The methane hunters

WHEN SCANNING for emissions from a mud volcano in western Turkmenistan in January 2019, a satellite called Claire came across a large plume of methane drifting across the landscape. The discharge appeared to originate from a gas pipeline at the nearby Korpezhe oil and gasfield. Two more large plumes were also spotted in the area, […]

How to make oxygen from moondust

IF PEOPLE ARE to travel extensively in space and set up bases on astronomical objects such as the Moon and Mars then they will need to make or find out there the things required to support life—including food, water and breathable air. Researchers are already working on ways to grow food in space, and icy […]

Sustainable forestry: If you go down to the woods today

IN FINLAND’S vast forest lives a monster with a voracious appetite. Once, it would have been called a pulp mill. But after a recent makeover costing €1.2bn ($1.3bn) it is now known as a bioproducts mill—and as such is one of the biggest in the world. This sprawling plant, near Äänekoski, a town in the […]

Flying taxis are taking off to whisk people around cities

In october 1908, on a windy field at Farnborough, south-west of London, a handlebar-mustachioed former Wild West showman named Samuel Cody completed the first official controlled flight of a powered aeroplane in Britain. Since then many other pioneering aircraft, from Concorde to the giant Airbus A380, have flown at what became the biennial Farnborough air […]

New ways to make vertical farming stack up

From the outside it looks like a tall, metal-clad barn. But step in, through a large airlock designed to keep out the bugs, and a kaleidoscopic scene emerges. A central aisle is flanked by two pairs of towers. Each tower is stacked with a dozen or so trays on which are growing strawberries, kale, red lettuce […]

Electric cars: putting a motor in the wheels is an old idea due to return

At the dawn of the motor industry one of its pioneers, Ferdinand Porsche, caused a sensation at the Paris World Fair in 1900 with a vehicle driven by a pair of electric motors incorporated into its front wheels. This arrangement allowed the Lohner-Porsche (pictured above) to dispense with cumbersome belts, chains and gears. It was […]

Extreme robotics: cleaning up nuclear waste

Some people worry about robots taking work away from human beings, but there are a few jobs that even these sceptics admit most folk would not want. One is cleaning up radioactive waste, particularly when it is inside a nuclear power station—and especially if the power station in question has suffered a recent accident. Those […]

Second time around for Concorde: the return of supersonic travel

Every morning, time once was, a giant roar from Heathrow Airport would announce the departure of flight ba001 to New York. The roar was caused by the injection into the aircraft’s four afterburners of the fuel which provided the extra thrust that it needed to take off. Soon afterwards, the pilot lit the afterburners again—this […]