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The Engineer: European photonics project targets girls for STEM | Njus Great Britain

European photonics project targets girls for STEM

Technology The Engineer

An EU outreach project focusing on photonics claims to have engaged more than 1,000 young women across 10 countries in STEM activities.Backed by the European Commission and with funding from Horizon 2020, the Phablabs 4.0 initiative saw 1,221 girls
'An EU outreach project focusing on photonics claims to have engaged more than 1,000 young women across 10 countries in STEM activities.Backed by the European Commission and with funding from Horizon 2020, the Phablabs 4.0 initiative saw 1,221 girls attending events since last year.The programme involved a series of 33 workshops and 11 Photonics Challenger projects across 10 European countries in a bid to tackle the underrepresentation of women in science.Workshops created innovative problems for students to solve using lasers and photonics, the technology around the emission, manipulation and detection of light.At the more advanced end of the scale, Challenger Projects tasked students with building an invisibility cloak and creating their own hologram . “We are delighted to be able to open a door into a world of science that some girls and young women may feel is closed,” said Professor MacDonald from WISE (Women in Science and Engineering), which helped support the project. “Girls and young women are more likely to consider studying STEM subjects beyond age 16 if they see that the subject keeps their options open. “The STEM sectors can only benefit from the talents of these young women.More girls and young women deserve the chance to have successful and satisfying careers in science, technology, engineering, manufacturing, mathematics and construction.” Phablabs 4.0 targeted three age categories with photonics workshops aimed at high school girls (Young Minds), female university students (Students) and women who may have already started their careers (Young Professionals 18+). The programme also saw the publication of a new booklet, A Gender Balanced Approach . The booklet acts as a guide to future Fabrication Laboratories so that organisers in schools or universities can use it as a guide for promoting STEM  to young women. “Phablabs is amazing and interesting,” said Ester Muylaert, 18, from Halle in Belgium. “We’ve learned lots of new skills that we wouldn’t have picked up in school.To see the job in front of me and to meet the person who does that job has given me loads of ideas about what I can do in the future.It’s really made me want to work with photonics.” MORE FROM THE STUDENT ENGINEER . The post European photonics project targets girls for STEM appeared first on The Engineer .'

Boaty McBoatface reveals insights into Antarctic heating

Technology The Engineer

Southampton University research with autonomous submarine uncovers new link between winds and sea level rise The autonomous submarine to be housed on the UK’s new Antarctic research vessel, RSS Sir David Attenborough, has shed light on a key process
'Southampton University research with autonomous submarine uncovers new link between winds and sea level rise The autonomous submarine to be housed on the UK’s new Antarctic research vessel, RSS Sir David Attenborough, has shed light on a key process linking increasing Antarctic winds to rising sea temperatures.Boaty McBoatface aboard RSS James Clark Ross.Image: Povl Abrahamsen, British Antarctic Survey The Autosub Long Range (better known as Boaty McBoatface after the phrase won a competition to name the research vessel, but the government deemed it too silly) undertook the research in September 2017 as part of its first research voyage, in a project involving the British Antarctic Survey, Southampton University, and US institutions Princeton University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.Its mission took it on a 180 mile (290km) journey through underwater valleys, navigating via echo sounding, where it measured such data as water turbulence using a Doppler current profiling instrument and shear micro structure sensors, plus salinity and temperature.Reaching depths of 4000m, Boaty was eventually recovered by another research vessel, RSS James Clark Ross (RSS Sir David Attenborough is currently undergoing sea trials ahead of its active service) and its data downloaded for study.The following video (courtesy of Povl Abrahamsen) shows highlights of the voyage of McBoatface.In a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , the Southampton team, led by Prof Alberto Navaeiro Garabato, explained that the data revealed a link between wind levels over the Southern Ocean and rising sea temperatures.In recent decades, ozone depletion over Antarctica combined with increasing greenhouse gas levels have led to the strength of these winds increasing, the team says, and the data from the submarine has revealed a mechanism that allows these winds to increase turbulence deep below the surface of the ocean, causing warmer water from the mid-levels of the sea to mix with far colder water deep in the abyss.This effect was not previously built into models for predicting the impact of rising global temperatures on the oceans, and the team believes it has made a significant contribution to rising sea levels. “Our study is an important step in understanding how the climate change happening in the remote and inhospitable Antarctic waters will impact the warming of the oceans as a whole and future sea level rise,” Garabato said.The research reveals the utility of autonomous vessels such as Boaty , added Povl Abrahamsen of the British Antarctic Survey: “This study is a great example of how exciting new technology such as the unmanned submarine “Boaty McBoatface” can be used along with ship-based measurements and cutting-edge ocean models to discover and explain previously unknown processes affecting heat transport within the ocean.” CLICK FOR NEWS . The post Boaty McBoatface reveals insights into Antarctic heating appeared first on The Engineer .'

