent reminder of our continent's common cultural roots and values.”

The already-underway repair project includes replacing elements of the bridge, cleaning and repairing others, and painting the entire structure. Since it sits above a fast-flowing river where erecting scaffolding is difficult, the project is especially complex. It’s scheduled to be completed in 2018.

[h/t The Times]


More from mental floss studios