World watch


Photovoltaic Panels Reach New European Heights


Freelance Writer

If you’re visiting Manchester , England , any day soon, look way up to see a stunning example of sustainable redesign using photovoltaic panel technology.

Civil Engineering ( Reston , Va. ) reports that Manchester ’s tallest building is undertaking a renovation that will literally reach new heights when it comes to use of the panels. The 118-metre Co-operative Insurance Society tower will be the largest vertical installation of photovoltaic panels in Europe .

The panels will meet part of the electricity needs of the tower, which is an English Heritage site.

No Hollow Victories

Golfers want a good, solid putt — and that’s exactly how it should sound.

The sound factor was one that engineers at ARA Engineering Inc. of Mesa , Ariz. , neglected to their grief, reports Mechanical Engineering ( New York ). After designing a putter prototype, the consulting services firm found that it made a funny, hollow sound when it struck a golf ball.

Fortunately, engineering know-how came to the rescue. The firm did a finite element analysis, and then used software to discover the cause: the way the putter bent and twisted on contact.

The consultants were then able to stiffen the putter for a more satisfying sound.

China ’s Olympic Stadium ‘Amazing’

A bird’s nest? Or a delicate symbol of ancient Chinese pottery?

These are just two of the many things people see in plans for the new Olympic Stadium in Beijing , reports Civil Engineering ( Reston , Va. ). The best word to describe the plans, says the publication, is “amazing.”

The spectacular 220-by-330-metre structure consists of a three-dimensional, stand-alone frame encircling a saddle-shaped bowl, which encompasses the seating area, field and interior facilities. The frame will be created by 24 evenly spaced arch trusses.

Engineers employed sophisticated modeling software to disguise the main trusses with the secondary members. The “seemingly chaotic configuration of lines” thus maintains sufficient structural integrity to withstand major earthquakes.

Is Wednesday Full of Woe?

When it comes to construction industry accidents in the U.S. , Wednesday could be one of the nightmare days, says the Engineering News-Record ( New York ). Until now, it was widely believed that Mondays and Fridays were the most deadly.

A recent study by the United States Labor Department, however, shows that Monday and Wednesday had almost the same number of fatalities, followed by Thursday and Tuesday. It’s important information for the U.S. construction industry, which averages 1,000 fatalities a year.

Surprisingly, the data compiled from U.S. Occupational and Safety Health show that the fewest fatalities occurred on Fridays.

The Construction Industry Research and Policy Centre at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville prepared the study — and noted its limitations. The study was based on 703 deaths in 2003, so a significant number were not analyzed.

Smart Bridges On Their Way?

Everyone agrees that steel bridges play an important role in the U.S. transportation system. Trouble is, they’re getting old.

In Missouri the average bridge is 49 years old, and bridges across the state show signs of deterioration, report researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia. They decided to tackle the problem by developing a composite reinforcement system that’s stronger and lighter than steel, and will reduce maintenance and safety concerns. The composite consists of carbon, glass and polypropylene, and is five times stronger than steel.

Older bridges were not designed to handle today’s traffic volumes, says Vellore Gopalaratnam, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the university. “We believe our steel-free hybrid reinforcement system will benefit all bridges throughout the country.”

Lotus Lessons

If you want to reduce friction on machine parts, look to the lotus leaf. That’s what engineers at Ohio State University are examining to design a surface that could result in almost fiction-free machine parts or self-cleaning glass, says Mechanical Engineering ( New York ).

The surface of a lotus leaf is packed with microscopic bumps. Water drops stand on the tops of the bumps and easily roll off. Using this model, mechanical engineers are searching for the best surface pattern for various materials and applications, including machine parts.

Engineers Tackle Turbulence

Aeronautical engineers are coming closer to designing earlier warnings to help pilots change course and miss severe turbulence.

Aerospace America ( Reston, Va. ) reports that the Turbulence Prediction and Warning System, developed by engineers at NASA and the aerospace industry, provides visual displays of turbulence. The displays are combined with sensors, resulting in the potential ability to predict severe turbulence with 80 per cent probability — and give pilots time to avoid it.