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Lightweight solution for tomorrow’s transport networks

Modular panels employ polyfurfuryl alcohol (PFA) bioresin – a sustainable alternative to phenolic resins.

23rd February 2022

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Huntingdon, United Kingdom


Revolution VLR (very light rail) is a new composite-based passenger vehicle designed to simplify the extension of the UK’s existing rail networks and allow the reopening of historical lines.

Stratford-upon-Avon-based consortium leader Transport Design International (TDI) worked closely with Huntington-headquartered TRB Lightweight Structures on the vehicle’s composite bodyshell design, creating modular, one-piece structural panels that form both the inner and outer walls.

The design objectives for the Revolution VLR were to engineer a substantially lighter vehicle offering reduced energy consumption, while adhering to rigorous rail industry safety standards and governmental decarbonisation goals. To achieve these aims, TRB developed modular panels composed of moulded carbon fibre laminates with a recycled foam core. The project also took advantage of a unique polyfurfuryl alcohol (PFA) bioresin – a sustainable alternative to phenolic resins derived from a byproduct of sugar cane refining. Combined with a host of other new technologies, the modular construction resulted in the Revolution VLR Demonstrator being 40% lighter than traditional heavy rail vehicles of similar capacity. This means that the single-carriage vehicle can run on reinstated existing lines, or new routes using lighter weight track infrastructure.

“Our lightweight structural modular panels not only contributed substantially to a 16-ton reduction in total weight, but were also obtained from a sustainable source,” said Lyndon Newman, lead engineer at TRB Lightweight Structures. “This will significantly contribute to government commitments to decarbonisation in transport.”


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