As you take your final exam, you may find yourself shopping last minute for your family’s holiday gifts. Don’t despair. There is a day for that. December 18th is Free Shipping Day; a one-day, online-shopping event when thousands of merchants offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve.1
So how do your packages go over the river and through the woods to arrive at your grandmother’s house in less than a week? Current delivery methods include carefully choreographed and computerized warehouse management structures as well as expedited ground and air express shipping services. Now, another method is rapidly taking off: commercial drones.
Typically, drones are associated with clandestine military operations. However, a year ago Amazon announced that it is developing aerial robotic technology to fly packages directly to a person’s doorstep.2 “Drones ‘will change the way we conduct some of our existing business in the not-too-distant future, but more importantly, will create completely new and world-changing applications we haven’t even thought of yet,’ said Jeff Lovin, a Woolpert senior vice president.”3
What is required to make this happen? The Federal Aviation Administration, the government agency responsible for all aircraft flying in the United States airspace, must approve of their safety. “The key safety element is to prevent drones from colliding with other aircraft, or with people on the ground. That means ensuring ways for other aircraft to detect and avoid drones, and for drones to land safely if they lose contact with remote pilots.”4
Because of the high demand for developing commercial, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the FAA is pressured to expedite rules and regulations. In a letter to the FAA, Amazon said its indoor testing of drones must now move outdoors “to practice in real-world conditions.” Paul Misener, the company’s vice president of global public policy, said the company might move its research abroad if the FAA does not act quickly. With a Congressionally mandated deadline of September 2015 looming large, the government agency has set up six test sites across the country and given exemption status to a few companies in order to learn more about how the technology works.5
What if you miss Free Shipping Day? Perhaps purchase your own Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 and personally deliver your gifts in record time.
2Amazon Unveils Futureristic Plan: Delivery by Drone December 2, 2013 (Source: 60 Minutes CBS News website)
3FAA Lets 4 companies Fly Commercial Drones (Source: USAToday.com, December 10, 2014)
5FAA’s Treatment of Amazon Proves Congress Must Act or Companies Will Take Drone Research Abroad (Source: Forbes.com, December 10, 2014)
Bestaoui Sebbane, Yasmina. Planning and Decision Making for Aerial Robots. New York: Springer, 2014. Engineering Library TL718 .B47 2014
Commercial Drones (Source: Popular Science website)
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Source: Federal Aviation Administration website - FAA.gov)
“60 Minutes” reports on the uncertainty of regulating drones March 14, 2014 (Source: YouTube)
In 1942, while Dr.Percy Spencer was testing a magnetron, a candy bar in his pocket melted. This was Dr. Spencer’s ‘aha moment’ when he realized that radioactive beams can cook food. The Raytheon Company filed a patent application for Spencer’s invention on October 8, 1945. Then the company built the first commercially available microwave oven calling it the Radarange. It debuted in 1947 standing six feet tall and weighing over 700 pounds.1
Obviously, this behemoth model did not become popular in the average American home. However, during the 1970s, smaller “electronic ovens” started to make their way into the ordinary kitchen. At first, they were used reticently because the radioactive waves were considered harmful. However, the convenience of microwave cooking outweighed the fear factor. During the 1980s, the market was saturated with microwave cookbooks and products such as microwave bacon trays. Even Dire Straits references the kitchen appliance in Money for Nothing. Today’s average microwave cooks between 1000-1200 watts and is America’s sweetheart appliance for fast and convenient defrosting of frozen foods, rewarming of leftovers, or popping of corn. Bon appétit!
How does a microwave oven work? “A microwave oven produces high-frequency electromagnetic waves. Passing through food, the waves reverse polarity billions of times a second. The food’s water molecules also have polarity, and they react to each change by rapidly reversing themselves. Friction results, heating the water and cooking the food.2 For a visual explanation, watch the video, “How a Microwave Oven Works” by Bill Hammack from the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
1 National Microwave Day (December 6, 2009)
2 Langone, John. How Things Work: Everyday Technology Explained. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2006, p.14. Engineering Library T47 .L2923 2006
Books and Standards
Crupi, Giovanni, Editor. Microwave De-Embedding: From Theory to Applications. Waltham, MA: Elsevier/Academic Press, 2014. Engineering Library TK7876 .M53 2014
Hwang, Ruey-Bing. Periodic Structures: Mode-Matching Approach and Applications in Electromagnetic Engineering. Singapore: Wiley, 2013. Engineering Library TK872.F5 H93 2013
Maas, Stephen A. Practical Microwave Circuits. Boston: Artech House, 2014. Engineering Library (on order)
Pozar, David M. Microwave Engineering, 3rd. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley, 2005. Engineering Library TK7876 .P69 2005
Rohde, Ulrich L. RF/Microwave Circuit Design for Wireless Applications, 2nd. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2013. Engineering Library TK7876 .R65 2013
December 1st is Cyber Monday, a day created by marketing companies to persuade people to shop online the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Employees returning to their desks after the holiday, stuffed full of turkey, are considered prime to shop on their high-speed internet connections at work. Warehouses, such as Amazon, are stocked to the brim with merchandise, and according to the Wall Street Journal, its order-fulfillment plans for this year’s holiday season will involve 10,000 robots. “Hugging the floor like a Roomba, and about the size of a big suitcase, these bright-orange bots lift and carry shelf-stacks of merchandise to warehouse workers who pack items for shipping. The idea is that it’s easier for the humans to stay in one place rather than tromp around a cavernous facility.”1, 2
Kiva Systems, now owned by Amazon Inc., has been engineering automated guided vehicles (AGVs) since the early 2000s.3 But as early as the 1970s, robotic lifts were being developed. In 1976, a self-propelled “Wheeled vehicle adapted to turn on the spot” with a load-carrying body or platform was issued by the US Patent Office.4
However, before the days of high tech, and still widely used, manual and motorized fork lifts move heavy items from one place to another. The first fork truck was the two-wheeled hand truck made of wrought iron axles and cast iron wheels Then, “in 1906, an official of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Altoona, Pennsylvania added storage battery power to a baggage wagon, producing what was probably the first powered platform truck. The controls were placed so that the operator had to walk out in front.” Between 1913 and 1919, trucks were engineered to lift small cranes both horizontally as well as vertically and forks and rams were introduced.”6
The Industrial Truck Association represents the manufacturers of powered and non-powered industrial trucks (forklifts) who do business in the United States, Canada and Mexico. It assumes responsibility for the Safety Standards for Low and High Lift Trucks as well as the Safety Standard for Driverless, Automatic Guided Industrial Vehicles and Automated Functions of Manned Industrial Vehicles.7,8
6 Emmett, Stuart. Excellence in warehouse management : how to minimise costs and maximise value. Chicheser, West Sussex, England : Hoboken, NJ : Wiley, 2005. Engineering Library HF5485 .46 2005
Ironically, it was during the American Depression when Monopoly, a game of wealth and finance, became popular. Charles Darrow devised of a buying and selling real estate game with Atlantic City’s street names. He sold each hand-painted oil-cloth game for $4. When it caught on, and he could not keep up with the demand for manufacturing, he wrote Parker Brothers. The company initially rejected the board game citing it as too long and complicated, but eventually, Robert Barton, the president of the company, bought the rights to the game and registered the Monopoly® trademark in 1935. Thus, Darrow became the first inventor of games to become a millionaire.
Although Darrow is credited for the game’s invention, history shows that Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie was issued a similar game patent in 1903. The Landlord’s Game,“a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences,” was not widely manufactured and published until 1906 when she and two followers of Henry Goerge, an American political economist, established the Economic Game Company of New York. They wanted the game to demonstrate Henry George’s philosophy that people own value for what they create not for land which belongs to everyone. In 1910, Lizzie submitted her game to Parker Brothers for its consideration but was declined. Yet, word of the game spread. It is widely believed that Charles Darrow infringed upon Lizzie Magie’s patent, and in 1935, Robert Barton held a secret meeting with Darrow reaching a settlement agreement granting Parker Brothers worldwide rights in order to release Darrow from legal costs that he would incur defending the origin of the game.
What did Ms Magie get out of the deal? In a January 1936 interview with the Washington D.C. Evening Star, when asked how she felt for receiving only $500 for her patent and no royalties ever, she replied that it was okay “if she never made a dime so long as the Henry George single tax idea was spread to the people of the country.”
