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Upper Mantle Could be Source
Of Hyrdrocarbons, Researchers Theorize


Is there a hydrocarbon bonanza in the Earth's upper mantle waiting to be tapped?

That intriguing theory, says New Technology Magazine (Calgary), suggests that untapped reserves of methane could be formed in the mantle that are up to 10 times deeper than any well previously drilled. The result could be a “virtually inexhaustible” source of energy, according to researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.

Lead researcher Henry Scott of Indiana University, South Bend, Ind., explained that scientists mimicked the high-temperature, high-pressure conditions in a laboratory, and observed “methane formation via carbonate reduction from iron oxide and calcite.”

While the deposits would likely be too deep to reach, they are exciting because they show that hydrocarbons can develop and stabilize at the Earth's mantle, Scott says.

Don't Mess with Marshmallows
As most of us know, getting marshmallows from one place to another can be a sticky process. But the Illinois-based marshmallow producer Doumak Inc. has come to grips with this problem, Food Engineering (Troy, Miss.) reports.

The plant's old method of conveying the ingredients in bucket elevators was costly and time-consuming to maintain, due to the dusty, sticky environment. Doumak streamlined operations by instead using two pneumatic conveyor systems. Equipment lifespan is estimated to have been increased by up to 50 per cent.

Life in a Bamboo House
Although bamboo has traditionally been seen as a construction material suitable only for temporary use, recent experiments suggest that it may have a far greater role to play.

Civil Engineering (Reston, Va.) reports that a prototype bamboo building tested at the Bangalore Central Power Research Institute withstood the most extreme forces required by the Indian national building code — the equivalent of a magnitude-seven earth-quake. The structure also withstood forces equal to that of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan.

The bamboo project is being studied by the Timber Research and Development Association in the United Kingdom and the Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute. Paul Follett, senior develop-ment engineer for TRADA, says he has seen “a dramatic upsurge” in interest recently in large-scale bamboo housing, especially in government.

Engineered Fireworks A Year Late
Constructing the largest sculpture in the United Kingdom wasn't easy, so it's not surprising that the 56-metre steel spike structure in Manchester is a year late, says the Engineering News-Record (New York).

The sculpture, which commemorates the 2002 Commonwealth Games, was “technically difficult,” says Robert Maguire, a consultant to the city on the project. He said it was reassuring that the team included a structural engineer.

The $2.7-million US design is built to resemble an exploding firecracker, with 180 tapering tubes that “erupt” from the core. Designers used a small wax model to aid in computer modeling of the intricate core of meshing spikes.

Cool Hand Engineering
Keeping cool may soon be easier, thanks to a new device that draws blood into the hands. Mechanical Engineering (New York) reports that two biologists at Stanford University have developed a cooling device composed of a rigid chamber, from which a bit of air has been removed.

When athletes place their hands in the chamber, blood is pulled into the hand, and cool water is simultaneously circulated around the palm. The two-step method cools the blood, which then circulates throughout the body.

The device has been shown to increase endurance during aerobic exercise, and it could have military applications by keeping soldiers cool in the field, the researchers say.

Honeywell Opts for Virtual Mentors
How much knowledge will be walking out the door each time an engineer, geologist or geophysicist retires at your place of work?

The answer, typically, is “a lot.” Recently a giant U.S. company, Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologist in Kansas City, Mo., has taken a pro-active approach to preserving this know-how, Mechanical Engineering (New York) reports.

The company wanted to be sure that design engineers in both its manufacturing specialties and mechanical processes understood key elements of each other's jobs. First it tried cross-training, but the engineers found it difficult to get up to speed on each other's specialty.

So Honeywell tried another approach. Managers now identify key design areas that can be demonstrated using computer simulation technology. Various types of engineers then use the demonstrations, which act as a “virtual mentor,” to learn essential parts of each other's jobs.
“Engineers can try things out, they can double the load for a part and see what happens,” says Jim Mahoney, a simulation engineer at Honeywell. “They get to fool around with stuff.”

Author Credits

PEGG Freelance Writer