Process brings more aluminium alloys into automotive

Technology The Engineer

The automotive industry could make more use of high-strength aluminium alloys made from powders thanks to a new, single step advanced manufacturing process.The process, which produces nano structured rods and tubes directly from high-performance
'The automotive industry could make more use of high-strength aluminium alloys made from powders thanks to a new, single step advanced manufacturing process.PNNL’s ShAPE process combined with a unique aluminium alloy produced high-strength, high-ductility rods in one single process (Image: Andrea Starr/PNNL) The process, which produces nano structured rods and tubes directly from high-performance aluminium alloy powder, has been demonstrated by a team at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.Using a novel Solid Phase Processing approach, the team say they’ve eliminated steps that are required during conventional extrusion processing of aluminium alloy powders whilst achieving a notable increase in product ductility.The team’s research is described in a paper titled High Ductility Aluminium Alloy Made from Powder by Friction Extrusion , published in  Materialia . High-performance aluminium alloys made from powder are used in lightweight components for aerospace applications, where cost is not a limiting factor.However, these alloys have typically been too expensive for the automotive industry.A typical extrusion process for aluminium alloy powders is energy-and process-intensive, requiring multiple steps to mass produce the material: the loose powder must be loaded into a can and degassed.The can is then sealed, hot pressed, pre-heated, and placed into the extrusion press.After extrusion, the can is removed (decanned) to reveal the extruded part made from consolidated powder.In this study, the team says it eliminated many of these steps, extruding nanostructured aluminium rods directly from powder in a single step, using PNNL’s ShAPE (Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion) technology.Extrusion of aluminium alloys directly from powder eliminates canning, degassing, hot isostatic pressing, decanning, and billet pre-heating.In the ShAPE process, a powder – in this case, an Al-12.4TM aluminium alloy powder – is poured into an open container.A rotating extrusion die is then forced into the powder, which generates heat at the interface between the powder and die.The material softens and easily extrudes, eliminating the need for canning, degassing, hot pressing, pre-heating, and decanning. “This is the first published instance of an aluminium alloy powder being consolidated into nanostructured extrusions using a single-step process like ShAPE,” said PNNL materials scientist Scott Whalen, who led the study. “The elimination of both the processing steps and the need for pre-heating could dramatically reduce production time as well as lower the cost and overall embedded energy within the product, which could be beneficial for automotive manufacturers who want to make passenger vehicles more affordable, lighter, and fuel-efficient for the consumer.” CLICK FOR NEWS . The post Process brings more aluminium alloys into automotive appeared first on The Engineer .'

Solar desalination makes efficiency gains with ‘hot spots’

Garden The Engineer

A team from Rice University has used nanophotonics to focus light and boost its solar desalination process by 50 per cent.Rice’s “nanophotonics-enabled solar membrane distillation” (NESMD) technology was first demonstrated in 2012.It uses
'A team from Rice University has used nanophotonics to focus light and boost its solar desalination process by 50 per cent. (Credit Pratiksha Dongare/Rice University) Rice’s “nanophotonics-enabled solar membrane distillation” (NESMD) technology was first demonstrated in 2012.It uses light-absorbing nanoparticles to turn a desalination membrane into a solar-driven heating element, enabling water purification without electricity.Recently, the team discovered it could boost the performance of the system by more than 50 per cent simply by adding inexpensive plastic lenses to concentrate sunlight into ‘hot spots’. The work is described in the  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . “The typical way to boost performance in solar-driven systems is to add solar concentrators and bring in more light,” said Pratiksha Dongare, a graduate student in applied physics at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering and co-lead author of the paper. “The big difference here is that we’re using the same amount of light.We’ve shown it’s possible to inexpensively redistribute that power and dramatically increase the rate of purified water production.” Rice University researchers (from left) Pratiksha Dongare, Alessandro Alabastri and Oara Neumann (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University) The hot spots essentially deliver outsized gains compared to having the energy evenly distributed across the membrane.This process is akin to using a magnifying glass to concentrate the sun’s energy in a single spot, but results in a non-linear improvement in the membrane’s peformance.Focusing the light on a tiny spot on the membrane results in a linear increase in heat.However, the heating produces a nonlinear increase in vapour pressure, with the increased pressure forcing more purified steam through the membrane in less time. “We showed that it’s always better to have more photons in a smaller area than to have a homogeneous distribution of photons across the entire membrane,” said co-lead author Alessandro Alabastri, a physicist and Texas Instruments Research Assistant Professor in Rice’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.According to the Rice team, this nonlinear optical effect also could improve technologies that use solar heating to drive chemical processes like photocatalysis MORE ON ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT . The post Solar desalination makes efficiency gains with ‘hot spots’ appeared first on The Engineer .'

Nano knowledge could improve catalysis

Research and Science The Engineer

Improvements to catalysis and additive manufacturing techniques could be made possible following UK research into the way nanoparticles melt.Although melting behaviour is known to change at the nanoscale, the way nanoparticles melt has remained an
'Improvements to catalysis and additive manufacturing techniques could be made possible following UK research into the way nanoparticles melt.Shape changes in Au nanoclusters, indicating cluster surface melting at high temperatures.Images of two individual clusters containing 561 and 2530 atoms are shown (Image: Swansea University) Although melting behaviour is known to change at the nanoscale, the way nanoparticles melt has remained an open question.Now, in a paper published in Nature Communications , researchers at Swansea University describe an experiment in which they imaged gold nanoparticles, with diameters ranging from two-to-five nanometres, as they were heated.The researchers imaged the nanoparticles using an aberration corrected scanning transmission electron microscope, according to Prof Richard Palmer, who led the research.They then carried out large-scale quantum mechanical calculations, to simulate their results. “We established that the nanoparticle melts from the outside in, so you have a liquid skin, which is floating around a solid core,” said Palmer. “The melting point of the nanoparticles depends very strongly upon their size.” Understanding how nanoparticles melt, and predicting their behaviour at elevated temperatures, could help in a range of applications, Palmer said.In catalysis, for example, chemical reactions typically take place at elevated temperatures on small particles, which have a much lower melting point than their bulk metals. “If you have a catalyst consisting of small particles, it may be that the molecules that are coming in to react are actually encountering a liquid surface, rather than the solid surface that you would have supposed,” he said. “So you may be able to tune the chemical activity by controlling the nature of the surface of these particles, by controlling the temperature at which the reaction takes place.” The research could also be used to improve an additive manufacturing process known as sintering, in which small particles are merged together to create a desired material.The sintering process begins at a temperature at which the surface of the particles start to melt, said Palmer. “So by choosing nanoparticles of different sizes, you could lower the temperature where sintering takes place, or indeed raise it,” he said.CLICK FOR NEWS . The post Nano knowledge could improve catalysis appeared first on The Engineer .'

