Budget boosts wind, but are ‘net zero’ ambitions enough?
The 2021 budget was described as a ‘Big Bang’ for offshore wind, after chancellor Rishi Sunak announced £20m to fund a UK-wide competition to develop floating offshore wind demonstrators, and plans for new port infrastructure to support the next generation of projects in Teesside and Humberside.
The chancellor was criticised, however, for a reduced focus on other ‘net zero’ measures such as ‘green’ hydrogen production.
Another Starship explosion
Another week, another SpaceX Starship prototype explosion – this time, however, the SN10 spacecraft touched down successfully following another completed flight test. The vehicle exploded about eight minutes after landing, which completed a six minute and 20 second flight. The Starship could eventually fly crewed missions to Mars.
’Microcomb’ could help discover planets and detect diseases
A tiny new photonic device could be used to find new exoplanets, monitor our health and make the internet more energy efficient, its developers have said. Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, developed the device, known as a microcomb. They said it “could bring advanced applications closer to reality”.
New Piccadilly Line Tube train unveiled
Transport for London has unveiled the new Piccadilly Line Tube train. The walk-through trains, which could enter service by 2025, feature real-time information screens, regenerative braking and LED lighting throughout. Some bogies beneath the trains have been removed, enabling a 20% boost to energy efficiency.
Autonomous Loyal Wingman flies for the first time
The uncrewed fighter jet-style Loyal Wingman aircraft has flown for the first time. Boeing Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) carried out the first test flight of the aircraft, a jet powered drone that will use artificial intelligence to work alongside human pilots for both combat and reconnaissance missions.
Construction starts on National Robotarium
Work has started on the National Robotarium in Edinburgh. Designed to be a ‘world-leading research centre’ in robotics and AI, the £22.4m centre is expected to open in spring next year.
Battery recycling facility completed
A new battery recycling facility at Birmingham University has been completed. Funded by the university and the Faraday Institution, it is hoped that the facility will help scientists and engineers develop safe, economic and environmentally-friendly ways of recovering large amounts of valuable materials from used batteries.
Machine learning picks promising solar cell material
Researchers have used machine learning to pick a promising new polymer for use in photovoltaic devices, an advance they say could “lead to a revolution in the way functional materials are discovered”. More than 200,000 candidate materials were virtually screened by the system at Osaka University in Japan. The team of researchers then synthesized one of the most promising, and found its properties were consistent with the system’s predictions.
Mussel-style foundations could keep floating wind farms in place
A team from Nottingham University is investigating how sea mussels attach and grip on to wet rocks, hoping that the findings could inspire new ways of attaching floating foundations to the sea floor. Heavy turbines, rough sea and high winds can all make reliable connections difficult.
All-round gripper holds everything from screwdrivers to strawberries
A new all-round robotic gripper can hold a huge range of objects of different shapes and textures thanks to adjustable stiffness and a honeycomb structure. The gripper, which was developed at the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (Kimm), could expand the number of processes without human contact in areas including manufacturing, packaging and cooking.
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