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Rethinking the wing, hydrogen trains and the walking car: 10 top stories of the week

Professional Engineering

Boeing's Transonic Truss-Braced Wing concept (Credit: Boeing Creative Services)
Boeing's Transonic Truss-Braced Wing concept (Credit: Boeing Creative Services)

It's been a big week in engineering – decisions were made in the UK that could affect the sector for decades to come, cutting-edge research painted potential futures for energy and aerospace, and CES in Las Vegas brought its annual showcase of weird and wonderful concepts. Here are 10 of our top stories of the week.

End of the line for £10bn 'M25 for high-speed trains'

Rail Technology Magazine 
HS4Air promised 15 minute transfer times between Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and quicker travel times looping around the south of London than on the frequently-congested M25. The ambitious plan, which would also have linked HS1 in Kent with HS2, was reportedly rejected by the Department for Transport over affordability and green belt conservation concerns. 

Hydrogen to power UK trains... 

Professional Engineering 
Hydrogen trains could carry passengers on routes around the UK as early as 2021 after two pioneers in the field confirmed a new project. Alstom and Eversholt Rail aim to create a “clean train for the modern age” by converting Class 321 trains to run using hydrogen technology.

and powers drone for more than an hour

The Engineer

Hydrogen continued its ascendancy as a promising fuel source for a range of vehicles, as Coventry engineering firm Productiv successfully flew a hydrogen-powered drone for 70 minutes – much longer than previous 12 minute flights using lithium batteries. Fuel cell provider Intelligent Energy called the technology a "game-changer". 

Swooping gulls could inspire plane engineers

The Engineer

Frequently maligned for stealing snacks and aggressive dive-bombing, seagulls could give something back by inspiring new variable geometry aeroplane wings. Mimicking gulls' wing joints could lead to more stable flight in challenging conditions. 

Boeing winging it for transonic flight

New Atlas

Boeing also unveiled a potential future design for plane wings this week, revealing an eye-catching ultra-thin concept with support trusses and an adjusted wing-sweep angle. The aerospace giant hopes the design could improve performance during transonic flight, between Mach 0.8 and Mach 1.2.

Will batteries charge into lead for energy storage?

Energy Live News

As governments around the world plan to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, engineers are frantically testing a variety of energy storage methods to maintain a reliable supply during periods of increased demand and reduced generation from renewables. Research published this week by Imperial College London claimed lithium-ion batteries will be the cheapest storage method by 2050. 

Chinese market slump and diesel crisis 'led to JLR cuts' – not just Brexit

Professional Engineering 

The country's automotive sector was dealt a heavy blow on Thursday, when Jaguar Land Rover announced 4,500 job cuts in the UK and elsewhere. A slump in the Chinese market, falling diesel sales and other factors combined to create something approaching a “perfect storm” for the company, an expert said.

Engineering salary growth drops amid political uncertainty

Professional Engineering

Engineering salary growth slowed down significantly in 2018, with an increase in advertised pay of only 0.1%.  The slowdown is likely to be a natural pause after two consecutive years of 4.2% growth rather than any long-term stagnation, however, recruitment and engineering experts told Professional Engineering.

School pupils and event visitors ‘will decide how we fly aircraft of the future’

Professional Engineering

Bell Helicopter's vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) Nexus air taxi grabbed the headlines at CES 2019 this week with its distinctive, ducted-fan design and promise of a revolution in urban transport. Another bit of technology shown by Bell could end up having a more lasting impact, however – a simulator collecting user data on flight controls could end up shaping how small-scale future aircraft are flown. 

Hyundai's long-legged robotic car takes its first steps

New Atlas

Most cars don't have legs, but the Hyundai Elevate is not most cars. Also unveiled at CES, the concept includes articulated legs on a small autonomous vehicle. The vehicle is designed to walk over obstacles, access hard-to-reach areas during emergency response and improve accessibility for disabled people. Concepts this ambitious rarely make it to the production floor, but Hyundai's concept has been warmly received – will we get an update at CES 2020?

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

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