June 1960: Floating a new idea

Technology The Engineer

The Engineer assessed Ford’s air-cushioned vehicle concept, as Jason Ford writes In the late 1950s, public transport in the US was a multi-billion-dollar industry being eclipsed by a rise in private car ownership that saw a fifth of all households
'The Engineer assessed Ford’s air-cushioned vehicle concept, as Jason Ford writes In the late 1950s, public transport in the US was a multi-billion-dollar industry being eclipsed by a rise in private car ownership that saw a fifth of all households owning more than one car.By 1960, the US automotive market – excluding business and government fleets – was estimated to be worth $36bn, a figure broken down into $16bn on car purchases and $20bn on maintenance and operation.By comparison, the market for public transport – incorporating airlines and taxis as well as buses and trains – was worth $3bn and Ford Motor Company was working on a project designed to take a share of the spoils by connecting cities at speed.A 1960 concept version of the Ford Levacar The idea was, in fact, 30 years-old when it was presented to an audience at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers by a certain Mr VG Raviolo, Ford’s executive director of engineering staff.By that time, the concept of the Ford Levacar – a wheel-less vehicle supported on a thin film of air – was out of the lab and operating as a single-passenger vehicle on a circular track that was 28ft in diameter.According to our correspondent , Levacar was envisioned as a 40 to 60 passenger vehicle operating at speeds of about 300mph. “In this form it would provide a high-speed public transport system which would fill the gap between wheeled vehicles and high-speed aircraft, operating directly between city centres at intermediate distances of up to 1,000 miles,” said The Engineer . In his presentation, Raviolo told IMechE that a working system would likely consist of two rails supported several feet off the ground and that commercially available degrees of finish and tolerances were up to the job.The supporting cushion of air – between the faces of the ‘levapads’ and track surfaces – was estimated to be between 0.02 and 0.05 inches.In experiments, air was supplied at 50 to 60lb per square inch to a 450lb Levacar that required 15hp for levitation and 2.5hp to propel it at 20mph.The Engineer recorded that in the case of a larger vehicle, 25hp would be required per 1,000lb of gross vehicle weight “so that a 40-passenger model with an estimated gross weight of 28,000lb would require 700hp for levitation”. “The energy required for levitation remains substantially constant while the forward speed of the vehicle increases, but the air drag rises rapidly, of course,” said our correspondent. “Thus, to move the same 40-passenger vehicle at 200mph would require an additional 320hp and at 400mph, 2560hp.Consequently, the proportion of energy absorbed in levitation decreases substantially with speed, and the Levacar is seen to be most efficient at high speeds.” Ford Levacar concept in 1959 (Image: Ford Motor Company) Certain elements of Levacar were still in development and Raviolo couldn’t reveal too much about the vehicle’s aerodynamics, except to say that drag and side winds would be countered by “selective air feed to the multiple levapads”. Propulsion, however, would be delivered by a shrouded propeller with a low tip speed to reduce noise. “The question of noise is particularly important if such vehicles are intended to operate to and from the centres of cities: according to the speaker, the noise level of a Levacar would be comparable to that of an express train at 80mph,” The Engineer said.It was further added that to be economical, Levacars would have to operate above 125mph – preferably between 200 to 500mph – leading to questions about braking safely at speed.According to Raviolo, the Levacar would be brought to rest by a combination of reversed propeller thrust and air brakes or flaps, followed from 30 or 40mph by the application of bellows-actuated pads lined with brake material. “In the event of engine failure, the vehicle would have to rely on the brake pads, which were thought to be adequate dealing with such emergencies, but this still had to be proved in full scale tests,” The Engineer said.History has told us that Levacar failed to come to fruition, although in 1960 Raviolo was confident that the cost of the system – including land clearance but not acquisition of rights of way – would be approximately $75,000 per mile. “The possibility of direct high-speed travel between the centres of cities is attractive but the economics of the proposed system call for further, more detailed examination,” concluded The Engineer . CLICK FOR MORE FROM THE ARCHIVE . The post June 1960: Floating a new idea appeared first on The Engineer .'

Cryoegg works under pressure beneath ice

Weather The Engineer

Cryoegg will measure and characterise liquid water beneath ice sheets to help scientists to predict environmental change The deep, high-pressure zones beneath Greenland’s glaciers control how the arctic ice responds to the increasing temperatures
'Cryoegg will measure and characterise liquid water beneath ice sheets to help scientists to predict environmental change The deep, high-pressure zones beneath Greenland’s glaciers control how the arctic ice responds to the increasing temperatures caused by climate change, and contributes to rising sea levels.Cryoegg (Cardiff University) However, studying this deep, hostile environment is extremely difficult with existing technology.Now researchers at Cardiff University are developing a wireless sensing device, dubbed Cryoegg, to measure and characterise the liquid water beneath the ice sheets, in a bid to help scientists to predict future environmental change.The EPSRC-funded project, led by Dr Liz Bagshaw, is developing and testing the sphere-shaped device, capable of collecting water measurements below 2.5km of ice and transmitting the data back to the surface via a radio frequency (RF) transmitter.The environment beneath the glaciers is currently investigated using cabled sensors implanted into narrow boreholes.However, fast-flowing ice can stretch and eventually break these cables, meaning valuable data is lost, Bagshaw said.In designing the Cryoegg, the team had to develop a device robust enough to collect measurements of water beneath the ice and be free to move around within the sub-surface meltwater. “The Cryoegg is a sphere, about grapefruit size, and made of a very strong plastic,” Bagshaw said. “It has a waterproof seal, and enclosed within the sphere is a radio transmitter, a microprocessor and a number of sensors.” The sensor device must also be able to operate at low temperatures and high pressures, with no external power supply for up to 12 months at a time, she said. “We have done some trials in Greenland over the past couple of years, trying to understand the right radio frequency to use, and how to optimise the battery power underneath the ice, because we want it to operate for a long time, and we’re working at very low temperatures which isn’t great for battery performance.” In a trial in 2017 the team tested the egg at a site 500m below the ice.This summer, the team are planning to test the Cryoegg in a 2km-deep borehole at the East Greenland Ice Core Project (EastGRIP) site, as well as a 1.2km borehole at Store Glacier, West Greenland. “Then if all goes well, hopefully we’ll be back to EastGRIP next year to release an egg at 2.5km,” said Bagshaw.The project includes researchers from Aberystwyth and Copenhagen Universities, and is being supported by the EastGRIP and Responder projects, which are researching the Greenland ice sheet.CLICK FOR NEWS . The post Cryoegg works under pressure beneath ice appeared first on The Engineer .'

