Terri-Jane Yuzda


Powerful Waste Fuels South Carolina Auto Plant

Freelance Writer

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 km.

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 for Gold
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 In
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 panels.

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.

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