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Professional English


Cambridge English for



Capsule pipelines

Capsule Pipelines Essential Facts

Capsule pipelines are underground pipes designed to transport hollow cylindrical containers (capsules). The function of the capsules is to transport things from A to B. Potential applications include carrying items such as mail (letters and parcels), minerals, for example coal, agricultural products, for example wheat, packaged products (in boxes or bags), and waste (household garbage or industrial waste). There are two main types of system: pneumatic capsule pipelines (PCPs) and hydraulic capsule pipelines (HCPs). In PCPs, the capsules are propelled by air, which is blown into the pipeline at one end and flows along it, driving the capsule forward. In order to limit friction between the outside of the capsule and the inside of the pipeline, capsules can be fitted with wheels (see the picture). In HCPs the pipeline is filled with water which is pumped along the pipeline. The capsules are watertight and are immersed in the water. They are driven along the pipeline by the flow of water.

Small-diameter PCPs were popular in the second half of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century, for carrying documents used mainly by government departments and postal authorities in large cities. Such systems were used in Berlin, Hamburg, London and Paris. A network in Prague is still in use today. A largediameter PCP was built in Russia, for carrying minerals. More recently, PCPs have been used on a smaller scale to carry cash inside banks and large stores. Recent feasibility studies have been carried out into the possibility of using capsule pipelines for transporting waste out of New York City, and also for carrying mail between New York and Washington DC. According to Freight Pipeline Company, an American R&D organisation, a 900 mm diameter PCP can carry approximately 25 tonnes of cargo at a speed of about 40 km/h. HCPs are much slower, able to travel at just 7 to 11 km/h, but have a greater volume and weight capacity and are more energy-efficient. By taking freight traffic off road-going trucks and running it underground, the potential advantages of capsule pipelines are reduced traffic congestion, fewer road accidents and less pollution. The main disadvantage is the high cost of laying underground pipe networks, either by cut-and-cover for pipes relatively close to the surface, or by tunnelling, where pipes are deeper underground. Mark the following statements about capsule pipelines True (T) or False (F). 1 Capsule pipelines are situated below ground level. 2 The main potential use for capsule pipelines is for carrying passengers. 3 Capsules can be propelled along the pipeline by a flow of air, or by a flow of liquid. 4 Capsule pipelines are a new technological concept. 5 Capsules propelled by air can move faster than those propelled by water. 6 Capsules propelled by air can carry heavier loads than those propelled by water. 7 Capsule pipelines are relatively cheap to build. 1 Cambridge English for Engineering Cambridge University Press 2008

UNIT 1 Case study: Capsule pipelines

Unit 1 Case study: Capsule pipelines

You and your partner are engineers at a newly established consulting firm: the Alternative Transportation Research and Advisory Centre (ALTRAC). The organisation has been set up to advise governments around the world on alternative solutions for transporting freight and people. You have been asked to brief ALTRACs senior managers on the potential of using capsule pipelines for freight transportation. With your partner, use the information in the Essential Facts about capsule pipelines to prepare and give a 10-minute presentation about the technology. You should take it in turns to talk. Your presentation should be split into four main parts: 1 Describe the functions and applications of the technology 2 Explain how the technology works 3 Emphasise the advantages of the technology, compared with road and rail networks 4 Discuss the disadvantages of the technology. Some of the managers attending your briefing are not technical experts. Therefore, where necessary, you should simplify and illustrate your technical explanations using everyday language and examples. In your talk, the following language from Unit 1 of the book may be useful.

Describing technical functions and applications (pages 6 and 7)

used to (do), used for (doing), a use, useful, enable ... to, allow ... to, ensure that, prevent ... from

Explaining how technology works (pages 8 and 9)

power, propel, propulsion, transport

Emphasising technical advantages (pages 10 and 11)

conventional, efficient, enhanced, eliminate, reduce, completely, totally, entirely, significantly, considerably, highly, extremely, dramatically, exceptionally

Simplifying and illustrating technical explanations (pages 12 and 13)

basically, effectively, essentially, put simply, in simple terms, in other words, if you imagine, if you picture To illustrate your explanations, you may wish to use the following examples:

l l

a peashooter (a children's toy where a short tube is used to fire a pea by blowing down the tube) a water pipe (used to supply water to a tap water flows along it) a cola can (cylindrical and hollow, like a capsule)

Cambridge English for Engineering Cambridge University Press 2008


UNIT 1 Case study: Capsule pipelines

Unit 1 Case study: Capsule pipelines

Before you begin Ask students what is meant by capsule and pipeline and then ask what they think is meant by a capsule pipeline and what such a system might me used for. Students read the text about capsule pipelines and, in pairs, briefly sum up the following points.
l l l

their function their applications how they work

You could look at the following terms. hollow = opposite of solid pneumatic = describes applications using air / compressed air, for example pneumatic tyres and pneumatic drills which are driven by compressed air supplied by a compressor hydraulic = refers to applications using liquids often the term hydraulics is used to describe high-pressure oil circuits, used to push pistons, called hydraulic rams, which power machines such as excavators friction = resistance caused by two surfaces rubbing against each other pumped = driven by a pump watertight = does not let water pass immersed = inside a liquid flow = movement of a liquid or liquid-like material diameter = the width of a circle at its widest point R&D = research and development weight vs. volume cut-and-cover = used for laying pipes or building tunnels close to the surface earth is dug out [cut], then the pipes are laid / the tunnel is built, before being covered with earth again tunnelling = cutting a tunnel underground using a tunnelling machine Students work in pairs to prepare their talk, discussing what they will say and making notes. Allow 15 to 20 minutes preparation time. Students then give their talks to the group.

Extension activity: capsule pipeline applications

Ask students to assess the potential applications of capsule pipelines in their own country or region. Where could a capsule pipeline be used, and what for? How feasible would this be, in terms of the cost of construction and the potential longterm benefits?

Answer key (page 1) 1 T 2 F 3 T 4 F 5 T 6 F 7 F

Cambridge English for Engineering Cambridge University Press 2008