INTENSE

In the railway infrastructure rare earth elements are used in specific products and elements, same as in other areas of technology as well. The aim is to develop an information system that can give a systematic overview about rare earth elements in railway infrastructure as a tool for operators of rail infrastructures to make strategic decisions.

In the railway infrastructure rare earth elements are used in specific products and elements, same as in other areas of technology as well. In the field of railway infrastructure this does include the areas of command and control technology, power supply and telecommunications. Special applications are for example neodymium in permanent magnets, erbium in fiber optic cables and lanthan for accumulators etc. The demand from industry for these items continues to rise, but the natural supply is limited. This results in the short term, as already observed, to price increases and can develop long-term, to resource conflicts. In addition, the degradation of these elements is often not sustainable and is usually carried out under conditions that are sometimes life threatening or harmful. 


The problems of the rare earth elements are known and there is already some research going on dealing with those problems. The individual elements are examined, the applications are collected and solutions about how these elements can be substituted, or how efficient recycling processes can be implemented are developed. Vice versa research has been carried out about which products are affected and which possible solutions could be taken into account (substitution, recycling, innovation). There are policy papers, but systematic analysis in industry or technology fields have been carried out less. Projects in the areas of power engineering and rail vehicles are known. In the field of railway infrastructure such projects are not yet known and will be carried out for the first time with this project. 

Therefore, an information system for the evaluation and analysis of these elements shall be developed and implemented. With this first step (as exploratory) the feasibility of this idea is to be detected. This means that at this stage, by contextual analysis a draft of the research design is to be created and stakeholders are identified. The needs from their perspective (infrastructure operators, industry, public or other interested parties) will be collected. With this the design of the information system to be specified and the final research design will be developed. The information system will provide a tool for operators of rail infrastructures to get a systematic overview of the use of rare earths elements and to make strategic decisions, e.g. substitution by other elements, cooperation with suppliers for alternatives, start own development up to a systematic consideration of the Life Cycle Cost (LCC).

The project is funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology (bmvit).
FH-Dozent DI (FH) Frank Michelberger
FH-Professor Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Christian Fabian
Mag. (FH) Andrea Viertelmayr
DI (FH) Wolfgang Ladinig