Potential up of Railway Technology and Promotion of Technical Creativity

Hidenobu TATEMATSU, Dr. Eng. General Manager, Fundamental Research Dvi.
Kengo IWAFUCHI, Dr. Eng. Chief Researcher, Fundamental Research Div.

1. Introduction
Fundamental Research Division of the Railway Technical Research Institute started in July 1995 with the objective of theoretically and scientifically evolving the basic, inter disciplinary areas of technology, notably focussed on the investigations into phenomena related to the railway, including safety and environments in accordance with the medium-to-long term research programs of the institute. True to the spirit of this strategy, the fundamental research is positioned as a phase of "the modelling for precise description of phenomena involved in the railway system" as illustrated in Fig.1 and in order to link the achievements of fundamental research to the technological development phase in "the modelling for reflection of them in development and designing stage" the key items of research are singled out as the definite target of each research group under the research scheme aimed at raising the potential of railway technology and deploying the creative activities for new technology.

2. Research Scheme
Fundamental Research Division is staffed in total with about 70 members, half of which are youthful researchers recruited after reorganization of the institute in 1986. Nine laboratories belong to it. They cover extremely wide ranges of research and accordingly they are bundled into four research groups each working efficiently under a specific research concept. Table 1 lists the details of respective groups. Researchers with sophisticated knowledge and experience, are nominated as senior researchers who are responsible for passing respective expertise, taking initiative in some significant subjects and in general leading the inter disciplinary activities as well as education.



3. Targets and Individual Activities of Research Groups
The relationship between the four research groups pursuing respective targets and the whole railway system is illustrated in Fig.2. Railway Dynamics Research Group, specializing in subjects on railway vehicle, catenary system and track as well as analysis and modelling of their dynamic behaviors, is associated with promotion of research on railway dynamics, i.e., basic technology for development and designing of the railway system. Human Science Research Group is responsible for modelling of human physiololgy, psychology and behaviors and for working out evaluation and prediction mothods for them It takes advantage of expertise in psychology and human engineering, and contributes to enhancing the railway safety and comfort.
Reliability Research Group aspires for buildup of the railway safety framework from both and perspectives. These three research groups pursue the subjects being connected directly to the railway system as it is. Meanwhile the fourth one, i,e., Frontier Research Group sets an eye on the future utility of railway, striving in the frontier domain such as high temperature superconductors, creation of microbes in fighting the environmental pollution, etc.
In the following, some specific cases with which respective groups are grappling are introduced to give an idea of what they are looking forward to.


3.1 Railway Dynamics Research Group
Railway Dynamics Research Group, aiming at the basic research for the technological development, deals with analyses of versatile phenomena involved in the railway system in joint efforts with Technological Development Department. Major items of its committment are dynamics and vibrations of railway vehicle; dynamic characteristics of catenary system and pantograph; and dynamic features of rail and track. Further, with no heed to the traditional division of research, it ventures out on the trans-boundary territories and tries to dive into the problems from a far wider perspective. In the new territories the more important themes are the analyses and modellings of the dynamic interactions of the railway system components, i.e., vehicles, overhead wire, track, etc. on the basis of experimental, theoretical and mathematic-analytical means. For instance, we see a fresh direction of our activities in study into the interactions between different railway elements such as the interaction between air resistance of running train and the dynamic behaviors of vehicles or the interaction between rail and wheels being deformed by the rolling contact. To work out the problem from such a fresh perspective, the conventional method of analysis is often found insufficient. It is for this reason that Fundamental Research Division is intent also on creating a novel method of analysis implementing the theories of fluid dynamics and contact mechanics as well as on production of model testing apparatuses.
The four laboratories under Railway Dynamics Research Group are currently tackling the following problems and the outcome of the research will be transferred to the Technological Development Department for the actual contributions to the railway system.
  • Studies on vehicles and interaction between vehicle and aerodynamics
    * Vibrational characteristics of vehicle components and the combined system of carbody and truck
    * Interaction between individual units of a train in motion and air flow in tunnel
  • Studies on catemary system and interaction among catenary system, pantograph and aerodynamics
    * Relation between waves propagating along the overhead wire and current collection performance
    * Aerodynamic stability of low noise pantograph
  • Studies on rails and the interaction between rail and wheels
    * Dynamic characteristics of interaction between rail and wheels

    * Elasto-plastic deformation and tribology in rolling contact

  • Technical development related to passenger safety in traffic of accident (subsidized theme by the Ministry of Transport of the Japanese Government as part of a research program "Technical Development Related to Passenger Safety in Traffic Accident")
    * Vehicle deformation by collision and simulation model of passenger behavior in time of accident
    * Method of risk assessment at collision and the interior facility of vehicle for protecting the passengers

