Our recent work titled as “The behaviour of traffic produced nanoparticles in a car cabin and resulting exposure rates” was recently published in Elsevier journal Atmospheric Environment. This research work highlighted the fact that when you are driving your car from your office to home at a typical urban route, the exposure to tiny sized (less than 100 nm in diameter) nanoparticles inside your car cabin can be several times higher than the exposure during cycling or walking along the road sides on the same route.

Double dilemma – Having better filtration system, which is normally available in new cars, can reduce ingress of nanoparticles into the car cabin. At traffic lights or very close to the tailpipe of the vehicle ahead, air taken from outside is much more polluted than inside and can still increase the concentrations to notable levels despite going through filters. Conversely, limiting ventilation to restrict the uptake of outside air into the cabin can lead to excessive CO2 and heat accumulation – again, not good for health!

This full article can be accessed by clicking here to learn more about the outcome of this research study.

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Road vehicles are known to be the largest contributor to the airborne nanoparticles in polluted urban environments. The heavy duty vehicles (HDV; i.e. truck, diesel buses) are known to be the largest contributor of airborne nanoparticles among road vehicles. Other on-vehicle sources of nanoparticles have not got much attention, but our recent work titled as “Nanoparticle emissions from 11 non-vehicle exhaust sources” published in Elsevier journal Atmospheric Environment and highlighted some interesting stats with respect to sources around us. For instance, each km of distance driven by a HDV produce of the order of 1000 billion (~1015) nanoparticles. One kg of fast wood burning produces nearly the same number of particles as for each km driven by a heavy duty vehicle. About 1 min of cooking on gas can produce the similar particle numbers generated by ~10 min of cigarette smoking or 1 m travel by a HDV.”

This full article can be accessed by clicking here to know more about other potential sources of nanoparticles and their dispersion, related exposure and health impacts, as well as state of current policies, guidelines and technical challenges to regulate them.

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We all have seen various structures around us deteriorating because of several reasons. Air pollution, which is known to affect the human health, also play a crucial role in affecting the health of various materials used in buildings and transport infrastructure. Our recent article titled as “Footprints of air pollution and changing environment on the sustainability of built infrastructure” appeared recently in the Elsevier Journal Science of the Total Environment. This highlights the novel links between these cross-disciplinary topics and propose the way forward for mapping the corrosion in an area. The full article can be accessed by clicking here.

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We are currently seeking to recruit a Research Fellow on the EPSRC funded project “Structural performance of slab-column connections under impact and blast loading”. The project will look at the dynamic behaviour of this type of joint regions (Fig. 1) in order to develop a mechanical model that can be applied in design and analysis.

Fig. 1- Dynamic response of RC flat slab-column connection subjected to impact and blast loading

Applications are open until the 29th of October 2012. Full details about the application process and job description can be found in our website (job opportunities).

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What is our perception of a bridge? We have seen bridges being designed to cross motorways, rivers, and valleys, etc, but mostly to carry the people and vehicles from one side of the obstacle to the other. These are occasionally designed to carry small water channels (known as acqueducts). However, Magdeburg water bridge in Germany have really crossed the boundaries of conventional bridges by connecting a massive canal over Elbe river. It is the longest navigatable aqueduct in the world, with a total length of 918m.

http://www.toxel.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/bridge09.jpg

As seen in the pictures, it carries not only the water but also quite heavy boats over the river. Before the bridge was constructed in 2003, the Ships moving from one side to the other side across the river had to make a 12-kilometre (7.5 mi) detour , because the level difference between the two was significantly different.  This massive structure was built using 24,000 metric tons of steel and 68,000 cubic meters of concrete and costs at around €500M.

http://en.structurae.de/files/photos/1/20090519/dsc04580.jpg

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“Anti–pollution clothing invented” – this was one of the news headlines a few days ago. Well, this is another gift from the emergence of nanotechnology. According to the inventors, “any item of clothing could be treated, but in order for the technology to work you need light. So, for example, you wouldn’t want to coat your underpants”.  Simple but interesting estimates proposed were that if all the 10 million people living in London take one gram of coating out, this would consume 10 ten tons of nitrous oxide in London every day.

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Can we build concrete boats? At first, one might think that this is impossible since regular concrete is 2.3 times denser than water. However, steel is even heavier than concrete and we still use steel to build large boats. The answer to this physical problem was given by Archimedes over 2000 years ago; his principle states “a body immersed in a fluid experiences a buoyancy force equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces”. Therefore, to build a concrete boat we only need to design a concrete container so that the buoyancy force balances the vertical force (including self weight).

Indeed, we can build boats made out of concrete. Civil Engineering students in the USA know this well as concrete canoe races between rival Universities is a very popular event. First concrete boats were built in the 19th century in Europe by J.L. Lambot (Southern France, 1848) and C. Gabellini (Italy, 1890s). An interesting historical application was the portable floating reinforced concrete (RC) harbours used during the WWII on the D-day in the “Operation Mulberries” which were used to transport troops and heavy vehicles from England to Normandy (see here for details about construction).

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The average price for a new car in the UK is around £20,000 and according to the Daily Telegraph on 11 February 2011, there are over 31 million registered cars in the UK. Average annual maintenance of a car would cost around £300.00 and the average life of a car in the UK is probably around 1 years. Yet, a modern car has over 200 sensors to provide necessary data to optimize its performance and increase its service life.

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A few weeks ago, the Fédération Internationale du Béton (fib) sent me the pictures from the fib Symposium in Prague which I attended. During this conference I had the enjoyable experience of receiving the 2011 fib Achievement Award for Young Engineers in the research category (see fib website). The award was given in memory of Ivar Holand an outstanding structural engineer and professor in Structural Mechanics from Norway best known as one of the pioneers of computer-based finite element method for structural analyses with significant contributions in the field of large offshore concrete structures and development of high strength concrete.

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Lord Alan Sugar (picture taken from Wikimedia)

Having followed The Apprentice for quite a while I felt highly disappointed a couple of weeks ago when Lord Sugar fired senior software design engineer Glenn on the basis that engineers make bad businessman. Lord Sugar mentioned “I have never yet come across an engineer that can turn his hand to business”. If I had the opportunity I would like to invite Lord Sugar to Madrid to watch together a football game in the Bernabeu stadium, home ground of Real Madrid football team. Perhaps whilst watching the game I could explain to him that 10 year ago Real Madrid had a deficit of 270m€ and were struggling financially. Lord Sugar would be surprised to know that it was the entrepreneurial vision of a civil engineer called Florentino Perez who managed to turn around the situation. Currently Real Madrid is the wealthiest football club in the world with a revenue this year of around 400m€ even though they have spent fortunes on buying megastar players such as Zidane and Ronaldo most recently for the small amount of 90m€.

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