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Dutch trains are trying out lasers to blast rail debris away

Placed just in front of the wheels, the lasers are able to remove leaves and other debris from the tracks while the train is moving.

Image: Michael Day/Flickr

LEAVES MAY NOT seem like a particularly big hazard, but for train companies, they create their fair share of headaches.

Leaves that fall on the tracks and are squashed by passing trains create a coating that makes it difficult for train wheels to grip onto them, affecting traction and handling. This can also mess with the signalling systems which are designed to stop trains from colliding.

To solve this, Dutch Railway is finding out whether lasers are the answer, according to New Scientist. Mounted just in front of the wheels and pointed downwards, the Laser Railhead Cleaner (LRC) can remove organic material like leaves from the tracks and dry the tracks in the process.

The system is also capable of removing rust from the tracks as well and temporarily prevent similar material from building up on the tracks.

The system was developed by Strukton Systems and can clean both sides of the track at speeds of up to 80km/h.

The biggest obstacle, according to New Scientist, is vibrations which makes it hard to keep the laser focused on the rails. Dutch Railway’s system briefly shuts off the laser whenever vibrations cause it to miss the rail.

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The lasers do not damage the tracks as they are not absorbed by metal. Instead, the energy from the lasers is reflected off the rails.

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Quinton O'Reilly

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