Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering


Upgrade your future workout with sweat-powered wearable tech

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 11 September 2017

Engineers at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) have developed a stretchy fuel cell that is powered by sweat. The ‘epidermal biofuel cells’ stick to the wearer’s skin and can power devices like LEDs and Bluetooth radios.

Fuel cells work by turning the chemical energy in hydrogen-based fuels into electrical energy when the fuel is exposed to oxygen. The chemical reaction takes place at the fuel cell’s electrodes and produce electrically charged particles. These are carried from one electrode to the other, completing the circuit and producing a current.

Combining chemistry, advanced materials and electronic interfaces, the team have made an exciting breakthrough. Their new cells can generate 10 times the power per surface area than any existing wearable biofuel cells.

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Cycle downriver on the Thames Deckway

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 31 August 2017

Copyright 2010 River Cycleway Consortium Ltd. Early concept design Anna Hill & David Nixon 2010.

The Thames Deckway is an exciting green transport infrastructure project in London. We aim to tackle some of the big urban challenges facing our city and others like it.

With the support of Innovate UK, we are currently working towards realising our technology demonstrator in east London in 2018.

New figures from Transport for London (TfL) show that more people are cycling in the city than ever before. Despite this, currently one bicycle journey in every 515,000 ends in death or serious injury. At the same time, air pollution from vehicle emissions results in a wide range of health impacts, which significantly reduces life expectancy within the city.  Compounding on these issues, projections of future climate change paint a bleak picture. For example, with much of the transport network below ground, more than 57 tube stations would be at risk of climate induced flooding.

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Designing helicopter blades and algorithms to cut out in-flight vibrations

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 24 August 2017

Helicopters play a key role in many aspects of our modern society. They fly as air ambulances, search and rescue teams and in military operations. We also use them for urban transport and off-shore oil and gas operations. Some organisations even rely on helicopters for monitoring national electric grids.

Vibrations are one of the main considerations when designing and manufacturing rotorcraft vehicles. As well as causing damage to aircraft, excessive vibrations can result in higher fuel and maintenance costs, not to mention a bumpy ride for passengers. There are many causes of vibrations, but the prime source is the helicopter’s main rotor. In order to fly, the main rotor blades move through the air and create a force that lifts the helicopter. However, the interaction between the rotor blades and the air is very complex. As the blade moves in a circular trajectory, the aerodynamic forces change as it spins.  This causes a type of vibration that is not encountered in fixed-wing planes.

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Rethinking clean energy with ‘Caventou’

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 21 August 2017

In just one hour, our sun provides enough energy to supply the world’s electricity for an entire year. This, and many other arguments for solar energy, have made their way into people’s awareness since the 1960s. More recently, concerns over our changing climate have led to an increased interest. Yet solar power has still not been fully embraced. At the time of writing, solar power accounts for a meager 1% of total global energy production.

The technology to capture solar energy exists. Additionally, cheaper and more efficient solar cells are racing their way to industrialization., But ‘more efficient’ doesn’t always ensure adoption by consumers, homeowners and cityscapes. More importantly, adopting a green technology doesn’t always ensure green behavior by the those who use it!

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Chocolate design – who said precision engineering is boring?

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 18 August 2017

It’s not all Willy Wonka and Oompa Loompas you know. Designing chocolates is serious engineering. Just like when you made jelly as a child (or adult!), every chocolate shape is made by a mould and every mould is created by forming plastic around a metal ‘tool’.  As a result, making ‘tooling’ is at the heart of the chocolate industry.

Leigh Down, Managing Director at DPS Designs, helped bring the M&S Easter egg ‘Bendy Bob’ to life. “As you can see from our bendy friend, it can be a lot of fun and be really creative,” he said. “But behind this fun stuff is a team of engineers who need to be able to make tooling to the nearest 10 micron. That’s about five times thinner than a strand of hair!”

The team at DPS Designs have been honing their craft for over 20 years. Based in the Forest of Dean, we pride ourselves on using creativity and innovation to create fun chocolates. We challenge you to name something that we haven’t worked out how to mould in chocolate!

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Soundbops: making music through play

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 16 August 2017

Music is magical!

However, access to music is limited by the need for a high level of skill and understanding. This is particularly true for young children. Most children do not start learning an instrument until they are 8 years old, with the guitar and piano being popular choices. Music makes kids more mindful, creative, intelligent, social and happy. Studies suggest 96% of all parents want their child to learn music. To introduce children to music, they are often given shrunken versions of adult-sized instruments. These are hard to play, unengaging and are not social, discouraging budding musicians. Many children drop out of piano lessons due to disinterest.

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The staircase that puts a spring in your step

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 11 August 2017

Engineers from Georgia Tech and Emory University have designed a staircase that takes the load off when climbing up to bed. The energy-recycling steps store up the energy of people heading downstairs and use it to give them a boost on the way back up.

Loaded with springs and equipped with pressure sensors, steps sink to meet those below when they detect footsteps. The step then locks into place, storing the energy generated by the user’s bodyweight compressing the springs inside.

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Plant-inspired robot creeps towards success

  • Posted by QEPrize Admin
  • 7 August 2017

Edging along fences and creeping up walls, climbing plants send out tendrils in search of the sunniest spots in the garden.

In the lab, researchers have replicated the movements of nature countless times. Robots can walk, run and jump. They have even learned how to swim. Now, a team of mechanical engineers from Stanford University have taken inspiration for their latest robot from climbing plants. Following the lead of creepers such as ivy, the soft robot shoots out a tendril to ‘grow’ itself forwards.

The concept behind the idea is very simple and uses a process called ‘eversion’. The robot itself is a tube of soft plastic, folded inside itself. (Think of those slippery ‘water snake’ toys from the 90s!). As pressurised air fills the tube, the folded material turns the right way out, propelling the tip forwards.

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