Archive for June, 2012

ledauphine.com

ledauphine.com

Extreme engineering

June 27th, 2012 by Gene
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Sometimes we put engineering to work to help us do stuff just for fun. Like going really fast on a bicycle. Today, on Engineering Works!

Lots of us ride bicycles: for fun, to save energy, to be healthy. But you’ve probably never ridden a bike like this. Down a steep snow-covered mountain slope at almost 120 miles an hour. Neither would we. But for French 50-something cycling daredevil Eric Barone, it’s just the thing.

Barone came out of retirement a while ago to take a crack at breaking his own world record for downhill cycling 220 kilometers, or about 118 miles, an hour. To get ready, he and his team designed and built foam streamlining that made his legs more aerodynamic, and a cowling of fiberglass and Kevlar that fit over his conventional cycling helmet.

The cowling was as much for safety as for streamlining. Ten years ago, Barone was nearly killed when he crashed during a record attempt down the outside of a volcano in Nicaragua.

They tested the whole assembly in a wind tunnel in St. Cyr, France, and simulated the forces he faced coming down the 76-percent slope of the mountain.

In the end, Barone came up a little short, even with the high-tech help. But he’s still ready to take another shot at it.

We’re not going to be hitting speeds anything like that on 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

Start the discussion: We don’t usually think about engineering being involved in daredevil stunts, but it is. When you think about it, it almost has to be involved if the daredevil wants to survive.

For more:

http://in.reuters.com/video/2012/04/17/extreme-cyclist-looks-to-science-in-spee?videoId=233475490&videoChannel=103

http://bcove.me/xxpp6nlq

Gene Charleton

Gene Charleton

Cast in concrete

June 20th, 2012 by Gene
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We usually think of concrete as a distinctly modern building material, but it’s been around for centuries. Concrete – Victorian style. Today, on Engineering Works!

When we see concrete today, it’s usually part of a bridge, a dam or a big public building. Structures that depend on concrete’s strength and durability. In fact, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building, is built largely of concrete. But engineers have used concrete since at least ancient Roman times, and some of their concrete buildings are still around today.

The Pantheon in Rome, built by Marcus Agrippa in 126 AD, is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in existence. Oddly, after the Roman Empire collapsed, builders used concrete very seldom until it was – rediscovered – in the mid-1700s.

By the later 1800s, engineers and architects were trying concrete in all sorts of buildings. Clonalis House, in County Roscommon in Ireland, is the first so-called mass concrete structure in Ireland. This means the concrete was poured on-site. The mansion has 45 rooms and cost 10,000 British pounds sterling when it was built in 1878 by the O’Conor Don family. The owners, descendants of the last high kings of Ireland, live in it today. A bit of trivia for music lovers: a harp said to have been owned by the Irish harpist O’Carolan is on display in the library.

Our house isn’t made of concrete, but that’s where we’re going when we’re done. 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: So many things we think of as modern ideas – like concrete – have been around for a long time and used for unusual things. What other pieces of modern technology got their start a long time ago?  Must be lots. Let us know if you think of any.

For more:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concrete

http://clonalis.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clonalis_House

Scott Lowe/Flickr.com

Scott Lowe/Flickr.com

Gassing up

June 13th, 2012 by Gene
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Sometime not too far from now, you may be gassing up your car with a different kind of gas. Natural gas. Today, on Engineering Works!

In case you haven’t noticed, lots of people are talking about natural gas these days.

Around the world, there are about 13 million natural gas-powered vehicles on the road.

Natural gas engines are about as efficient as gasoline engines but don’t do quite as well as diesel engines. And they emit less than half as much carbon dioxide as gasoline engines.

Wide use of fracking – short for fracturing, as in breaking up rock formations – to tap deep-lying shale beds has brought a boom in natural gas production in the United States. The boom is producing controversy with the gas, and the jury is still out on the environmental impact of fracking.

Natural gas for powering cars and trucks comes in two varieties: compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas. Compressed gas is just what it sounds like: natural gas compressed to higher than normal pressures. Liquified natural gas is gas compressed to the point that it becomes liquid, like liquid oxygen or liquid nitrogen.

It’s less expensive to build vehicles to run on compressed natural gas, and liquefied natural gas is more energy-dense. You can pack a lot more into your tank and go a lot farther than on a tank of compressed gas.

We still depend on gasoline to get us 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

Start the discussion:

For more:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=natural-gas-as-alternative-transportation-fuel&WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20120423

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_gas

Pima Air and Space Museum

Pima Air and Space Museum

Much ado about … something

June 6th, 2012 by Gene
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When engineers get silly, it can be pretty impressive. Here’s engineering silly for a good cause. Paper airplanes. Today, on Engineering Works!

Most of us have folded a sheet of paper into an airplane and lofted it across the room. It’s fun, and if you stretch a point a little, you can learn about basic aerodynamics while you’re doing it. Some paper airplanes can really fly. The current record for time in the air seems to be 27.9 seconds. It’s held by a paper airplane pilot in Japan.

The world’s biggest paper airplane, however, flew in Arizona. And it was – big. Forty-five-feet long big. With a wingspan of 24 feet. A team of engineers built it from the design of the winning airplane in a contest held by the Pima Air and Space museum in Tucson. And it flew.

They approached it as an engineering problem, designing and testing a series of airplanes. The first was five feet long and flown by hand. The next, a 15-foot version, was test-flown from the back of a pickup truck and carried aloft and released from a helicopter. The final version, 45 feet long and weighing 800 pounds, also flew from a helicopter.

The silliness had a point, of course. The contest and the super-size flight were intended to spark young people’s interest in engineering. It may have worked: the 12-year-old who designed the original says he plans to become an aerospace engineer.

None of our airplanes were ever that cool. 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: Silly? Of course. But it’s fun, and if it gets young people interested in engineering, it’s a good thing. Has anybody heard of other contests like this? Let us know.

For more:

http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-45-foot-paper-airplane-glides-over-arizona-desert-20120323,0,7676956.story?track=rss

http://greatpaperairplane.org

http://www.pimaair.org

See video of the flight here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=z6uN3LiJqAo

http://www.neatorama.com/2010/01/02/new-paper-airplane-flight-record-achieved/