Engineering

  • Balls of steel: A scientists proposes dropping steel balls into well to stop leak

    Willard Wattenburg made a name for himself by directing the capping of the more than 500 hundred burning oil wells in Kuwait after the Gulf War in 1991; he now proposes dropping steel balls of different sizes into the gushing well; if the steel balls are big enough in diameter, their weight will pull them downward even through the upward-rushing torrent of oil and gas; they will settle into the well at some deep level and begin to clog it

  • Flipper bridge could sort out Hong Kong-China traffic switch

    In Hong Kong, people drive on the left; in mainland China, they drive on the right; a Dutch architectural firm has proposed a solution for traffic between the two places: a flipper bridge

  • Researchers show that light can be bent around corners

    Israeli researchers show that small beams of light — called Airy beams — can be bent in a laboratory setting; Airy beams promise remarkable advances for engineering, and they could form the technology behind space-age “light bullets” — as effective and precise defense technologies for police and the military, but also as a new communications interface between transponders

  • 110-foot concrete bridge withstands 8.0 earthquake simulation

    University of Nevada, Reno, researchers demonstrate a 110-foot long, 200-ton concrete bridge model that can withstand a powerful jolting, three times the acceleration of the disastrous 1994 magnitude 6.9 Northridge, California earthquake, and survive in good condition

  • Panel sharply raises estimate of oil spilling into the Gulf to 60,000 barrels a day

    A government expert panel raised yet again the estimate of the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf: the new estimate is 60,000 barrels a day, up from 30,000 last week; BP had only been able to collect about 15,000 barrels a day at its peak with the containment cap, and this new calculation, if it holds up, suggests that BP’s latest plans for capturing oil may not be adequate

  • BP capturing "less than half" of oil from spill

    BP claims the cap placed on the broken well is capturing between 15,000 and 16,000 barrels a day, but this is less than half the 40,000 barrels of crude which keep gushing into the Gulf’s water; one Gulf drilling expert has warned that, in a worst-case scenario, it may take until Christmas to contain the leak fully

  • 23-mile long oil plume approaches Florida's Treasure Coast

    Scientists say that the most likely pathway for oil to reach the Florida Keys was for it to be pulled into a counterclockwise rotating frontal eddy in the northeast corner of the Loop Current, and then south along the eastern frontal zone of the Loop Current to the Dry Tortugas; a scientific research vessel finds an extensive oil slick that stretched about twenty miles along the southward flowing jet which merged with the northern front of the Loop Current

  • BP's cost-cutting approach made well vulnerable, left company unprepared

    Safety upgrades are critical but could mean higher prices for oil and gas; to cut costs, BP decided to install a continuous set of threaded casing pipes from the wellhead down to the bottom of its well; this leaves one blind to leaks that sneak up around the casing pipe, and the long string gives gas more time to percolate into the well; a preferred — and costlier — alternative in high-pressure deepwater is a “liner” design in which drillers install and then cement in place a short string of casing in the lower reaches of the well before casing the rest of the well

  • DOE puts raw oil spill data on new Web page

    A new Department of Energy Web page provides numbers on how much oil is being recovered, and schematics of the technology involved in trying the cap the well and the Gulf clean-up

  • BP's oil spill depleting oxygen in Gulf, decimating Gulf's abundant sea life

    The magnitude of the BP oil spill disaster becomes clearer; scientists confirm the massive oil spill spread more than forty nautical miles from the disaster site and at a depth of 3,300 feet; scientists have said that in addition to being nearly impossible to clean up, the oil plumes could deplete oxygen in the Gulf, decimating its abundant sea life

  • Attention to design details will make buildings withstand hurricanes

    One example of design ideas architects in hurricane-prone regions should follow: design buildings with square, hexagonal, or even octagonal floor plans with roofs of multiple slopes such as a four-sloped hip roof; these roofs perform better under wind forces than the gable roofs with two slopes; gable roofs are common only because they are cheaper to build; research and testing demonstrate that a 30-degree roof slope will have the best results

  • Purdue University membrane technology could help cleanup oil spills

    Purdue University researchers developed a new type of membrane which may be used to clean up oil spills such as BP’s massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico; the technology could be used for a variety of other applications, including water purification and industrial uses

  • Gulf oil spill prompts procedure reassessment in U.K.

    The United Kingdom has created a new body — the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group (OSPRAG) — tasked with learning the lessons of the Gulf oil spill and applying them to the U.K. off-shore drilling sector

  • Oregon town plans first tsunami-resistant building on stilts

    Geological findings in recent years suggest there is a one-in-three chance that in the next half century a mega-earthquake will tear the seafloor apart off the Oregon Coast; huge waves would surge onto coastal communities in as little as fifteen minutes; an Oregon city plans tsunami-resistant buildings on stilts

  • Berkeley quake demonstration shows bridge safety ideas

    Researchers demonstrate new bridge design that can withstand powerful earthquakes; the design concept relies on building segmented bridges with seismic isolators between the segments; the design would be particularly useful for long stretches of elevated freeways and high-speed rail lines that often run on elevated tracks