This week’s poll: Heathrow airport expansion plans

Technology The Engineer

Now that the details of the project to build a third runway at Heathrow have been revealed, do they represent good value for money?
'Now that the details of the project to build a third runway at Heathrow have been revealed, do they represent good value for money?Take Our Poll The expansion plans include taking the M25 through a tunnel under the new runway.Image: Grimshaw Architects Anybody wondering why the plans to build a third runway at Heathrow airport had been costed as high as £14bn – myself included: how can what is essentially a fairly short stretch of road be so expensive? – now has the answer.The detailed plans for the expansion published today, marking the start of a 12 week public consultation exercise, show the project includes moving the courses of several small rivers, replacing utilities, burying the M25 in a tunnel as it passes under the route of the new runway and its associated taxiways, and building several new car parks, some of which will be very large.The project will see the airport expanding in phases up to 2050, with later stages including the construction of new terminal buildings – which, as we know from the relatively recent construction of Terminal 5, could itself be a mammoth engineering project.This has to lead to us question whether such a project actually represents good value for money.Heathrow has said that expansion should not “come at any cost”, but £14bn is a large sum by anybody’s reckoning.In today’s poll, we asked readers whether alternative schemes might represent better value.One option might be to not expand airport capacity at all.Environmental campaigners question whether emissions targets and limits on noise levels can possibly be achieved if the number of flights into and out of the UK – and the south-east region in particular – continues to grow.The aerospace industry, however, counters that the performance of civil airliner engines continues to improve as they become more fuel efficient and quieter, and that is not practical to try to limit consumer demand.Alternatives to expanding Heathrow might be to expand another airport instead – which would, of course, also come at a cost; or even to abandon Heathrow and build an entirely new airport in a less constrained site which is more suited to expansion if necessary.Proposals have included building an airport at the Marston airfield in Kent, or a plan to construct an airport artificial island in the Thames estuary , as favoured by erstwhile London Mayor and possible future Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on which he spent public funds for feasibility studies but abandoned the project after the studies indicated the cost might approach £100bn.We welcome comment on this poll, but ask all readers to familiarise themselves with the guidelines for the content of comments before submitting, and remind all contributors the comments are moderated before publication.We will try to ensure that discussion remains on topic and does not get sidelined.We will publish the results of this poll on 25th June. . The post This week’s poll: Heathrow airport expansion plans appeared first on The Engineer .'

Scottish vertical farming startup harvests £5.4m in funding

Technology The Engineer

Scotland’s Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), an agri-tech startup focused on vertical farming, has raised £5.4m in its Series A funding round.Founded in 2013, IGS uses a combination of IoT-enabled lighting, automation, and power management to grow
'Scotland’s Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), an agri-tech startup focused on vertical farming, has raised £5.4m in its Series A funding round.Founded in 2013, IGS uses a combination of IoT-enabled lighting, automation, and power management to grow fruits and vegetables indoors, with trays of produce stacked vertically to maximise space.The system is managed via a data platform that uses AI to help optimise the growing environment and maximise yields.According to the company, its patented electrical, electronic and mechanical technologies allow it to deliver yields of 225 per cent compared to growing in greenhouses.The system can also help reduce energy usage by up to 50 per cent and labour costs by up to 80 per cent versus other indoor growing platforms.The Series A funding round was led by US venture capital firms S2G and AgFunder, both of which are highly active investors in the agri-tech sector. “Indoor agriculture production is at a tipping point,” said Sanjeev Krishnan, managing director of S2G Ventures. “Grocery and food service firms have never been more interested in adopting this in their future supply chain.Cost and quality of product will be critical to scale this adoption.IGS’s revolutionary technology has proven itself to reduce power consumption, improve ventilation and hence reduce the capital and human costs to deliver fresh and differentiated products to consumers.” IGS launched its first demonstration facility in August 2018, located at the James Hutton Institute near Dundee.Having proven the effectiveness of its technology in the intervening period, the company is now planning to bring its vertical farming platform to market.The indoor horticulture sector is expected to grow by 24 per cent per annum over the next three years, and IGS is expanding its team in order to keep up with demand. “We have recruited a world-class international management team, to be announced soon, to drive our plan forward with support from a board of senior international business people bringing industry expertise and best practice governance to the table,” said IGS chief executive David Farquhar. “This industry is just at the starting line and we look forward to working with our customers, partners and colleagues at the James Hutton Institute to enable the highest quality produce to be grown at economically viable prices and help feed the burgeoning global population.” MORE ON AI . The post Scottish vertical farming startup harvests £5.4m in funding appeared first on The Engineer .'

Virtual biopsy lessens risks and stress for patients

Technology The Engineer

Biopsies could one day be less risky and distressing to patients following the development of a non-invasive virtual biopsy device.Developed by a scientist at Rutgers University, the virtual biopsy device uses sound vibrations and pulses of
'Biopsies could one day be less risky and distressing to patients following the development of a non-invasive virtual biopsy device.Image by skeeze on Pixabay Developed by a scientist at Rutgers University, the virtual biopsy device uses sound vibrations and pulses of near-infrared light to determine a skin lesion’s depth and potential malignancy without using a scalpel.Currently, physicians who perform surgical biopsies often don’t know the extent of a lesion – and whether it will be necessary to refer the patient to a specialist for extensive tissue removal or plastic surgery – until surgery has already begun.Dubbed vibrational optical coherence tomography (VOCT), the new experimental procedure is said to create a 3D map of the legion’s width and depth under the skin with a laser diode.It also uses soundwaves to test the lesion’s density and stiffness because cancer cells are stiffer than healthy cells.An inch-long speaker applies audible soundwaves against the skin to measure the skin’s vibrations and determine whether the lesion is malignant. “This procedure can be completed in 15 minutes with no discomfort to the patient, who feels no sensation from the light or the nearly inaudible sound,” said lead researcher Frederick Silver, a professor of pathology and laboratory at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “It’s a significant improvement over surgical biopsies, which are invasive, expensive and time-consuming.” The study found that a prototype VOCT device – currently awaiting s FDA approval for large-scale testing – can accurately distinguish between healthy skin and different types of skin lesions and carcinomas.The researchers tested the device over six months on four skin excisions and on eight volunteers without skin lesions.Further studies are needed to fine-tune the device’s ability to identify a lesion’s borders and areas of greatest density and stiffness, which would allow physicians to remove tumours with minimally invasive surgery.The advance from Rutgers is described in Wiley Online Library.CLICK FOR NEWS . The post Virtual biopsy lessens risks and stress for patients appeared first on The Engineer .'

Visitor numbers soar at Subcon 2019

Technology The Engineer

Subcon 2019, the UK’s premier subcontract manufacturing supply chain show, has achieved a significant uplift in visitor numbers.
'Subcon 2019, the UK’s premier subcontract manufacturing supply chain show, has achieved a significant uplift in visitor numbers.Over 4,100 manufacturing and engineering professionals attended this year’s event – which ran from 4 – 6 th June at the NEC – marking a 16 per cent increase year on year and on par with the show’s record attendance achieved in 2017.During this 43rd edition of the Show, visitors had a chance to meet, speak with and gain invaluable insight from more than 250 exhibitors and over 100 companies have already rebooked their stands for 2020.A spokesperson from exhibitor Washington Metal Works said: “This was our first time at Subcon and only the second time we’ve ever exhibited, and it’s been really good.It’s really important for us to be able to speak to a lot of different industry sectors because of how diverse our customers are, and we’ve made some great connections that could translate into potential clients.We’ll definitely be back next year.” Fellow exhibitor Bowman added: “Subcon was very good this year; the people who came to see us were very focused and of a high quality, so it’s been a successful show for us and we’ve already signed for next year, when we’ll have even more new things to show visitors.” The Engineer Conference, which ran alongside the exhibition, provided over 30 high-powered free educational sessions, covering a wide range of topics including AI, robotics, nuclear fusion, hybrid aircraft and digitalisation.Speakers including Ian Warhurst, the Bloodhound Landspeed Record Project CEO, Brian Holliday, Managing Director for Siemens Digital Factory and Dave Short, Technology director with BAE Systems.New features at Subcon 2019 included the Subcon Launchpad and Awards: a new start-up incubator designed to propel six embryonic businesses into the limelight.The winner of the very first Launchpad Award – winning a full sized-stand at next year’s event – is Elements Technology.This year’s event also helped to celebrate the centenary of the Women’s Engineering Society, with a series of presentations from some of the UK’s leading women engineers including WES CEO Elizabeth Donnelly.Under new ownership at Mark Allen Group, Subcon will return alongside The Engineer Expo to the NEC Birmingham in 2020 from 9-11 June.For more information, please visit www.subconshow.co.uk . The post Visitor numbers soar at Subcon 2019 appeared first on The Engineer .'

Airbus tests connected airborne battlesystem

Technology The Engineer

Successful flight demonstration of Network for the Sky programme is a significant milestone, the company claims.Network for the Sky (NFTS) is a secure mobile communications system intended to link together the various military assets that might be
'Successful flight demonstration of Network for the Sky programme is a significant milestone, the company claims.Network for the Sky is intended to allow secure connections between all the various assets that might be used in a combat scenario Network for the Sky (NFTS) is a secure mobile communications system intended to link together the various military assets that might be used in an active wartime situation, operated from an overhead airborne command platform.For the tests, Airbus used a multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft, a military version of the civilian A330 airliner.The multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft used in the demonstration is a military version of the A330 airliner The system combines satellite and ground communications, air-to-ground, ground-to-air and air-to-air tactical links, 5G mobile communications and line of sight laser connections into what Airbus describes as a “resilient, unified, secure, highly interoperable mesh network”. In operations, this would replace or at least reinforce limited bandwidth and interoperability networks currently used by aircraft, UAVs and helicopters, allowing them to operate as an integral part of a high-speed network.The demonstration scenario in which the MRTT took part simulated the establishment of wideband vindication links between a ground operative, a fighter jet, the airborne platform and a combined air operations centre (CAOC) on the ground.Both the ground operative and the fighter jet had to send video in real-time to provide situational awareness to, and receive instructions from, the CAOC.The ground operative was located in Getafe, Spain, and equipped with the standard handheld radio used by NATO forces.The jetfighter was operating overhead, obtained imagery of the area of interest, while also acting as a communication node between the ground operative and the MRTT, which was flying at 30,000 feet within a 150km radius in secure airspace.The fighter relayed information to the MRTT via a wideband line-of-sight datalink.The MRTT used a satellite link to send its data to a link location near Washington DC, which returns communications to the CAOC in Europe via a terrestrial link.This seemingly complex data path demonstrates the real-time operation of secure end-to-end communications, known as a hybrid network, which according to Airbus represents the future of military communications and meets the needs of Armed Forces to be able to use a wide range of networks while allowing these to be managed dynamically and transparently.Such a system allows secure Internet protocol communications to be established, links to real-time and the available bandwidth to be allocated datalink space on the operational priorities.The technology involved in a demonstration included Airbus’s new tri-band satellite antenna, Janus, along with the latest version of the Proteus satellite modem, which is resilience against interference and jamming, and Airbus aircraft links integration management system (ALIMS). The exercise paves the way for the development of the capability for smart connectivity that will allow MRTT to act as a high-end communication node.Airbus expects the connected airborne battlespace to offer full operational capability by 2020. “This unique demonstration is a significant milestone in realising our vision of secure connectivity, which will enable the future air combat cloud and enhance real time execution of military missions,” said Evert Dudok, Head of Communications, Intelligence & Security at Airbus Defence and Space.CLICK FOR NEWS . The post Airbus tests connected airborne battlesystem appeared first on The Engineer .'

