Railway team leads multi-national collaborative research

07 February 2023
Brakes – you can't stop without them – and just like those for cars' brakes are a critical safety system for railway trains.

Unlike brake systems for cars though' those for trains are significantly larger and more complex' especially for long freight trains that use air brake systems.

According to CQUniversity rail researcher Dr Qing Wu' air brake systems use many metal air pipes mounted underneath the train from the head of the train to its tail. The total length of these pipes can be over 3 km long for freight trains.

"The air pipes are used as a brake action transmitting line by changing the air pressure in the pipes'" Dr Wu explained.

"This design is used because of its low-cost' however' due to the difficulty to accurately control the pipe pressure and the slow reactions in pipe pressure changes' the control of these brakes has been challenging for freight train operations."

As a result' Dr Wu along with fellow researchers from CQUniversity's Centre for Railway Engineering (CRE) in Rockhampton are leading the charge in attempting to conquer the challenge of developing accurate and fast freight train air brake models.

"Driven by the rapid development of Intelligent Transport Systems and the ever-increasing demands for faster and heavier trains' as well as energy savings and sustainability' there has been enormous interests from the industry and academia for accurate and fast freight train air brake models'" Dr Wu said.

"CRE is the only Australian research institute that has the capability to conduct air brake lab tests and detailed computer modelling."

Dr Wu has a team of more than 30 international collaborators from 24 institutions and 12 countries around the world working alongside him on the research' with their initial research findings having been recently published in the International Journal of Railway Transportation.

"The publication has generated wide impact in railway academia and it has already attracted nearly 20 citations'" Dr Wu said.

"Using the research findings' the rail industry will be able to come up with accurate and fast brake modelling that can be used to facilitate better development of intelligent transport systems' such as driverless trains and train platooning."

Dr Wu is now collaborating with international brake expert from the University of Florence' Professor Luca Pugi' and has organised a virtual international conference that will be held in September.

"This low-cost virtual conference will bring together more of the latest research to achieve an even better understanding of the behaviour and mechanisms of railway brake systems and associated phenomena'" Dr Wu explained.

"The aim is to further broaden the benefits that we have gained from previous research and to collect more knowledge form the industry and from academia while sparking more research interest on this important topic."