Imagine that you’re in the middle of a festival crowd, dancing away to the most dynamic names in music. 50-foot fireballs are exploding into the air, audience members are being abducted by acrobatic performers and luminescent creatures are swooping from the sky. Oh, and imagine that you’re looking up at a 50-tonne mechanical spider.
Arcadia is a performance art collective renowned for engineering mechanical monsters that they use as large-scale performance spaces. Perhaps the most recognisable of these is The Spider, a 360-degree structure built from recycled materials. Created by sculptors, engineers, painters and pyrotechnicians, the arachnid is an experiential dance stage for festival attendees.
At over 80 metres in length, a single blade from a wind turbine is an impressive feat of engineering. Modern offshore wind turbine blades are now the largest fibreglass components ever cast in a single piece. This has been made possible through continuous improvement in materials development. The layering and structuring of fibreglass was originally a craft used for building the hulls of boats. Now, the design of composite materials – a group of materials which includes fibreglass – is done by international teams of engineers working together to create these record-breaking components.
Materials engineering is uniquely important to the design of wind turbines, particularly because there is so much of it! As the industry has grown, so has the size of our machines, with the largest now gathering wind from an area greater than three football pitches put together. The area that the blades sweep through is an important factor in turbine performance. At a given wind speed, the amount of power which can be extracted from the wind increases by the square of the blade length – 3 times longer blades, 9 times more available power. However, if things are simply scaled up, the mass or weight of the blade increases by the cube of the length – 3 times the length, 27 times the mass!
Engineers at Sandia’s Combustion Research Facility and the Technical University of Denmark have discovered a new way to see and photograph pollutants in car engines. By understanding when – and how – soot forms inside engines, researchers can cut harmful emissions at the source.
Traditional engines work by pulling petrol and air into a cylinder, compressing it with a piston and igniting it with a spark. The resulting explosion forces the piston down, producing power. In a bid to clean up their cars, many manufacturers are adopting low emission, ‘direct injection’ fuel systems. Instead of mixing the air and fuel beforehand, nozzles spray petrol under high pressure directly into the cylinder. This burns less fuel with each explosion, giving better fuel economy and lower carbon dioxide emission per mile driven.
A team of engineers at RMIT University in Melbourne have found a novel use for the trillions of cigarette butts that litter our streets.
By coating discarded butts in paraffin or bitumen, the team can mix them into asphalt concrete, making a new building material. this new asphalt mixture can create cooler, greener pavements in cities and towns. By lowering the asphalt’s density, pavements become more porous, draining surface water away. Another useful property is the asphalt’s lower thermal conductivity. By soaking up less of the sun’s heat, the cool pavements could cut the ‘urban heat island’ effect felt in many cities.
Chemical engineers in California have found a way to produce useful chemicals in bacteria, using energy from the sun.
With fossil fuels an ever-dwindling resource, engineers must find new ways to meet our energy and chemical production needs. Inspired by plants, a team of researchers at UC Berkeley has found a way of tricking bacteria into photosynthesising. Instead of making food from CO2, water and sunshine, these bacteria are duped into making simple, organic chemicals instead.
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.
Ladakh, ‘the land of high passes’, lies high in the mountains of northern India, resting against the Tibetan border. Although one of the most sparsely populated areas in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, communities have nevertheless made their home in the mountain desert since the dawn of the New Stone Age.
Villages are found at altitudes from 2,700m to 4,000m above sea level, where winter temperatures plummet to more than 30 degrees below freezing. With an annual rain and snowfall of just 100mm, settlements thrive around the glacial streams that feed the Indus and other rivers in the area.
I invented a low-cost water filter called Nanofilter®, which cleans contaminated water in order to make it drinkable. Right now, about 12,000 people use the filter every day and the plan is to impact millions of lives.
Growing up, my community in Tanzania didn’t have clean drinking water, and I will never forget how horrible that was. As a child, I would get worms because the water I drank was so dirty, and I wished someone would make it easy for us to access clean water. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and help solve the problem facing my community: I did a PhD in Chemical Engineering and invented the Nanofilter®.