Artificial nose sniffs surgical smoke to identify brain tumours

Technology The Engineer

Finnish researchers have developed an artificial nose that analyses the smoke from electrosurgery in real-time, detecting different types of cancerous brain tissue.Electrosurgery devices such as electric knives or diathermy blades use electrical
'Finnish researchers have developed an artificial nose that analyses the smoke from electrosurgery in real-time, detecting different types of cancerous brain tissue.Flue gas created by an electric knife is fed directly into the measurement system (Credit: Antti Roine) Electrosurgery devices such as electric knives or diathermy blades use electrical current to vaporise tissue, enabling surgeons to operate with limited blood loss.Vaporising biological tissue produces smoke that contains signatures of the underlying cells.Using differential mobility spectrometry (DMS), the team from Finland’s University of Tampere was able to analyse the smoke from cancerous tissue almost instantaneously, detecting the digital fingerprint of various forms of brain tumour.The research is published in the  Journal of Neurosurgery . “Our new method offers both a promising way to identify malignant tissue in real time and the ability to study several samples from different points of the tumour,” said Tampere University researcher Ilkka Haapala. “The specific advantage of the equipment is that it can be connected to the instrumentation already present in neurosurgical operating theatres.” Prevailing practice for analysing tumours during surgery involves small samples of tissue being passed to a pathologist, who examines the samples with a microscope and reports back to the operating theatre by phone.This process is time consuming and the feedback to the surgeon is not immediate. “In current clinical practice, frozen section analysis is the gold standard for intraoperative tumour identification,” said Haapal. “In that method, a small sample of the tumour is given to a pathologist during surgery.” The Tampere study used its artificial nose to analyse 694 tissue samples collected from 28 brain tumours and control specimens.The system’s classification accuracy was 83 per cent when all the samples were analysed, with accuracy improving under more restricted circumstances.When comparing low malignancy tumours (gliomas) to control samples, the classification accuracy of the system was 94 per cent, reaching 97 cent sensitivity and 90 per cent specificity.MORE FROM MEDICAL & HEALTHCARE . The post Artificial nose sniffs surgical smoke to identify brain tumours appeared first on The Engineer .'

UK SPICE project chases battery breakthrough

Technology The Engineer

Cheaper, faster-charging lithium-ion batteries with increased lifespan could be made possible by a UK project to develop better coating technology for silicon anodes.
'Cheaper, fa ster- charging lithium-ion   batteries with increased life span could be made possible by a UK project to develop better coating technology for silicon anodes . The project , known as SPICE (Silicon Product Improvement through Coating Enhancement), is being led by Oxfordshire-based battery materials specialist Nexeon , and has been awarded £2 million in funding through the Government’s ISCF Faraday Battery Challenge by Innovate UK.Silicon anodes are increasingly seen as the next stage in lithium-ion battery development, as their ability to absorb more charge should lead to smaller batteries with a longer life . However, to get the most from the use of silicon , battery makers typically have to use additional electrolyte additives, which add to the overall cost, according to Bill Macklin, chief engineer at Nexeon . Adding a surface coating to the silicon reduces the need for these higher cost electrolyte additives , he said, cutting the cost.A coating can also slow down the degradation of the anode, according to Macklin. “That means that you wi ll get an increased cycle life, or you get more cycles before t he capacity of the battery drops,” he explained, adding that  a carbon coating can improve the anode’s electronic conductivity , enhancing the ability to charge and discharge the battery.To develop the enhanced carbon coatings, the project team, which also includes Phoenix Scientific Industries (PSI), AGM Batteries, and researchers at Oxford University’s Department of Materials , will use a vapour deposition process, said Macklin. “The (silicon) powder is placed in a gas stream containing a carbon precursor, for example ethylene, at a certain temperature, and that breaks down the ethylene, resulting in carbon deposition,” he said.Nexeon has established a laboratory-scale coating process, which is being designed by PSI. “ But as you go up in scale, t he challenge is to ensure you have unif orm deposition on a bulk powder,” Macklin explained.To this end, researchers at Oxford University will investigate what is happening at a molecular level during the process , to assess the uniformity, quality , and performance of the coating.MORE ON ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT . The post UK SPICE project chases battery breakthrough appeared first on The Engineer .'

