Engineering is a vital and ever-changing discipline. At McNeil Engineering, we offer civil engineering, structural engineering, roofing, paving and landscape architecture services for companies and municipalities all over Utah. But we also closely follow all sorts of updates and innovations in the engineering sector. Sure, civil and structural engineering are our specialties, but what are some of the big advances occurring in engineering today? It’s fascinating stuff, which is why we wanted to take a closer look at our latest blog post.
So, what did we do? We conducted a thorough research regarding the latest scientific advances in the engineering field. It could civil, structural, electrical, or otherwise. We just find this stuff so cool. Advances in engineering of all types greatly interest us. Let’s get started!
Scientists Use DNA to Overcome Materials Engineering Obstacles
Scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and other researchers have successfully used DNA to create superconducting materials. And while this advance is in the field of materials engineering, it will have a big impact on our sector as well since a lot of the big engineering and construction tools we use require advanced semiconductors to function properly. Now, what’s the big breakthrough?
Superconducting materials and substances have been the holy grail for electric engineers and material scientists for a long time. So, what are superconducting materials? Superconducting materials will have no electrical resistance. Electrons will simply flow with no friction, which in turn means the material will not create heat. Today, modern forms of electrical transmission create heat, thus degrading its performance.
The big advance here is in the use of carbon nanotube lattices. These are hollow cylinders that are literally a few atoms thick. They are so small they’re measured in a billionth of a meter. Previously, scientists struggled to control the chemical reactions that assembled the nanotubes. With this breakthrough, scientists used DNA sequencing to control the carbon nanotube modification reaction sites. As computer scientists and molecular genetic engineers continue to advance this process, expect to see faster, smaller and more efficient computer chips appear because of it.
Shifting to More Sustainable Bricks
Here’s an interesting breakthrough that very much relates to civil engineering, structural engineering and construction overall. It involves creating bricks out of polymer waste materials instead of mortar and cement. Why is this important? Consider that firing bricks and making mortar and cement is very costly and not quite sustainable from an environmental perspective. Now, organic materials chemists are working on sustainable alternatives to the good old-fashioned brick.
Instead of using the aforementioned materials (mortar and cement), scientists have focused on building materials made from waste byproducts. Using this method also supports something called the “circular economy.” The circular economy is based on the concept of little to no waste. Everything is reused or recycled. In this case, researchers used low-cost feedstocks to make lightweight and durable polymer building blocks. Once created, the blocks can be used the same way bricks are and bonded together using an adhesive-free chemical reaction. So, not only are these polymer waste byproduct bricks more sustainable, they also don’t need any separate adhesive.
While bricks like these have been created before, this new study specifically tested the strength and durability of these materials. Researchers also create bricks from waste cooking oil mixed with sulfur and dicyclopentadiene. It also looked at ways the material can be reinforced, if necessary. Integrating polymer bricks into other construction practices is now the primary focus of research in this area. As with any new technologies, incorporating them into the construction processes we already use every day is the next big challenge.
Other Notable Advances in Engineering
There are so many interesting innovations made in engineering every day. Let’s take a look at a few more quick applications of fascinating advances in engineering. First, let’s go back to the microscopic scale with the smallest flow-driven motors ever created. Researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands took a cue from the iconic Dutch windmills sprinkled all over the Dutch countryside. They created self-configuring flow-driven rotors from DNA and all the rotors need to function is an electrical or salt gradient.
Another interesting bit of research involves reducing emissions from road construction to cut construction emissions in half. Consider that the construction sector accounts for approximately a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions around the world. To reduce those emissions, researchers in Sweden evaluated the construction of an eight-kilometer stretch of road using futurized materials, production technologies, supply chains and transport. They found that if construction companies used sustainable materials and construction techniques, they could reduce construction emissions by nearly 20%.
These and other fantastic advances happen in the engineering space every day. And at McNeil Engineering, we’re quick to embrace them. When Building Information Modeling (BIM) techniques became effective, we immediately began to incorporate them into our projects. And as laser scanning technologies matured, we embraced those as well. Do you have a project that requires advanced thinking and sustainable materials or construction policies in Salt Lake City or elsewhere in Utah? If so, it’s time to get in touch with your friends at McNeil Engineering. (801) 225-7700