    3.2 Human Science Research Group
    Human Science Research Group is concerned with improvement of railway safety and comfort, working on research focussed on the human factors. The phenomena it deals with are somewhat different from those generally associated with engineering. Therefore it resorts to various peculiar methods of analysis including the psychological ones. Since Fundamental Research Division stands on a unique viewpoint of broadly treating humans and technology as an integrated system, it follows the policy of preferentially recruiting the graduates majoring in engineering and thereby stresses on intimate collaboration with Railway Dynamics Research Group. Along this guideline, Human Science Research Group carries out analysing and modelling of problems related to the human behaviors such as human error prevention, better passenger comfort, passenger safety in time of accident.
    Two laboratories come under Human Science Research Group and they are working on the following subjects.

  • Studies an human factors associated with safety
    * Human error model and training system
    * Job performance ability model for reviewing the aptitude test system
    * Working load on train driver and method of evaluating the required driver ability.
  • Study on method of evaluating the riding comfort
    * Evaluation method of vibrational riding comfort.
  • Technical development related to passenger safety in traffic accident (cooperation with Railway Dynamics Research Group)

    3.3 Reliability Research Group
    Study on railway safety and reliability is being pushed as one of the most important tasks. Fundamental Research Division considers reviewing the problem from both hardware and software aspects on the basis of reliability engineering.
    In this line of policy, the quantitative evaluation of railway safety being conducted jointly by Reliability Research Group and Railway Dynamics Research Group is regarded by Fundamental Research Division as a study item just cut out for it and a great hope is being pinned on Reliability Research Group for successful achievement.
    At present there is only one laboratory belonging thereto, but it is yielding prominent results under close partnership with Railway Dynamics Group and Human Science Research Group.

  • Buildup of probabilistic risk assessment method and its application to the railway system
    * Case study for the specific hazard in the railway system (overturning of vehicles due to strong wind)

    3.4 Frontier Research Group
    Frontier Research Group takes up a challenge for new technologies in basic research. Major contents of the challenge are high temperature superconductors and creation of microbes to fight the environmental pollution. Basic investigations are now undertaken seeking how to introduce these new technologies effectively into the railway system. The aims are more inclined toward grasping the trendy innovations and working out how to bring them up to practical application in railway. On the other hand, importance is attached also to research efforts to cultivate new technologies and materials originating from the railway up to the level of universal utility. At present two laboratories are active under this group, each working pioneering domains.

  • Investigation for high temperature superconductors
    * Evaluations of electromagnetic, mechanical and thermal properties of yttrium base and bismuth base materials
    * Processing of the materials characterized by upgraded quality and enlarged size
    *Applicability for superconducting magnet and magnetic shielding
  • Application of biotechnology for purification of environment
    * Creation of high efficiency PCB decomposing microbes through genetic technology
    * Elimination of environmental pollutants like PCB by utilizing the detoxifying ability of plants
    * Detoxification of PCB contaminated soil or vessels

    4. Management Strategy
    In carrying out the basic research program under the regime described above, Fundamental Research Division acts along the guidelines stated below to embody the concept of "an open research institute"

  • Positive disclosure of research achievement to the public
    Standing on the position that researchers are obligated to make public their accomplishments, outside disclosure of research results is encouraged in the form of lectures presented at meetings of academic societies, or articles and papers published.
  • Appropriate evaluation for the research results
    Appropriate evaluation for research results is a vital means to motivate the researchers, elevate the quality of their work and contribute to enhancing the efficiency of R & D efforts. Fundamental Research Division practices a dual system for evaluating the research results from both qualitative and quantitative view points -- one is an internal system based on the quality and frequency of publications; and the other is an external system based on the Research Advisor system which is designed to invite Research Advisors from outside in order to activate the research work and thereby maintain continuous progress.
  • Strengthening of partnership with universities and other research organizations
    Instead of being cooped up within limited laboratories, we positively seek for alliance and cooperation with universities domestic and overseas, JR companies and other bodies through personnel exchange or joint research for the sake of expansion and grade-up of research; particularly we are intent on exploring a new area of joint research including a personnel interflow with increasingly "high-tech" areas such as space, airline, nuclear power and auto.
  • Invitation of eminent scholars from outside
    As part of personnel exchange with outside, we consider inviting to Fundamental Research Division the front-running researchers from inside and outside of Japan in the capacity of a guest or a contract scholar in the interest of stimulating our activities.
    In this manner Fundamental Research Division is working on various problems under the regime described, along the policies established; in partnership with universities; inviting eminent scholars on an exchange basis; meeting the internal and external needs as "an open research body"; and continuously coming up with the latest achievements.