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, […]

A research team builds robots from living cells

ROBOTS COME in all shapes and sizes. Some are humanoid. Others resemble animals. Many are just a jumble of arms slaving away on a production line. But one thing all robots have in common is that they are mechanical, not biological devices. They are built from materials like metal and plastic, and stuffed with electronics. […]

An emergency landing system that passengers can activate

ON NOVEMBER 9TH 2018 a Piper Dakota light aircraft flying over Iowa broadcast a distress call. The pilot seemed to have suffered a heart attack. One of the other three people on board, a student aviator, had taken over the controls, but to no avail. The plane crashed shortly afterwards, killing all four. How often […]

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 […]

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 […]

Inside the body shop: 3D printing replacement body parts

A robotic lawnmower keeping the grass neat and tidy outside a modern industrial building in Carrigtwohill, near Cork in Ireland, is a good indication that something whizzy may be going on inside. And so it proves. The airy production hall contains row after row of 3d printers, each the size of a large fridge-freezer. The machines […]

How to knit a sports car: carbon fibre manufacturing

Bertha resides on a quiet industrial estate in Bristol, in the west of Britain. The affectionate name has been given to what at first appears to be a giant loom from the Industrial Revolution. And in some ways it is. Bertha (pictured above) is an automated braiding machine. Like a horizontal maypole, ribbons of carbon […]