Archive for December, 2012

BloodhoundSSC

BloodhoundSSC

Rocketing into the record books

December 26th, 2012 by Gene
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People are willing to do all sorts of things to go really fast. Like sitting in front of a rocket on wheels. Aiming for a new world land speed record. Today on Engineering Works!

A racing team in England is aiming to break the existing land speed record of just over763 miles an hour, set in 1997. The Bloodhound Project isn’t planning simply to break the record, they plan to smash it. By close to 300 miles an hour.

The Bloodhound Project is depending on sophisticated engineering to get them there.

The core of the vehicle is a rocket. Thirteen feet by a foot and a half, coupled with a jet engine from an RAF fighter. Together the rocket and jet engine will produce about 47,500 foot-pounds of thrust. For about 20 seconds. That’s about 135,000 horsepower. If that’s not enough, there’s another engine. From a Cotsworth grand prix racing car, drives a pump that pushes liquid oxidizer into the rocket’s solid fuel to produce all that thrust.

The Bloodhound will take its shot at the record from a desert site in northwestern South Africa instead of the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Other racing teams, from California, Canada, Australia and New Zealand also are shooting for the thousand-mile-an-hour speed record. But several folks who claim to know give the Bloodhound team the edge, at least for now.

We’re done for now and heading home. At nowhere near a thousand miles an hour. 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: Some people are willing to go pretty far to go really fast. We like going fast, too, but let’s get serious.

For more:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=1000-mph-car-land-speed-record

See a slideshow of the rocket-powered land speed record contenders:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/slideshow.cfm?id=1000-mph-car-land-speed-record

Massoud Hassani

Massoud Hassani

Engineeering in the wind

December 19th, 2012 by Gene
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Engineering comes in all shapes and sizes. Here’s some that looks like a tumbleweed on steroids and uses the wind to detonate land mines. We’ll explain, today on Engineering Works!

Land mines have been part of war for more than 800 years. They’re intended to keep enemy soldiers from passing through a mined area. The problem is that often civilians wander into minefields and are hurt or killed. Mines kill or injure about 24,000 people every year.

Two brothers in Afghanistan have designed a wind-powered device that detonates land mines without human direction. It’s a combination of high technology and inexpensive materials.

The device, they call it the mine kafon, mine detector, in the Dari language, is a ball of bamboo poles with Frisbee-like “feet” extending out from a basketball-sized core. It weighs about 150 pounds, about as much as an average human. The wind catches the Frisbee feet and blows it across areas where mines may be buried. Mines explode when the feet step on them.

Because it’s uncontrolled, they’ve included a GPS tracking device in the core that keeps track of where the ball has been. The bamboo poles are long enough to keep the core out of detonated mines’ blast area.

Land mine clearing organizations aren’t as enthusiastic about the mine kafon as its Afghan creators, but the brothers say they’re going to continue developing it.

We won’t come across any land mines on the way home, but we’re still 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: At what point does a cool idea become a good idea? The mine kafor is definitely a cool idea, but will it work? What do you think? Let us know.

For more:

http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/29/tech/innovation/mine-kafon-tumbleweed-minesweeper/index.html

http://www.gizmag.com/mine-kafon-tumbleweed-minesweeper/24821/

See video of the mine kafon being built:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/video.cfm?id=afghan-harnesses-wind-for-landmine2012-12-04&WT.mc_id=SA_DD_20121206

metallurgyfordummies.com

Good news and bad about hydrogen

December 12th, 2012 by Gene
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When people talk about using hydrogen to power cars and trucks, there’s good news and bad news. We’ll check it out. Today, on Engineering Works!

When you first think about using hydrogen to replace gasoline or diesel fuel, it seems perfect. There’s lots of it, and it burns cleanly, leaving behind only water. No nasty carbon emissions. It’s when you get into the details that things don’t look so good.

First, hydrogen molecules are tiny. So tiny that they can leak right through seals and valves that hold gasoline or diesel fuel just fine. Second, hydrogen is less energy dense than fossil fuels. A gallon of hydrogen can do less work than a gallon of, say, gasoline. Third, hydrogen can be handled most efficiently when it’s cold. Really cold. Like 33 degrees above absolute zero. You’ve got to be really careful when you’re dealing with anything that cold.

And last, there are millions of gas stations all over the globe. But at last count, there were fewer than a dozen hydrogen fueling stations.

Engineers in Europe are adapting technology developed for the Ariane rocket to make hydrogen more useful in earthbound vehicles. Items like double-walled tanks to keep the hydrogen cold and seals designed to keep it from leaking. Plus new technology to get it from the tank to the engine efficiently. It’s a big step toward making hydrogen actually work here on the ground.

We use gasoline, not hydrogen, but we’re still 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: Hydrogen seems to have a lot of promise for fueling earth-bound vehicles; the problem seems to be in the details. What other things need to be done to make it work? Let us know what you think.

For more:

http://www.gizmag.com/esa-rocket-fuel-car/24908/

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Technology/TTP2/From_rocket_fuel_to_clean_cars

Alan Taylor

Alan Taylor

Touching a new internet

December 5th, 2012 by Gene
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Industrial engineers are imagining a new kind of internet. Bill Gates can sit back down.  This one would move trucks, not electrons. Today, on Engineering Works!

For our economy to work, we have to get everything, from cans of deodorant to refrigerators, from the people who make them to the people who sell them. It’s an expensive operation. At least 30 billion, with a B, gallons of fuel a year. Do the math.

The problem with how we move cargo now is that the usual long-haul 18-wheeler you see on the highway is only about half-full. Maybe as many as one trip in four is made empty. No cargo at all.

The engineers calculate that if we could come up with a nationwide network that brought together manufacturers, transportation providers and retailers to get more full trailers on the road and cut the number of miles they travel empty, the costs would drop drastically. They foresee a physical internet – that’s what they call it – that would carry cargo shipped by whoever had it in much the same way the computer internet carries information.

Computer models the engineers use to work this out suggest that using what they call a physical internet would increase participants’ annual profit by a total of 100 billion-with-a-B dollars. They also expect a system like this would also make short haul shuttle deliveries more efficient and less costly.

We don’t carry much in our truck, so we’ll just drive on 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: This is one of those ideas that you wonder why nobody thought of it before. What other ways could this idea of sharing a transportation method be put to work? Let us know.

For more:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121016092158.htm

http://faculty.ineg.uark.edu/rmeller/web/CELDi-Pi/index-PI.html