Terri-Jane Yuzda


Smart Dressing Engineers
Weave Clothing that Hears

Freelance Writer

"Smart dressing" is developing a new meaning, thanks to engineers at the Virginia Tech Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The engineers are at work on e-textiles - textiles interwoven with electronic omponents - reports Machine Design (Cleveland, Ohio). The e-textiles contain clustered microphones that can pinpoint sources of sound.

The textiles could be used to locate military vehicles. Another potential application is clothing for the visually handicapped, who could use the technology to obtain cues about approaching objects.

A Digital Ship Upon a Digital Sea?

The first entirely digitally designed frigate has been created by DCN, a military shipyard maker in Brest, France. Shipyard engineers used product lifecycle management software to track designs and study images of the ship, working as a team regardless of each one's own location.

The software is credited with a 17-per-cent cost reduction for hull and structure production, as well as a significant reduction in several other areas, reports Mechanical Engineering (New York).

Galvanizing Experience

A Kansas plant has succeeded in what is likely the largest galvanizing job ever done on a component. A Plus Galvanizing Inc. of Salina, Kan., used a bath of molten zinc to galvanize a 42-ton steel component for a cable-stayed bridge, Engineering News-Record (New York) reports.

The part is for the steel core reinforcing assembly for concrete towers over the Olentangy River in Columbus, Ohio. Previously, the company had not dipped anything heavier than 26 tons.

Playing with Fire a Serious Problem

Fire Engineering (Fair Lawn, N.J.) reports that fires started by children under age six are the leading cause of fire deaths among preschoolers in the United States. The National Fire Protection Association found that three out of every four fires started by children involved lighters or matches.

New Coal Technologies Tested

New coal technologies under study in the United States hold hope of significantly increasing plant efficiencies. One study is examining the use of building advanced steam cycle power plants that operate at 1328° F. Current plants operate at 1004° F. Power Engineering (Tulsa, Okla.) reports that the higher steam temperatures would increase average plant efficiencies from about 35 per cent to nearly 50 per cent.

In another study, researchers are building and evaluating a circulating moving bed combustor. This new type of steam generator significantly reduces heat transfer surface and could substantially reduce capital costs.

Emission Credits to Burn

A developer in the United Kingdom has applied for a permit that would allow him to build a power plant "potentially" free of greenhouse gases, the Engineering News-Record (New York) reports.

Valleys Energy Ltd. plans to begin construction next year on the $600-million plant in Wales. The unit will have an additional "shift phase" on its gasification combined-cycle unit that will convert carbon monoxide and water into carbon dioxide and hydrogen. By 2007, when the European Union's emission trading system has been set up, the company will be able to sell its carbon dioxide emissions allowance.

Governments in the European Union agreed in 2002 to introduce carbon dioxide trading in 2005 as part of the Kyoto Accord greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Goodbye Wall Street

The zeal for public ownership among engineering and construction firms is waning fast, according to the Engineering News-Record (New York). Engineering firms such as EA Engineering, Science and Technology, Inc. are completing "privatization processes."

The publication says the proportion of publicly owned firms on Wall Street has dropped from 29 per cent five years ago to 15 per cent today. Engineering firms appear to believe that private ownership offers fewer hassles and better potential for value.

Reducing Evaporation to Save Money

A new technology has recently become available that could help water-intensive industries and municipalities reduce costs. Mining Engineering (Littleton, Colo.) reports that the technology, called Water$aver, is a combination of evaporation-control technology with "a self spreading capability" that makes it economical.

International testing has found that it reduced water evaporation by up to 40 per cent, while using food-grade chemicals with no negative impact. The technology employs fatty alcohols, viewed as "the only environmental and effective way to retard water evaporation."

Water$aver can be used to preserve raw water in reservoirs, canals, lakes, ponds and recreation areas.

Engineering Breathing Space

When it comes to learning more about how and why we breathe in toxic particles, mechanical engineers have much to contribute, according to Mechanical Engineering (New York).

Mechanical engineers at North Carolina State University are using real-world data to create computer simulations of the way in which toxic solid particles are inhaled into the lungs. Although that might seem like a biomedical specialty, "its roots are in fluid dynamics analysis," the publication states.

