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World's largest plane flies again: 10 top stories of the week

Professional Engineering

The Roc carrier plane from Stratolaunch has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in the world. Photo from an earlier test flight (Credit: Stratolaunch)
The Roc carrier plane from Stratolaunch has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in the world. Photo from an earlier test flight (Credit: Stratolaunch)

World’s largest plane flies again

New Atlas

The Roc carrier plane from Stratolaunch has taken to the skies for the second time. At 117m, the twin-hull aircraft has the largest wingspan of any aircraft to have flown. The plane, which will become a carrier aircraft for reusable hypersonic vehicles, successfully carried out a series of in-flight manoeuvres over the Mojave Desert.

Research highlights ‘major flaw’ in conventional wind farms – and a solution

Professional Engineering

The now-familiar sight of conventional propeller-style wind turbines could – and perhaps should – be replaced by farms of more compact and efficient vertical axis turbines in future, a team of researchers at Oxford Brookes University has said. Rows of horizontal axis turbines cause turbulence behind them, slashing the efficiency of turbines further back, but pairs of vertical turbines can actually increase each other’s performance by up to 15%.

’Self-driving’ cars could drive themselves on UK roads this year


Vehicles fitted with Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) could take control and drive themselves on UK roads this year, the Department for Transport has announced. The plans would allow hands-free driving in slow-moving traffic on the motorway, with ALKS keeping cars in-lane and performing ‘emergency manoeuvres’ in the event of an ‘imminent collision risk’.

Bacteria could ‘trap’ microplastic and stop it polluting the ocean

Professional Engineering

Bacteria could trap microplastic particles and prevent them from polluting the ocean, the developers of a new technique have said. Developed by researcher Yang Liu and colleagues at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the method uses bacterial biofilms – a sticky substance created by micro-organisms – to trap microplastic particles. The biofilm is then processed and dispersed, releasing the plastic for processing and recycling.

Electric vehicle sales soar 40% in 2020

Energy Live News

Global sales of electric vehicles increased by 40% last year despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new report by the International Energy Agency has found. A record-breaking three million new electric vehicles were registered around the world.

Precious battery parts ‘directly reused’ without crushing or melting

Professional Engineering

A new recycling process allows for ‘direct reuse’ of precious lithium battery electrodes without energy- and material-intensive treatment. Researchers at Aalto University in Finland discovered that cobalt-containing electrodes in lithium batteries can be reused ‘as is’ after being newly saturated with lithium. Compared to conventional recycling, which typically extracts metals from crushed batteries by melting or dissolving them, the new process saves valuable raw materials – and likely also energy.

Chinese satellite could net space debris


A robotic satellite from Chinese start-up Origin Space will demonstrate an experimental space debris removal technique. The NEO-01 robot will use a large net to capture debris, before using its electric propulsion system to burn it up in the atmosphere.

Additive manufacturing proves its mettle during the pandemic

Professional Engineering

The consumer additive manufacturing revolution, with 3D printers in every home, never really came to pass. The technology was perfectly suited to some of the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, and proved its worth time and time again.

Airbus to test autonomous features on Flightlab helicopter

Professional Engineering

Sensors and algorithms will provide situational awareness and obstacle detection for an Airbus helicopter as part of a project testing autonomous features. Pilots will use a touchscreen and head worn display for inflight monitoring and control during the programme, known as Vertex. The Flightlab helicopter will also feature fly-by-wire for enhanced auto-pilot.

Lotus going all-electric

The Engineer

All Lotus cars will be fully-electric by the late 2020s, the premium sports car manufacturer has announced. The company’s Emira model will be its last internal combustion engine car.

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


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