Engineering

  • The world (supposedly) safest locks easily defeated by paper clips, screw drivers

    Security experts demonstrate how locks which tout themselves as the safest lock available — fingerprints-based Biolock Model 333; Kwikset, a programmable “smartkey” lock , the innovative iLoq C10S which uses the action of a key being pushed into the lock to generate power for electronics that then checked data in a chip on the key to determine whether the user is cleared for access; AMSEC electronic safe Model es1014; KABA InSync deadbolt — can be easily defeated by using nothing more than wires, magnets, air, shock, paper clips, screw drivers, and other improvised tools

  • $1.4 million prize for best oil clean-up technology

    X Prize Foundation is offering $1.4 million in prize money for new technologies to clean up oil spills; competitors will be invited to test their technologies in 2011 in a 203- by 20-metre tank owned by the U.S. government’s Minerals Management Service (MMS); a moving bridge that simulates a boat pulling cleanup equipment and a wave generator create ocean-like conditions in the New Jersey-based facility

  • Good business: Developers make buildings more disaster-secure than building code requires

    A Florida developer hopes to get more business by making his building hurricane-proof; with debris-resistant windows on all thirty-five of its stories, the developer says the building would withstand a Category 5 hurricane without significant damage; the extra hurricane proofing built into the Miami building shows that sometimes the private market can overtake the public sector when it comes to building design and safety standards; for example, in New York and Washington, D.C., some developers have put in anti-terrorism safeguards that exceed building codes

  • Particle injection into the stratosphere could mitigate effects of climate change

    In what scientists describe as Plan D, or an insurance policy for the situation in which Earth hits a tipping point in climate change quickly, a 20-kilometer pipe — “garden hose to the sky” — would be deployed to spray a shield of sulphate particles into the stratosphere; the idea is to emulate the eruption of volcanoes which spew sulphur-rich gas that spread worldwide, blocking sunlight and lowering temperatures

  • Leaking well may be sealed ahead of schedule

    The Deepwater Horizon may be sealed a month or so ahead of schedule — during the second half of July rather than the second half of August — owing to three positive developments: one of two relief wells being drilled will be in a position to engage in “bottom kill” in several days; the containment ship Helix Producer, capable of capturing an additional 53,000 barrels of oil a day, is on station; BP is pressing ahead with plans to swap the current leaky containment cap with a new, no-leak, bolt-down cap

  • U.K. approves well-capping and containment study; new prevention, mitigation solutions sought

    In response to BP’s Gulf disaster, the U.K. offshore oil and gas advisory group charged its technical review group to proceed with developing new solutions for preventing or mitigating similar catastrophes in the future; over the past twenty years nearly 7,000 wells have been successfully drilled in the U.K. continental shelf

  • Louisiana, coastal scientists in bitter dispute over how to limit damage of oil spill

    Louisiana leaders, desperate to prevent oil from the hitting Barataria Bay, a vast estuary in southeast Louisiana that boasts one of the most productive fisheries in the country, want to build a rock dikes across several major tidal inlets between the bay and the Gulf of Mexico to block and then capture the oil; about 100,000 tons of rock began being loaded onto 75 barges on the Mississippi River for transport to the coast; scientists say the dikes would do irreversible damage to existing barrier islands and coastal wetlands, and the Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for the project

  • Detecting buried plastic pipes

    As the utility infrastructure ages, metal pipes, such as cast iron gas mains, are rapidly being replaced with plastic ones; buried plastic pipes are notoriously difficult to detect using current methods which are expensive, inefficient, and in many cases do not produce the quick and accurate results required; an Oxford University spin-out offers a solution

  • Second pipe may have crippled BP well's defenses

    The discovery of a second drill pipe joins a list of clues that is helping scientists understand the complexities of the Deepwater Horizon accident, and learn lessons which will inform changes in how deep-water drilling is conducted; evidence emerges that BP cut safety corners because the drilling fell behind schedule; one expert says: the accident “absolutely was preventable—[the rig lacked] “a regulatory presence onboard that said, “I don’t care how late it is, you do it right or you go home.”

  • X Prize Foundation may offer $3 to $10 million award for Gulf Oil Spill solutions

    X Prize Foundation, known for offering prizes to innovative and future-oriented innovations, is considering offering a prize of between $3 and $10 million for a viable solution to stopping the oil spill in the Gulf; the foundation in the process of developing a multi-million dollar competition to help alleviate the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf; the X Prize Foundation is best known for what was originally called the Ansari X Prize — a $10 million competition open to anyone who could build a reusable, privately built craft capable of reaching outer space

  • UGI proposes innovative clean-up plan for Gulf

    BP’s oils spill now covers an area the size of Luxembourg; a U.K. clean-tech company joins with an Ohio-based partner to offer boat towing technology platforms specifically designed to remove the oil threatening the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and the waters around the Deepwater Horizon well; a towed membrane acts like blotting paper in attracting oil that can then be released only by mechanical pressure

  • Marines to use autonomous vehicles built by Virginia Tech students

    Virginia Tech engineering students designed an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) which the U.S. Marines Corps will test in a war game in Hawaii; the unmanned vehicles are designed to resupply troops, to reduce the actual loads manually carried by Marines, and to provide an immediate means for the evacuation of any casualties in combat

  • Cap temporarily removed from gushing well

    The lower marine riser package (LMRP) containment cap was taken off the failed Deepwater Horizon blowout preventer (BOP) earlier today after a vent on the cap accidentally got closed; it appears that a remotely operated vehicle accidentally bumped into the LMRP cap and closed a vent; the cap was taken off the well because with the vent closed, dangerous pressure was beginning to build up inside the well, raising the specter of another explosion, similar to the one on 20 April which destroyed the well

  • Flying-boat tilt-rotor catamaran design wins NASA rescue vehicle competition

    Engineering students from Virginia Tech won first prize in NASA’s competition aiming to promote the design of more effective rescue crafts; the winning design, dubbed the Rescue Amphibious Firefighting Tiltrotor (RAFT), is a combination airplane/helicopter/catamaran featuring two flying-boat style hulls joined by a central wing to form a catamaran for landings on water even in rough seas

  • BP's first relief well has now reached 4,200 meters, with 1,300 meters to go

    BP has been drilling two relief wells in the Gulf of Mexico in an effort to stem the flow of oil from the stricken Deepwater Horizon; a relief well aims to bisect the original well casing, enabling engineers to pump in mud and concrete to seal up the well; drilling into an 18-centimeter-wide cylinder 5,500 meters below the sea floor is not easy