Gustave's Design
Is there a reason behind the Eiffel Tower's uniuqe design? Yes, two U.S. researchers.

A Needle Less Painful


No one likes the jab of a needle. Now, thanks to the efforts of a chemical engineer, ultrasound may take some of the “ouch” out of the process.

The theory is that ultrasound could make human skin more permeable by opening tiny pores to speed the application of drugs, Mechanical Engineering ( New York) reports. Dr. Robert Langer, a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, worked with colleagues to develop a small battery-operated device that applies ultrasound to the skin for a few seconds. The sound waves create tiny channels in the skin by reorganizing fatty molecules, which speeds drug application.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved the device, called SonoPrep.

Students Set Sights On Solar Power

Students at the New York Institute of Technology are building an innovative 100 per cent solar-powered house in a bid to win the Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., this fall. The Solar Decathlon is to engineering students what the Olympic Games is to athletes, says Dr. Alexandra Logue, vice-president of academic affairs at the institute.

Instead of taking the traditional route of using batteries to harness solar power, hydrogen fuel cells are used in the students' “home of the future.” These cells are non-polluting and produce electricity and heat on demand.

The house design, called Green Machine/Blue Space, features two joined structures. The mechanical systems as well as the kitchen and bathroom are in one structure, while the other is for sleeping, relaxing and working.

Eiffel Engineering Puzzle Solved

What was Gustave Eiffel thinking? That's a question that has perplexed engineers and mathematicians for decades.

Patrick Weidman, an engineering professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo., and Iosif Pinelis, a math professor at Michigan Technology University in Houghton, Mich., think they have the answer, says Mechanical Engineering ( New York).

One theory was that the tower was engineered so it would counter-balance the weight of the wind. Another was that wind power is counter-balanced by tension among the elements of the tower.

An equation backed the first theory, so Dr. Weidman had mathematicians at Michigan Tech further examine it. They found that only a parabola could explain the design.

Dr. Weidman searched historical records at the same time. These confirmed that Eiffel based the design on using tension among the construction elements to allow for wind loads.

Iraq Infrastructure Goals

A recent overview of America's $18.4-billion reconstruction mission in Iraq concludes that the goals of the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund have so far been met or surpassed.

Civil Engineering ( Reston, Va.) reports that electricity generation now exceeds pre-war levels, as does oil production. Approximately 2,700 schools have been renovated and 187 new ones built.

More than 1,200 projects have been initiated to improve the infrastructure of Iraq. About 6,000 contracts have been awarded so far, 4,500 of them to Iraqi-owned firms.

Recycled Water Rises

As supplies of fresh water decrease in many parts of the world, municipal wastewater treatment plants are becoming increasingly popular as a source of feedwater.

An article in Chemical Engineering ( New York) notes that recycling of effluent from these plants is increasing by 15 per cent a year in the United States alone. Worldwide, recycling of water within industrial plants is estimated to be growing by 15 to 20 per cent annually.

In most cases, recycling involves further cleanup through microfiltration or ultrafiltration membranes, followed by reverse osmosis. However, ion exchange is also used for companies that require a high degree of purity, such as pharmaceutical companies.

Sweden Harbours Better Beacons

Danish engineers have applied innovative designs in offshore engineering to reduce the possibility of collisions of large tankers in the harbour at Gothenburg, Sweden, reports Civil Engineering ( Reston, Va.).

The traditional approach would be to design a series of floating buoys. However, engineers at MT Hojgaard in Denmark thought fixed beacons would be more effective, because they require less maintenance than buoys and would not drift.

The engineers installed steel beacons right into the seabed. Although this approach has been used before, engineers took the innovative step of ensuring that the beacons would break when struck, reducing damage to the vessel and to the beacon foundation. As a consequence, the beacons are also expected to reduce potential threats to the harbour's environment.

Spare Me the Noise

Good news for people living around airports. Silencer technology developed at Ohio State University in Columbus could result in quieter jet engines. An article in Aerospace America ( Reston, Va.) explains that the technology creates electrical arcs to control the turbulence in exhaust airflow from jet engines. This turbulence is the chief cause of engine noise.

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