Industrialized countries are reporting increases in such chronic diseases as asthma and lung cancer, creating more demand for knowledge on how ultra-fine particles become deposited in human airways and the lungs. The research could assist medical device makers in creating "smart inhalers" that distribute medicine in the lungs with optimum efficiency.

A Bridge to the Future?

Talk about finding another use for old detergent bottles and plastic forks.

A new bridge in New Jersey's Wharton State Forest has been partly built of recycled, high-density polyethylene and polystyrene, reports Civil Engineering (Reston, Va.). These substances are used to make common household items such as plastic dinnerware and milk jugs.

The one-lane, 17-metre vehicular bridge has a load capacity of 36 tons and a lifespan of up to 100 years with almost no maintenance. Dr. Thomas Nosker, a professor of materials engineering at Rutgers University in New Jersey, says the structure represents the first use of such beams for structural support.

Irish Engineers Export Hard-Won Knowledge

It's no surprise that Irish engineers should have developed a reputation for building structures capable of fending off all sorts of attacks.

According to Engineering News-Record, Northern Ireland engineering firms such as Teraproof Ltd. have landed contracts in the United States and as far away as Colombia. The firm's design enhancements include shatterproof windows, net curtains to contain flying glass and reinforced structural frames.

Plastic Boon to Potato Farmers

The fine white sand mixed with volcanic ash in the Pacific Northwest grows great potatoes, but it's tough on tillage equipment. Mechanical Engineering (New York) reports that the bronze bearings in tillage machines are replaced twice or more each season, a job that takes five hours each time.

One company decided to replace the bronze with plastic parts supplied by Igus Inc. of East Providence, R.I. The parts are proving to be a big success, costing less than bronze ones - and lasting 10 times longer.

Collaboration Counts in Boston

The new Boston Art Museum shows what can be accomplished when engineers and architects communicate well, according to an article in Civil Engineering (Reston, Va.).

The museum, the first to be built in that city in a century, is being constructed on a small landfill on the edge of Boston's harbour, with the shoreline walkway incorporated into its ground floor and a huge amount of gallery space above.

Markus Schulte of Aurup, N.Y., structural engineer for the project, says an excellent collaboration with the New York architects Diller and Scofidio led to a remarkably practical and straightforward design.

The museum is designed as a box structure featuring a 23-metre steel frame. The top level is column-free and dramatically cantilevers toward the harbour. Instead of a costly bathtub foundation, the building will be constructed directly above the landfill on deep steel piles.

Quebec Among World's Best

Chile, Quebec and Australia are the world's three most attractive places to invest in mining, according to a survey recently published in Engineering & Mining Journal (Chicago). The survey, compiled annually by the Fraser Institute, is based on the views of industry executives on the mineral and policy potential of 47 geopolitical jurisdictions.

Chile ranked 100th for mineral potential and 85th for policy potential, ahead of Quebec with 98th for mineral potential and 77st for policy potential. Alberta had an overall rank of 35, behind Saskatchewan with a 41st.

Hot Springs, Hot Nanotechnology

You wouldn't expect that the steaming hot mineral geysers in Yellowstone National Park would lead to a breakthrough by NASA scientists, but that's exactly what has happened.

Aerospace America (Reston, Va.) reports that heat-loving bacteria called Thermus aquaticus, seen in the hot springs at the park, could enable an industry that produces "incredibly small sensors." The ultra-small sensors could be used to create electronics components 10 to 100 times smaller than today's.

NASA says the protein cells from the robust, heat-loving bacteria in the geysers can be genetically engineered to create computer chips and other electronic products that could spark "revolutions in electronics and computing."

System Helps Engineers See Beyond Surface

A new coating system holds hope of helping engineers face the challenges of installations that require routine inspection and maintenance, according to Power Engineering (Tulsa, Okla.).

Called the Optically Active Coating System, the system provides a high-quality industrial coating that still allows quality-control inspectors "to see down to the substance below." The process, produced by NCP Coatings, is designed for equipment requiring lifetime inspections for structural integrity, leaks or corrosion.

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