Freight Capsule Control in an Underground Freight Pipeline System – MU09-FPC

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Freight Capsule Control in an Underground Freight Pipeline System – MU09-FPC

This project researches and evaluates the feasibility of using underground pipelines for transporting freight instead of using truck.


Freight Pipeline Company

Research Team:

James S. Noble, Anna McLaughlin, Mustafa Sir, Gaohao Luo, Nicole Smith

Universities Involved:

University of Missouri

Start Date:


End Date:



This project evaluated the current state?of?the?art for underground transportation systems and explored the existing literature for vehicle dispatching and control. Mathematical models for dispatching and control were developed and tested, both by comparing performance against existing heuristics and through extensive sensitivity analysis. Finally, loading/unloading cargo concepts were generated and simulated to determine the parameter levels needed to support the desired system capacity.
Recently, the Freight Pipeline Company (FPC) has completed a project for the State of New York, sponsored by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), to determine the feasibility of using underground pipelines (tubes, conduits, and tunnels) for transporting various types of freight that are normally transported by trucks. The study found that by using pneumatic capsule pipeline (PCP) driven by linear induction motor (LIM), such freight transportation is not only technically feasible but also cost-effective and environmentally friendly. However, before this new technology can be used commercially, more research in certain areas is required, one of which is the logistics issues associated with cargo handling – loading and unloading of cargo at freight pipeline terminals, tracking of cargo in transit in the pipe and in storage room, and how to dispatch/control capsules according to freight shipment needs. The research results of this study can be used not only for New York City, but also for other large metropolitan areas which may want to use this new technology in the future for underground freight transportation. At present, similar underground freight pipeline projects are being actively studied in England (the “Foodtubes” Project), in Sydney, Australia (the “Sydney Freight Circle” Project), and in Shanghai, China (Shanghai Container Port Expansion Project), and Germany (Cargo Cap Project).
An optimization model that captures the dispatching / control problem was formulated and solve to optimality for small scale problems, then a heuristic was developed that was capable of solving realistic sized problems in reasonable time with acceptable solution quality. Second, three different load/unloading concepts were created and a simulation model was developed to explore the relationship between capacity per, unload rate, lift rate, and buffer size.