This Month In Engineering (August 2021)
Well, August 2021 has come and gone, and with it, some remarkable engineering feats and announcements. From the beginning of the robot-apocalypse announcement made by an electric car company figurehead to sweat-powered batteries, August certainly had some surprises for engineers and the world.
So, let’s dive into some of the most exciting engineering projects, achievements, and announcements that August 2021 brought us.
World’s Highest Railroad Arch Crossing Takes Shape In Himalayas
The Udkampur-Srinagar-Baramulla railroad that will connect Kashmir Valley with India’s national network at a point north of the City Jammu has just completed construction on one of its last significant elements, the Chenab River bridge. The valley in India was so inaccessible that engineers had to travel in on horseback.
In 2004, the project was expected to only last three years. However, due to rugged terrain, harsh weather, and the threat of terrorism, the bridge’s construction has taken nearly two decades to complete. Started over 20 years ago, the USBR includes around 900 bridges of varying types and more than 110km of tunnels.
Engineers Make Significant Advancement In Quantum Computer Design
A team of quantum engineers from UNSW Sydney have removed a significant hurdle that has stood in the way of quantum computers becoming a reality. They have discovered a new technique that the team says will allow for the control of million of spin qubits — the basic units of information in a silicon quantum processor. In the past, it has only been possible for engineers to control only a handful of spin qubits simultaneously.
“Up until this point, controlling electron spin qubits relied on us delivering microwave magnetic fields by putting a current through a wire right beside the qubit,” Dr. Jarryd Pla, a faculty member in UNSW’s School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, says.
“This poses some real challenges if we want to scale up to the millions of qubits that a quantum computer will need to solve globally significant problems, such as the design of new vaccines.”
“First off, the magnetic fields drop off quickly with distance, so we can only control those qubits closest to the wire. That means we would need to add more and more wires as we brought in more and more qubits, which would take up a lot of real estate on the chip.”
“So we come back to only being able to control a few qubits with this wire technique,” Dr. Pla says.
The idea of controlling qubits simultaneously was initially posited by quantum computing scientists back in the 1990s, but nobody had been able to crack it.
“First we removed the wire next to the qubits and then came up with a novel way to deliver microwave-frequency magnetic control fields across the entire system. So in principle, we could deliver control fields to up to four million qubits,” Dr. Pla said.
“The dielectric resonator shrinks the wavelength down below one millimeter, so we now have a very efficient conversion of microwave power into the magnetic field that controls the spins of all the qubits.
“There are two key innovations here. The first is that we don’t have to put in a lot of power to get a strong driving field for the qubits, which crucially means we don’t generate much heat. The second is that the field is very uniform across the chip, so that millions of qubits all experience the same level of control.”
NTU Singapore Develop A Stretchable Sweat-Powered Battery For Wearable Tech
A team of scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a soft and stretchable battery that is powered by human perspiration.
In a test, the team reported that an individual wearing the battery around their wrist while cycling on a stationary bicycle could generate a voltage of 4.2V and output power of 3.9mW this was sufficient to power a commercial temperature sensor device and send the data continuously to a smartphone via Bluetooth. The battery does not contain heavy metals or toxic chemicals, unlike conventional batteries.
Elon Musk Announces Tesla Bot
During a presentation for Tesla’s annual AI Day, Elon Musk announced a humanoid robot that he claims Tesla will have a prototype for some time in 2022. In his own words, the Tesla Bot is “intended to be friendly” and made to be both outrun and overpowered quite quickly.
The specs of the Tesla Bot are as follows. The robot will have a height of 5’8, a carrying capacity of 45lbs, a weight of 125lbs, the ability to deadlift 150lbs, a speed of 5mph, and an arm extend lift of 10lbs. The Tesla Bot is meant to navigate in a world built by humans and eliminate dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks.