Engineering news

Flying batteries and the mind-reading exoskeleton: 10 top stories of the week

Professional Engineering

French patient Thibault moved the exoskeleton by controlling it with his mind (Credit: Juliette Treillet)
French patient Thibault moved the exoskeleton by controlling it with his mind (Credit: Juliette Treillet)

Fusion boost


The government has announced £220m of funding for the conceptual design of a nuclear fusion power station known as the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (Step). The project, which will draw on expertise from the Mast Upgrade spherical tokamak experiment, will develop plans for a “commercially viable fusion power station” that the government hopes could be built by 2040.

’Perfect storm’ for car industry

Professional Engineering

An iconic European car brand will fail in the next three years as the industry faces a “perfect storm” of challenges, according to more than half of surveyed leaders at major car companies. Trade wars, stricter environmental regulations and Brexit are all forcing manufacturers and suppliers to make major changes. Fifty-five per cent of more than 300 surveyed leaders in a Protolabs report, The Innovation Race, said tougher emission rules are the most pressing short-term concern.

Paralysed man controls exoskeleton


A paralysed man has moved his limbs with the help of a mind-controlled exoskeleton suit. The 65kg suit from Clinatec and the University of Grenoble in France is controlled by implants on the man’s brain. AI and more powerful computers could improve the system by letting it quickly analyse more information.

Time to go remote?

Process Engineering

Remote roles can earn engineers nearly 50% extra, according to recruiter CV-Library. Analysis of more than 185,000 vacancies found an average salary of £36,129 rose to £53,167 for engineers working remotely.

Largest offshore windfarm installed

Professional Engineering

The final wind turbine has been installed at the world’s largest offshore windfarm. Capable of powering a typical UK home for more than a day with a single rotation, the 7MW turbine joined 173 others at Hornsea One, 120km from the Yorkshire coast. When it opens in 2020, the Ørsted farm will be the first in the world capable of generating more than 1GW – enough for “well over” 1m homes.

Spaceport plans lift off


Initial plans for the UK’s first ever vertical spaceport were unveiled this week. The proposals for Sutherland in Scotland include a rocket assembly building, a launch pad complex including launch towers and a control centre. Highlands and Islands Enterprise, rocket company Orbex and others are expected to seek planning permission later this year.

Hydrogen goes underground

The Engineer

Researchers will investigate the underground storage of hydrogen in porous rocks after receiving £1.4m funding. The team from the University of Edinburgh hopes generation and large-scale storage of the gas could help tackle renewable energy’s intermittency.

The sensors on the bus

Professional Engineering

The UK’s first full-size autonomous bus manoeuvred around real-life road features including a cyclist on its first public demonstration. The vehicle from Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis and Stagecoach Group used sensors including radar, lasers, cameras and ultrasound to detect its surroundings and independently negotiate obstacles.

A new face for 3D printing

Professional Engineering 

A morphing printed mesh that transforms from flat sheets into 3D shapes could create new technology including soft robots, antennas and telescopes. As a demonstration, the researchers at MIT, Harvard, Boston University and Draper Laboratory printed a flat mesh that, when exposed to a certain temperature difference, deforms into the shape of a human face. They also designed a mesh embedded with conductive liquid metal that curves into a dome to form an active antenna, the resonance frequency of which changes as it deforms.

We heard you like drones

New Atlas

Researchers at University of California Berkeley have unveiled a potential solution to the problem of quadcopters’ short battery life – more drones. Alongside a standard-sized drone, the team also unveiled smaller quadcopters carrying large batteries, which dock with the larger one in-flight. Using several of the smaller drones, the method reportedly extended flight time from 12 to 57 minutes.

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Professional Engineering magazine

Current Issue: Issue 2, 2020

Issue 2 cover online
  • Rocket Man takes off
  • How gauge studies get it wrong
  • A heart pump out of space
  • The last land speed record? 
  • Automotive sector seeks sustainability 

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