Pumped hydrogen storage
“How can we use a gravitational potential to store energy?”
If you have ever taken an introductory physics class, then you know that anything with a mass at some distance from the Earth has an energy potential associated with it given by the equation P.E = mgh, with m being the mass g being gravity and h being the height. So logically speaking, if we were to vastly increase the mass then we would also vastly increase the potential energy. So if we have a large enough mass, we can store enough energy for an electric grid!
This is the exact idea behind a technology known as pumped hydrogen storage. Pumped hydrogen storage takes two water reservoirs at a height gradient, and discharges energy to the grid by moving the water through a turbine and stores more energy by using a grid powered pump increase the level of water on the top layer
How to make faucets more sustainable
“How can we make our faucets more sustainable?”
I want you to think about something. What exactly do you use to clean yourself after you have used the restroom? Well, if you live in a developed country, then you probably immediately think of faucets. Quite simply, without faucets, we would be unable to function in our daily lives! However, as engineers, we must always think more critically not just about the outputs of a system but the inputs as well. Specifically, faucets use water for their operation. And since water is an increasingly finite resource (especially in dry areas such as California), how can we modify these mechanisms to be more sustainable? Well, believe it or not, there is a very simple solution for this, having the faucets use less pressure! When less pressure is used, a smaller volume of water will be transported, thereby using less water!
How cement is made
“How is cement made?”
Cement is one of the most versatile materials on the planet. However, how exactly is it made? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to find out. First, we must gather up its primal ingredients: limestone, clay, and others. Then, we must crush these rocks. Then we must combine this crushed material with other ingredients such as iron ore and feed it into a cement kiln. The kiln will then heat all of these ingredients, burning away some, and producing a red-hot compound known as clinker. This clinker must then be ejected into a cooling plant, and be mixed with gypsum and limestone to eventually form the cement that we know and love.
“How can we move fuel over long distances?”
Human infrastructure has a logistics problem. The resources needed for the operation of our civilization (such as water and petroleum) are produced in locations far, far away from where they are consumed. So how can we devise a mechanism to transport these materials over long distances? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to solve this problem. We know that these resources are often extracted in fluid form. And we know that one way to transport fluids is to use piping systems. So what if we were to use giant pipelines strewn throughout the landscape for the transportation of this material? Well, it turns out that pipeline transport of resources is more than a theoretical idea but a practical reality, and is used by almost every country in the world.
“How is hydrogen transported?”
Hydrogen is one of the most fundamental resources for modern day infrastructure. However, since hydrogen is a raw resource produced far away from the areas that it is used in, it must be transported in some fashion. So how exactly is this accomplished? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to find out. Well, we know that fluids can be easily moved through piping systems. And we also know that raw hydrogen often takes the form of a fluid. So wouldn’t it be logical to use specialized hydrogen pipelines to transport hydrogen to its specified location? Well, it turns out that engineers all over the world have implemented this technology, ranging from the Netherlands to Lousiana.
“How can we control the flow of traffic away from dangerous road elements?”
Personal vehicle transportation is one of the most used forms of transportation throughout the world. However, due to the autonomous nature of such machines, drivers can non-intentionally make collisions with errant road elements such as trees, boulders, and walls, or even the air if they run off an elevated freeway! So how could we change roads to make them much safer for general use? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to figure this problem out. Well, we know that one way to stop an object from moving is to have it collide with a rigid object that will absorb all of its kinetic energy. So what if we were to take this idea and put it into reality? This is the exact type of thinking behind something known as a traffic barrier, which can be seen omnipresently around roads throughout the road. Examples of traffic barriers range from the exotic guard rail to the tiny traffic cone!
True stress-strain diagrams
“Why is there a negative slope on a stress-strain diagram and how can we fix it?”
The stress-strain diagram is probably one of the most used concepts in all of engineering. However, there seems to be one counterintuitive aspect to it. Specifically, after the ultimate strength is reached, the stress-strain slope seems to become negative. This can’t be, since the stress can only increase with strain, not the other way around. So what exactly is behind this incongruity? Well, it all comes down to one simple fact. When constructing an engineering stress-strain curve, the cross-sectional area of the object is assumed to be static. However, due to the law’s of Poisson’s ratio, an elongation in length must be countered by a decrease in the associated cross-sectional area. And since this cross-sectional area will have s smaller capacity to carry force, the force distribution will go down. Therefore, if we do not include an updated area with the force, the stress will decrease with strain. Structural Engineers and Materials Scientists have recognized this flaw and have created true stress-strain diagram in response, which uses an ever-changing cross-sectional area. True stress-strain diagrams never have negative slopes, and are commonly used for research purposes.