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Super-repellent loos and Tesla Cybertruck's 'smashing' start: 10 top stories of the week

Professional Engineering

The Tesla Cybertruck (Credit: Tesla)
The Tesla Cybertruck (Credit: Tesla)

'Smashing' start for Cybertruck

The Guardian

Tesla unveiled its latest electric vehicle, the pickup style Cybertruck, in an extravagant ceremony led by CEO Elon Musk. The vehicle offers trademark fast acceleration and emissions-free travel in a futuristic package. Musk also promoted the truck’s tough armouring – although that took a dent when demonstrations designed to showcase the vehicle’s resilience saw two windows smashed by a metal ball.

Powering industry with sunshine

Professional Engineering

A Bill Gates-backed start-up claims to have generated temperatures hotter than 1,000ºC using just concentrated sunlight. Unlike conventional concentrated solar power, which is used for electricity generation, CEO Bill Gross said Heliogen’s process is focused on tackling “the other 75% of energy demand” – fossil fuels used in industrial processes and transport.

Cutting edge tech in Dubai


The biennial Dubai Airshow took place this week, showcasing future aerospace technology and facilitating major deals for aircraft manufacturers. Aerospace summarised some of the show’s high-flying stories, including an electric racing plane, a new order for the Boeing 737 Max – a darts-playing robotic arm.

Biggest battery gets a boost

New Atlas

In less high-profile – but arguably more important – news for Tesla this week, the South Australia government and energy firm Neoen announced plans to work with the firm to expand its Hornsdale Power Reserve by 50%. The facility is already the biggest battery in the world with 129MWh capacity.

The self-cleaning toilet

The Engineer

Researchers at Penn State University have unveiled a ‘super-repellent’ toilet coating which stops waste matter from sticking. The Less (liquid-entrenched smooth surface) coating includes molecularly grafted polymers as a first step, followed by a thin layer of lubricant. The engineers said it could reduce the amount of water needed to flush by 50% – potentially more than 70bn litres of water per day.

British electric flight approaches take-off

Professional Engineering

The UK could take the lead in a closely-fought race by achieving the first commercial passenger flights using electric aircraft, a group of collaborators has claimed. The consortium including Rolls-Royce, Cranfield University and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) is working on Project Fresson, which received a £9m government grant.

A hyperloop for freight?

The Engineer

London start-up Magway has revealed plans for an automated freight delivery system based on a network of pipes carrying crates on electric tracks. The system takes inspiration from Hyperloop but would not require a vacuum thanks to much lower speeds – freight would travel at about 31mph. It could boost delivery efficiency for highly-automated warehouses.

Pipe repair bot will go with the flow

Professional Engineering

A new repair and refurbishment robot will generate energy from the passing flow of fossil fuels as it travels through and mends working pipelines. The FSWBot (Friction Stir Welding Robotic Crawler) could “revolutionise performance and safety in industries around the world” by enabling several repair technologies without requiring pipeline shutdown, claimed developers Forth Engineering.

Aeroelastic wings take flight

The Engineer

Engineers have flown two unmanned aeroplanes with aeroelastic wings that are wider, lighter and more mobile than standard designs in an attempt to reduce wingtip ‘flutter’. Wings with those characteristics could save 7% of fuel on a typical flight, claimed the researchers from the Technological University of Munich and DLR, the German Aerospace Centre.

Airbus could fly in swan formation

New Atlas

Airbus is planning an even more imaginative approach to saving fuel with the fello’fly project. Inspired by birds flying in ‘V’ formation, the demonstrator will see an Airbus plane trailing another one to catch the updraft of the leader’s wake, potentially reducing fuel burn by up to 10%. Flight tests using two A350 planes could start next year.

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