Engineering is responsible for the pulleys, wheels and bows and arrows that carried us towards civilisation. It powered the SS Great Britain across the Atlantic and raised the Eiffel Tower. Without engineering, we wouldn’t have powerful computers tucked away in pockets or a direct line to outer space. Since its inception thousands of years ago, engineering has undoubtedly shaped our world. The question we’re addressing this month, however, is what happens next?
Winner of the 2017 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, Dr Michael Tompsett, was last night awarded the Royal Photographic Society’s top prize.
Established in 1878, the Progress Medal recognises the inventions, research, publication or contribution that has resulted in an important advance in the scientific or technological development of photographic imaging in the widest sense.
Tompsett received the honour for the invention of the imaging semiconductor circuit and analogue-to-digital converter chip at the heart of the charge coupled device (CCD). The CCD image sensor is found in early digital cameras and is packed with light-capturing cells called pixels. When particles of light, or ‘photons’ hit these pixels, they produce an electrical pulse. Brighter lights produce a stronger electrical pulse.
From the early days of all-things-kale to adopting acai bowls and bibimbap, western culture is no stranger to ‘fashionable’ foods. Thanks to a team of taste scientists in Denmark, jellyfish ‘crisps’ could become a healthier alternative to the humble potato chip.
They may not be your first choice of a healthy snack, but jellyfish are a long-standing delicacy in parts of Asia. To prevent them spoiling, fresh caught jellies are preserved in a month-long salting process. Salt is added and the water content is gradually reduced, turning their ‘jelly’ solid and rubbery. This can then be shredded and rehydrated at a late date, making a protein-rich treat.
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.
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!
As a society, we increasingly rely on digital technologies in most aspects of our life, such as social media and online banking. These technologies have had a significant impact on our personal and business interactions.
However, what can be less obvious is the extent to which digital technologies underpin critical services, whose failure can lead to human harm. These ‘safety-critical systems’ have traditionally been dominated by aviation, rail and nuclear power generation; all industries with an impressive track record in achieving high levels of safety.
With its hilly location in south-west England and World Heritage status, development projects in Bath must contend with many practical and regulatory challenges. In our upcoming project, young people reject all the rules to commit heritage heresy and re-imagine a future city where absolutely anything is possible.
‘Heritage Heresy’ is an exciting weekend event being held for local young people aged 10-13 in Bath later this year. They will join up with real engineers, architects and city planners to think about the built environment around them and create new visions of Bath.
A newly developed, hands-free musical instrument could be the next novel rehabilitation therapy for patients with motor disabilities.
The ‘Encephalophone’ is an instrument that can be controlled by the mind alone, with no external stimuli needed. The researchers hope it could play an important role in empowering and rehabilitating those diagnosed with motor neurone disease, spinal cord injuries, stroke or amputation. It was designed by Thomas Deuel, a neurologist and neuroscientist at Swedish Medical Centre.
“I am a musician and a neurologist, and I have seen many patients who played music prior to their stroke or other motor impairment, who can no longer play an instrument or sing,” said Deuel. “I thought it would be great to use a brain-computer instrument to enable patients to play music again without requiring movement.”