Cardio prosthetics get additive makeover

Technology The Engineer

Heart valves damaged by disease or bacterial infection could ultimately be replaced with 3D printed prosthetic devices, thanks to UK research.Degenerative heart valve disease is a growing problem amongst the ageing populations of Europe and the US,
'Heart valves damaged by disease or bacterial infection could ultimately be replaced with 3D printed prosthetic devices, thanks to UK research.  (Credit: Pixabay) Degenerative heart valve disease is a growing problem amongst the ageing populations of Europe and the US, while in the developing world valve failures caused by bacterial infections affect tens of millions of people.As part of a research collaboration that has spanned more than a decade, biomedical engineer Professor Neil  Bressloff  and interventional cardiologist Professor Nick  Curzen , both based at the University of Southampton, have been investigating ways to use engineering to improve heart  treatments .   In their latest research, the pair are looking into ways to improve heart valve replacement,  particularly in  a procedure known as TAVI ( transcatheter  aortic valve implant at ion).   In this procedure, a metal cage, or stent, is pa ssed over a catheter  and  into place within the opening of the aortic valve, Bressloff explained .   “ When this  replacement valv e opens up, it pushes the (damaged)  heart valve asi de, and the prosthesis  starts functioning as the native  valve would have done,” he said.The researchers have previously carried out a successful pilot study to investigate the  use of additive manufacturing to print the se  thin strut  valve  structures.Now, in a new EPSRC-funded project, they are hoping to optimise the additive manufacturing process, known as  direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) ,  and assess its effectiveness in producing replacement heart valve frames.The researchers will be working with Italian firm  Sisma , which specialises in additive manufacturing of jewellery  and dental  implants .   “D irect  metal laser sintering involves  laying down layers of powder,  o ver which a laser is then fired –   following a geometry  model in a CAD package –  to build up the structure,”  Bressloff  said.Existing r eplacement heart valves are typically laser-cut from tubes, in the same way that stents are manufactured,  which limits their design.By using additive manufacturing, the researchers hope to explore different design  concept s, he said.For example,  t he researchers will be looking into  the design of valves  for use in what is known a redo-TAVI, in which the damaged TAVI valve  is itself replaced with a new prosthetic valve.   “TAVI as a procedure was originally trialled on high risk, frail patients who couldn’t undergo open heart surgery,  but because of its success the method  is being extended to low risk and  younger patients,  leading to the need for long-term durability of  replacement heart valves,  as well as procedures such as redo-TAVI, ”  said  Bressloff .    MORE ON MEDICAL & HEALTHCARE . The post Cardio prosthetics get additive makeover appeared first on The Engineer .'

Switchable “hidden phase” could unlock useful properties

Technology The Engineer

Light-activated phase transition unlocks ability to separate charges and may lead to “digital” materials The term phase refers to an arrangement of atoms in a substance which gives it a certain set of properties.The most familiar phases are the
'Light-activated phase transition unlocks ability to separate charges and may lead to “digital” materials The term phase refers to an arrangement of atoms in a substance which gives it a certain set of properties.The most familiar phases are the three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas.But particularly in solids, there can be many more phases, characterised by distinctive crystal structures that lead to quite different materials.Ice, for example, has 10 distinct phases; there are many different phases of steel, and piezoelectric materials gained their ability to generate flows of current by switching between different phases in response to external stimuli.A team from the University of Pennsylvania has discovered previously unknown phases “hiding” in the compound strontium titanate (SrTiO 3 ). Used in optical instruments, this material was already known to have unusual phase properties: it has a symmetrical, non-polar crystal structure that can be induced to switch into a different, polar (fractionally charged) phase by placing opposingly-charged ions along the long axis of its crystal.The discovery, which the team describes in Science , could be the key to creating materials with properties that can be changed in trillionths of a second like flicking a switch or changing the state of a digital circuit.A new study reveals a “hidden” phase of strontium titanate.On the left, extremely fast pulses of light excite atoms within the crystal structure (red arrows), which shifts the material into a new, ferroelectric phase.Vibrations of other atoms then work to stabilize the hidden phase (right panels). Image: Felice Macera The team, a collaboration between physics theorists led by Andrew Rappe and experimentalists led by Keith Nelson, built on previous work using light to induce phase transitions in solid materials and how this could be used to develop atomic-level computer models.With Rappe creating a computer model of the structure of SrTiO 3 with every atom and its movement represented, and Nelson carrying out experiments, the team discovered that when SrTiO 3 is excited with light, the ions that make up its structure are pulled in different directions.But rather than falling back to the previous position when the light is switched off, vibrational movements in surrounding atoms lock the shifted ions into their new position, preserving the properties of this distinct structure, which separates positive and negative charges in space: a property which can be used to create capacitors with tunable capacitance, useful in electronics The team compares this to pushing a pendulum, but rather than the pendulum swinging back, a small notch in the mechanism keeps it in place.Going back and forth between Rappe’s models and Nelson’s experiments, the collaborating teams found experimental evidence that the theory Rappe had developed about this phase-switching behaviour was true. “It’s been a really awesome collaboration,” says Nelson. “And it illustrates how ideas can simmer and then return in full force after more than 10 years.” The next phase of the collaboration will see the teams trying to replicate the phase-changing properties of SrTiO 3 in new materials, and investigating whether light-pulse phase changes could be generated to be longer lasting, and whether properties such as insulators that change to metallic conductors or magnetic materials that switch between different magnetic polarities might be possible.This would create nanomaterials with useful applications in electronics and other fields, they claim. “It’s the dream of every scientist: To hatch an idea together with a friend, to map out the consequence of that idea, then to have a chance to translate it into something in the lab, it’s extremely gratifying.It makes us think we’re on the right track towards the future,” says Rappe.MORE FROM THE ENGINEER . The post Switchable “hidden phase” could unlock useful properties appeared first on The Engineer .'

Volvo’s autonomous Vera hauler parks up at port

Technology The Engineer

Volvo’s electric, autonomous container transporter, Vera, has undertaken its first task at Gothenburg port.With no cab, Vera resembles a four-wheeled sled designed to tow trailers and containers around ports and warehouses.
'Volvo’s electric, autonomous container transporter, Vera, has undertaken its first task at Gothenburg port.With no cab, Vera resembles a four-wheeled sled designed to tow trailers and containers around ports and warehouses.It was first revealed in September 2018, but this week saw the powerful EV take on its first assignment, ferrying goods between the logistical centre of haulier DFDS and the APM Terminals port facility in Gothenburg. “Now we have the opportunity to implement Vera in an ideal setting and further develop her potential for other similar operations,” said Mikael Karlsson, vice president Autonomous Solutions at Volvo Trucks.According to Volvo, the goal is to implement a connected system of several Vera vehicles monitored by a control tower, responding to logistical demands with greater efficiency, flexibility and sustainability.The collaboration with DFDS is a first step towards implementing Vera in a real transport assignment on pre-defined public roads in an industrial area.Vera’s speed will be limited to 40 km/h during the pilot project. “Autonomous transports with low noise levels and zero exhaust emissions have an important role to play in the future of logistics and will benefit both business and society,” said Karlsson. “We see this collaboration as an important start and want to drive progress in this area.Vera may have a speed limit, but we don’t.Testing has already started and we intend to implement the solution within the coming years.” Alongside DFDS and Volvo, the project is supported by the Swedish Innovation Agency Vinnova, the Swedish Transport Administration and the Swedish Energy Agency through the Strategic vehicle research and innovation programme FFI. “We want to be at the forefront of connected, autonomous transportation,” said Torben Carlsen, CEO of DFDS. “This collaboration will help us develop an efficient, flexible and sustainable long-term solution for receiving autonomous vehicles arriving at our gates, benefitting our customers, the environment and our business.” MORE ON AUTOMOTIVE . The post Volvo’s autonomous Vera hauler parks up at port appeared first on The Engineer .'

