E&T news weekly #45 – we choose our favourite engineering and technology news stories from the week

Friday April 10 2015

dominic-lenton  Dominic Lenton, managing editor
First T-pylons appear on British skyline

The traditional British steel-lattice electricity pylon is one of those designs that can genuinely be described as iconic, having appeared in so many places – usual straddling a cornfield or dominating a green landscape – as shorthand for the march of technology. The new T-pylons which started going up this week aren’t a direct replacement but at two-thirds of the height will be less visually imposing and better suited to some situations. Only a few are being constructed to start with but in the future they’ll be something to look out for and perhaps the basis for a new ‘spotting’ game to keep kids occupied on long car journeys.

Kinase analysis biochip ‘will speed up cancer drug development’

One of the downsides of increasing life expectancy is that more of us are going to survive long enough to develop diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Coming up with new treatments is one of the big challenges at the interface of technology and medicine and this device, which uses semiconductors to quickly measure enzyme activity, is a great example of how clever thinking can speed up the drug development process.

Alex Kalinaukas  Alex Kalinauckas, assistant features editor
New battery could charge phone in one minute

This tech development is music to the ears of smartphone owners throughout the world as it will greatly reduce the risk your phone running out of juice at a crucial moment. A battery “less prone to catching fire”, is always a winner in my book too.

Lib Dems raise low-emission car stakes with £100m prize pledge

Any incentives for automotive manufacturers to produce low-emission vehicles should be encouraged, but I wonder whether the Lib Dem pledge will mean much to the automotive industry. After all there’s no guarantee they’ll win the election or remain in government and even less assurance that they’ll stick to this pledge given their recent history.

Vitali Vitaliev  Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
Oil find near Gatwick could be bigger than North Sea oil fields

I was rather amused to find out about the discovery of substantial shale oil reserves near Gatwick airport, or, to be more precise, in the Horse Hill area of Surrey. The reason is that I happen to be familiar with that very picturesque spot of English countryside and have even spent some holidays at a local farm-cum-B&B. I fully understand the importance of the find (my imagination conjures up visions of huge refineries, processing crude oil straight on the spot and turning it into high-octane petrol to be pumped into the insatiable bellies of the planes, revving their engines impatiently on the tarmac of Gatwick airport), but would be very sorry to see the area’s scenic beauty overshadowed by oil pump-jacks, nodding like praying Orthodox Jews (as seen on a photo in yesterday’s Evening Standard). One of the best Horse Hill experiences I can recall was fishing in one of the farm’s ponds. And although they say that oily fish is good for one’s health, I dread to think what kind of a catch one will be able to ferret out of that pond when (and if) oil extraction commences.

Aasha Bodhani  Aasha Bodhani, industry features editor
New battery could charge phone in one minute

The majority of smartphone users will say they have to charge their phone at least twice a day, but scientists have found a way to solve the problem. They have made a battery from aluminium which can fully recharge a phone in a minute, and replace alkaline batteries which are harmful to the environment and replace lithium-ion batteries which are known to burst into flames.

Oil find near Gatwick could be bigger than North Sea oil fields

UK Oil & Gas Investments claims a new oil reserve found near Gatwick could meet up to 30 per cent of the UK’s needs. However the difficulty with extracting the oil could bring this percentage down to 5 per cent, but it still has the potential for daily oil production. Compared to the North Sea, which has produced 45 billion barrels in 40 years, the new field found could hold 158 million barrels per square mile.

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