BY GAIL HELGASON
Talk about "powerful" rotting organic waste.
An automobile manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, S.C., is
using methane gas from a nearby landfill to fuel up to 25
per cent of its electricity requirements. Mechanical Engineering
(New York) reports that BMW Manufacturing Corp. transports
the gas by a 15-kilometre pipeline from a landfill at Palmetto
to four plant turbines. The gas-to-energy initiative is expected
to result in a net annual reduction of carbon dioxide emissions
equal to that produced by a car driven more than 160 million
Where Are All the Women?
The European Union wants to know where all the women are,
says Chemical Engineering (Irvine, Calif.) A report on the
participation of females in industrial laboratories has found
that although women account for 55 per cent of all graduates
in higher education in the EU, they represent just 10 per
cent of the 500,000 researchers working in industry.
The report, chaired by executives of Bayer AG in Germany and
Norsk Hydro in Norway, calls for a "stepped up recruitment
effort" by the private sector, and improved access to
scientific education by educators and governments.
Better Water on Tap?
Acoustical communication could lead to more pure water, if
a group of researchers from Pennsylvania State University
in University Park is on the right track. Their research is
geared at developing a system for water monitoring that is
more efficient than the manual method now primarily used to
ensure a pure water supply.
Mechanical Engineering (New York) reports that the researchers
are testing an aqueous sensor network that functions in real
time. Since water interferes with radio signals, the researchers
are employing a network of acoustic communication, based on
sensors that monitor algae and other immersed features. Craig
Grimes, the electrical engineer who heads the project, explains
that when toxins are released, algae growth changes rapidly,
raising a red flag. The sensors send data to each other acoustically,
and that data is fed into an off-site computer.
The system has been under development for about a year.
Battling Beach Blues
You can never have too much beach, right?
Companies concerned about waves pounding away their valuable
real estate might be interested in the Martin Beach Builder,
a newly patented device aimed at preventing such damage.
Engineering News-Record (New York) says the device consists
of angled panels that let water wash over the top as they
proceed to shore, but deposit sand as they recede. Built by
Martin Beach Builder, Inc., of Cleveland, the device is made
of a blend of polymers and fibreglass. The cost of the device
is $741 US per square foot.
Satellite Technology Aids Quest
Satellite technology is being credited with helping mining
engineer Alain Gachet discover what he believes to be one
of the sources of a fabled gold kingdom of Mali.
According to Mining Engineering (Littleton, Colo.), Canada's
RADARSAT-1 Earth observation satellite provided unique images
such as structural, textural and geomorphologic information,
which is unavailable on maps of potential mining areas. Circular
anomalies showed up on radar imagery that were not visible
on aerial photographs, and that suggested gold-bearing quartz
veins. Mr. Gachet credits the technology with helping him
find a new gold prospect in a remote area of southwest Mali.
Quiet Canopy Lets the Stars Shine
A $1-million US kinetic "skylight" is stealing the
show in Illinois.
The skylight, part of an $8.5-million renovation of the open
air Bengt Sjostrom Home of Starlight Theatre, is a stainless
steel cover that unfolds to reveal the sky, reports Engineering
News-Record (New York). The architects and engineers opted
for lighter electrical components instead of a hydraulic operating
system, the publication explains.
The most challenging aspect was to create an assembly that
was eye-appealing and would lift a 14.5-ton panel quietly
and quickly. The engineer/supplier/installer, Uni-Systems
of Minneapolis, met this challenge by designing a lower fixed
section beneath a moveable assembly featuring six triangular
Leak Solution for Generators
A method for finding sulfur hexafluoride leaks from high voltage
breakers is also proving to be effective in tracing difficult-to-find
hydrogen leaks in power plant generators, Power Engineering
(Tulsa, Okla.) reports. The method employs sulphur hexafluoride
along with laser technology and a video camera. A scanning
laser picks up signs of leakage, which show up as a dark cloud
on the camera monitor.
The method appears to be far less time-consuming than the
conventional method - bubble tests with soapy water.