Archive for September, 2011

whatatravesty/Flickr.com

whatatravesty/Flickr.com

Pumping power

September 28th, 2011 by Gene
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Recharging your electric car could be as quick and easy as a stop at the filling station. Pumping electric power. Today, on Engineering Works!

One of the problems with electric cars seems is what you have to do to recharge the batteries. You’ve got to stop, park the car and plug it in. That takes time, time you probably don’t have if you’re on a trip somewhere.

Engineers at MIT have come up with an idea that’ll let you recharge your electric car almost the same way you fill up your gas-powered car.

At the pump.

The heart of the new technology is a new kind of battery, called a semi-solid flow cell. In this version of a battery, the battery’s negative and positive electrodes aren’t metal rods. They’re tiny solid particles floating in a thick goo. The battery separates the two kinds of particles with a filter.

This puts the battery’s energy storage and energy discharge functions into two separate places. This is can mean more efficient batteries. And more efficient means batteries that are smaller and cheaper than today’s batteries.

And even cooler, the goo should make it possible to pump out the part of the battery that’s used up its electric charge and pump in fresh goo with a full charge of electricity. Almost like filling up with gas. And the goo could be recharged just like a normal battery.

Our batteries need recharging, so we’re done for now. See you next time.

Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering. Visit us on the World Wide Web.

http://engineeringworks.tamu.edu

Start the discussion: if this works, it could change everything in the way many people think about electric powered vehicles. Do you think it’ll work?

For more:

http://www.gizmag.com/semi-solid-flow-battery-design/18907/?utm_source=Gizmag+Subscribers&utm_campaign=d32c5800b7-UA-2235360-4&utm_medium=email

http://web.mit.edu/press/media.html?id=14732

http://www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2011/06/10/sludge-battery-breakthrough-at-mit-sparks-cambridge-crude-speculation/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/13/cambridge-crude-mit-battery_n_875996.html

Big EdSites

Big EdSites

The longest canal

September 21st, 2011 by Gene
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These days, when we have cars and superhighways, jet airliners and the internet, it’s easy to forget how important water and the engineers who used it to build have been to human civilization. The longest canal. Today, on Engineering Works!

The Grand Canal in China runs from near Beijing to Hangshou, near Shanghai on the Chinese coast, more than 11-hundred-miles. That’s as far as from Dallas to Washington, DC. The canal is the longest in the world, and one of the oldest. It connects China’s two great rivers, the Yellow and Yangtse.

Excavation of the first sections of the waterway that became the Grand Canal began about 500 BC, and it was completed between 500 and 600 AD. Along the way, a Chinese engineer invented the pound lock, the two-gated lock still used to raise and lower ships on the Panama Canal and other modern locked canals. On the Grand Canal, these locks raised canal vessels about 140 feet at the canal’s highest point.

Over the centuries, the canal has carried commerce between the northern and southern parts of China and brought water into fertile but dry agricultural areas. Since its northern end is near China’s capital, Beijing, the canal helped early political unification of the vast country. On the other hand, historians say these same factors have also helped keep China looking inward for so much of its history.

Our canal locks are full up, so we’ll float our way home. See you next time.

Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering. Visit us on the World Wide Web.

http://engineeringworks.tamu.edu

For more:

Solomon, Steven. Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization, Harper Perennial, 2010

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Canal_%28China%29

http://www.asianartmall.com/grandcanalarticle.htm

http://history.cultural-china.com/en/34History7905.html

Steve Bullivant/flickr.com

Steve Bullivant/flickr.com

Junk pile gold rush

September 14th, 2011 by Gene
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Your trash is my treasure, they say, and it’s true. We’ll see how it works. A high-tech gold rush. Today, on Engineering Works!

Sometimes it seems like everything ends up on the trash heap. And scrap metal experts are mining trash for more than that old standby, aluminum cans. Everything from gold to exotic metals used in computers, ften more of it than from the mines the metals came out of. For instance, some urban miners are digging out more than three and a half ounces of gold, worth more than $5,000, from a ton of sorted trash. That’s more than from the richest gold mine on earth. Gold mines often produce no more than a quarter of an ounce from a ton of ore.

But gold isn’t the only valuable metal these recycling miners are digging out of the trash. There’s gallium, used to make solar cells, and rhodium, used to build catalytic converters for our cars. And really exotic  materials known as rare earths with names like dysprosium, neodymium and yttrium, all used in high-tech products.

One rich lode for urban miners is old cell phones. Every ton of cell phones, about 10,000 of them, yields about 330 pounds of copper, 11 pounds of silver and three and a half ounces of palladium.

Other miners – you’d probably call them recyclers – are going back to landfills from before recycling was cool. Now, it is cool. And profitable.

We’re going home now to poke through our trash. Never can tell. See you next time.

Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering. Visit us on the World Wide Web.

http://engineeringworks.tamu.edu

Start the discussion: This kind of stuff seems too good to pass up. There must be a down side somewhere. What is it?

For more:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,725606,00.html

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/01/high-tech-trash/recycling-text

http://www.propel-earth-initiatives.com/future-green-economy-depends-on-recycling-high-tech-metals-un-says/

Justine Smith/Synovo

Justine Smith/Synovo

Easing your aching back

September 7th, 2011 by Gene
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Engineers’ backs probably ache as much as anyone else’s. One of them is doing something about it. We’ll check it out. Today, on Engineering Works!

Back pain seems to be a feature of modern life. About eight of every 10 people experience back pain at some time in their lives. It comes from many sources: nerve and muscle problems, degenerative disc disease, arthritis. Anywhere from your tailbone to your neck. Sometimes sciatica, nerve pain down your leg, comes with it.

A design student in Australia has developed a novel way to treat back pain. It’s sort of like a vest, with built-in physical therapy. The therapy comes through four modular packs, one to treat each of the major muscle groups in your back. The packs use heat, cold and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, therapy to treat the pain.

A flexible film that senses when and how much your back bends runs across the middle and lower parts of your spine. The film measures the electrical activity in back muscles and calculates the spine’s position and movement. This information goes to an alarm that alerts you to poor posture. The whole thing is powered by two rechargeable polymer lithium-ion batteries that ride in pockets in the front. They’ll power the therapy packs and sensors for as long as two hours at full power.

If we sit here much longer, our back is going to be aching, so we quit for today. See you next time.

Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering. Visit us on the World Wide Web.

http://engineeringworks.tamu.edu

Start the discussion: Technology is showing up more and more in how we treat the things that ail us. What other technological treatments have you seen? Let us know.

For more:

http://www.gizmag.com/spinovo-wearable-back-pain-therapy/18536/

http://thetechnologyreview.net/spinovo-intelligent-garment-design-provides-relief-starting-rear-ache.html#axzz1RvSr8mva

http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/default.htm