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Lords call for HS2 'pause' and latest flying taxi takes off: 10 top stories of the week

Professional Engineering

Lilium's new tilt-rotor flying taxi (Credit: Lilium)
Lilium's new tilt-rotor flying taxi (Credit: Lilium)

Ten top engineering stories of the week.

Delayed arrival: Lords call for HS2 'pause'

Financial Times

The £56bn HS2 project came under increased pressure this week, with a group of Lords calling on HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport to "hit the pause button" amid serious questions about cost, justification and potential impact on other rail infrastructure. The Lords economic affairs committee said the government should prioritise improvements to rail services in the north of the country over the controversial and delayed project. 

Another week, another flying taxi

The Verge

Lilium in Germany announced successful tests of the latest 'flying taxi' vehicle this week. The five-seater electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle (eVTOL) uses a grand total of 36 electric jet engines on two tilt-rotor wings, with a projected range of 300km (186 miles) and top speed of 300km/h (186mph). But manufacturers face major challenges before the aircraft fill urban airspace – not least energy density, safety and regulations.

'Heating and electricity are a human right'

The Guardian

Labour has announced plans to renationalise the energy sector, taking power companies back into public ownership while aiming to increase renewables to 60% of the country's electricity and heat by 2030. The party also announced plans to install solar panels on 1.75m social or low-income homes. 

Tidal wave: funding reform could change tide for UK's overlooked marine energy sector

Professional Engineering

Underwater ‘kite’ turbines, floating generators and other diverse tidal energy technology could find commercial success if the UK funding system is reformed to boost competition, an industry CEO has said. Following a letter of support for wave and tidal energy from 91 members of parliament, Minesto boss Dr Martin Edlund told Professional Engineering that suggested changes could help create a thriving and varied market.

Bobbing along: seawater-powered generator could unleash underwater robots

New Atlas

A large-scale roll-out of marine technology will likely require a simultaneous boost to underwater robotics for maintenance and inspection. Research released this week raised the intriguing possibility of machines powered by the seawater surrounding them. A team at the East China Normal University created a power generator with two modes – low power, which uses dissolved oxygen in the water, and high power, which absorbs positively charged sodium ions.

The Great British Gigafactory: could £108m facility lay foundations for UK’s own battery gigafactory?

Professional Engineering

A new ‘world-class’ testing centre for future battery technologies is a “stepping-stone” towards the UK’s very own 'gigafactory', the government has claimed. The UK Battery Industrialisation Centre has a planned footprint of 'only' 193,750 square feet (18,000m2) but rather than building batteries, the Coventry facility will provide testing for new battery technologies and training for people to work in battery manufacturing. The government hopes to secure the UK – and the West Midlands in particular – as a global leader in electric vehicle technology as countries around the world set timescales for the end of new diesel and petrol cars.

'Energy density so much higher than lithium-ion'

The Engineer

Researchers from the UK, Europe, the US and Canada have claimed a major breakthrough after discovering a low-cost, high efficiency material that can store hydrogen. The material, called KMH-1 (Kubas Manganese Hydride-1), could reportedly enable five-times longer journeys in hydrogen-powered vehicles. 

2 – 2 = 4? 'New capabilities' from combined additive and subtractive manufacturing

Professional Engineering

Small engineering companies can save money and access new markets thanks to a “completely new range of capabilities” offered by a rare combination of machining and additive manufacturing, a Scottish research centre has said. The University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) claimed a first for Scotland after integrating laser metal deposition (LMD) technology with a CNC machine. The “unique” hybrid platform provides “an affordable way for SMEs (small or medium sized enterprises) to embrace additive manufacturing”, the AFRC said.

Electric threads: graphene-boosted fabric could store energy in clothes

The Engineer

Clothing could reportedly become a "wearable electricity source" after the creation of a new graphene-boosted fabric from Cambridge University and Jiangnan University in China. The fabric includes graphene sheets and boron nitride in a flexible capacitor.

This sucks! Climbing leech-like robot could inspect buildings or aid rescue missions

Professional Engineering

A leech-like sucking robot has climbed up and over a wall, paving the way for a range of useful applications. The machine has a flexible body made of shower hose material and two suction cups. It can elongate and bend its body “without any constraints” according to the researchers, similar to how a leech moves.

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

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