How MAPP is helping deliver on the promise of advanced powders

Technology The Engineer

Anyone who works with advanced powder processing in manufacturing is familiar with the challenge of achieving consistent results using variable materials.Tackling this issue and delivering on the promise of powder-based processes are some of the key
'Anyone who works with advanced powder processing in manufacturing is familiar with the challenge of achieving consistent results using variable materials.Tackling this issue and delivering on the promise of powder-based processes are some of the key objectives behind the EPSRC Future Manufacturing Hub, MAPP.University of Sheffield’s Iain Todd, talks powder, collaboration and crisp packets.You can argue that the idea for forming the MAPP (Manufacturing using Advanced Powder Processes) Hub began with a packet of crisps.In 2015, I was attending a session on variability in manufacturing at a food-focused conference in Cambridge when someone made an interesting comment that stuck with me: ‘potatoes come in all shapes and sizes and yet we are still able to make packages of crisps that look and taste the same each time.’ With a background in materials processing, I immediately drew a comparison between the potatoes and metal and polymeric powders – they are all variable materials.Generally speaking, putting variable materials through a fixed process will achieve a variable outcome.By accepting the variation of the starting material (like potatoes or powder) and varying the manufacturing processes, however, we can achieve relative consistency (like packets of crisps). Caption: A test print showing varying orientations of meso-structures . Credit: Stephen Birch, The University of Sheffield The pharmaceutical industry takes a similar approach – they design the quality into the part, rather than testing it afterwards.They start by classifying the materials they put in and modify the process to accommodate them to ensure a consistent quality of the outcome.Food and drugs are both highly regulated industries and have therefore opened the door for other variable materials like powder when it comes to manufacturing.This thinking lies at the heart of MAPP.By bringing together teams and specialists from University of Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Oxford, Imperial College London and University College London as well as 17 industry partners, MAPP is able to combine skills and expertise with the aim of delivering on the promise of powder-based manufacturing: to provide low energy, low cost, and low waste, high value manufacturing routes and products.Addressing problems, not processes As a collective, MAPP is process agnostic, we work across emerging powder-based manufacturing technologies including spark plasma sintering (SPS), freeze casting, inkjet printing, layer-by-layer manufacture, hot isostatic pressing (HIP), and laser, electron beam, and indirect additive manufacturing (AM). Rather than owning these processes, however, we own the problems with advanced powder processing – this allows us to take a step back and look at the fundamental challenges that limit the development and uptake of powder-based processes like cost, consistency, repeatability and waste.MAPP’s research focuses on a range of engineering materials that lend themselves to powder processing – from advanced ceramics to polymers and metals – all with the objective of  addressing common problems and issues to achieve ‘right first time manufacturing’. We apply machine learning, advance monitoring and control, combining these with live data from hybrid models to create a picture of what will happen to the powders using various manufacturing methods.We can then compare these models to the actual effects of powder during the manufacturing process.This ‘live testing’ can be used to develop rules for manufacturers using advanced powders to improve components.MAPP’s Tailorable & Adaptive Connected Digital Additive Manufacturing (TACDAM) project is an example of  machine learning at work.Combining expertise from industry and academia, TACDAM is focused on developing an adaptive quality assurance model by introducing parametric design as a key process variable to demonstrate the capability to deliver quality outcomes to the automotive industry.This model-based approach helps to optimise the part life-cycle and identifies methodologies that ‘learn’ from data, contributing to the better fundamental understanding of the manufacturing process.Control Engineers – the ‘secret sauce’ Understanding of the underlying physical principles related to materials processing is key to the control of material form, integrity and function and, ultimately its economic value.Including control engineers in the mix of MAPP’s specialists in powder atomisation, energy and energy storage, ceramics and ceramic matrices, computer tomography, light sources, higher speed and novel additive processes help to make up the ‘secret sauce’ that contribute to its success in tackling the problems associated with advanced powder processes.By optimising active control, these engineers allow machines to run in virtual isolation, essentially enabling the closed loop manufacturing of parts.This level of advanced control helps to maximise resources and minimise waste, supporting MAPP’s vision of achieving 100% material use 100% of the time.And speaking of maximising resources, finding ways to minimise powder wastage will go a long way to realising the economics of advanced powders.Industry partners, particularly in the ceramic sector, are making good headway in this area by using large and small powders in the same factory.This practice means all processes can take place under the same roof and therefore make the most of the resources and materials – a trend we have yet to see with metal powders.We’re also seeing work taking place with the end of life use of powders and oversplash aimed at reducing waste and fuelling the move to 100% utilisation.These are only a few illustrations of the work MAPP is achieving through collaboration across industrial and academic sectors.We are committed to delivering low energy, low cost and low waste, high value manufacturing through advanced powders.Together we are making headway in solving the fundamental challenges that limit the uptake of powder-based processing.We are opening doors for greater innovation and adoption across a number of industries, with the ultimate goal of growing British manufacturing.Professor Iain Todd – Director, Manufacture using Advanced Powders and Processes (MAPP), EPSRC Future Manufacturing Hub To learn more about MAPP and the projects it supports, head along to Additive International’s pre-conference day on 9 th July.Register here: https://www.additiveinternational.com/register/ . 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