1. McCorquodale, Duncan, et al, editors. Inventors and Inventions. London : Black Dog, 2009. p. 75 Engineering Library FOLIO T48 .I58 2009
5. Henry George Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_George
6. George, Henry. Progress and Poverty, New York : Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, c1879, 1955 Main Library HB171 .G27 1955
7. There is nothing new under the sun, Mrs. Elizabeth Magie Phillips, headmistress and proprietor of the Henry George School of Social Science, in Clarendon, Val, is convinced, she said yesterday. The Washington Post [Washington D.C.] 28 Jan 1936: 13 Source: ProQuest News & Newspapers
In honor of Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day, celebrated on November 15th, you may want to know how your refrigerator operates.
Refrigerators are a modern invention. Until the advent of wide-scale electricity, keeping food cold had been a challenge for civilizations. Even as late as the 1800s, ice continued to be the major method for cooling. However, in 1848, Alexander Twining experimented with vapor-compression refrigeration allowing mechanical cooling to be applied in the meat packing and brewing manufacturing industries from the 1870s through the 1890s. Then in 1895, a German engineer, Carol von Linde, designed a process for the mass-scale production of domestic operating cooling units.1 By 1921, the first Frigidaire came off an assembly line at the Delco Light Plant of General Motors. That same year, 5,000 refrigerators were manufactured for home use.2OPERATION
All refrigerator models work on the same principle: as the gas phase of matter expands, it takes up heat from the environment and converts the thermal energy to other forms of energy. This is called the Carnot cycle.3 In refrigerators, a gas is compressed and under pressure is changed to liquid. A compressor forces the liquid, or coolant, through a series of tubes or coils where it vaporizes, removing heat from the surrounding environment (i.e., from inside the refrigerator). A pump that is run by a motor sucks up the warmed gas, compresses it into liquid again, and sends it to the condenser for another bout of cooling.4 In the early twentieth century, refrigerators used methyl chloride, sulphur dioxide, or ammonia gas, all of which are toxic and caused several injuries and fatalities when leaked into homes.
For this reason, Albert Einstein had the idea to improve its safety. In 1926, he partnered with Leo Szilard, a Hungarian-American physicist, who had published his dissertation on thermodynamics and had knowledge of patent engineering. Together they set out to improve the mechanical compressors and eliminate the toxic gases. “The Einstein-Szilard fridge used pressurized ammonia, butane and water… and no moving parts — thereby eliminating the possibility of seal failure…One of the components the two physicists designed for their refrigerator was the Einstein-Szilard electromagnetic pump, which had no moving parts, relying instead on generating an electromagnetic field by running alternating current through coils. The field moved a liquid metal, and the metal, in turn, served as a piston and compressed a refrigerant.”5
In 1930, freon was introduced as an economically favored refrigerant gas. However, with environmental concerns over climate change and the impact of freon and other chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone layer, it maybe time for another reinvention. “Green refrigeration” is being explored. Two groups in the UK, Malcom McCullough of Oxford, is designing a solar-powered fridge as an alternative energy source, and Camfridge Ltd, in Cambridge, is researching gas-free alternatives.7 Also, a team of Canadian-Bulgarian researchers are looking into magnetic cooling.8
So as you toss out the carton of milk which expired two weeks ago, think how you might improve upon Einstein’s cooling appliance.
1. McCorquodale, Duncan, et al, editors. Inventors and Inventions. London : Black Dog, 2009. p. 32 Engineering Library FOLIO T48 .I58 2009
2. Langone, John. How Things Work: Everyday technology explained. Washington D.C. : National Georgraphic Society, 2006, pages 18 – 19. Engineering Library T47 .L2923 2006
3. The Carnot Cycle (Source: MIT)
4. Wearing, Judy. Edison’s Concrete Piano: Flying Tanks, Six-Nippled Sheep, Walk-On-Water Shoes and 12 Other Flops from Great Inventors. Toronto : ECW Press, 2009, pages 231 – 232 Engineering Library T47 .W42 2009
7. Wearing, Judy. Edison’s Concrete Piano: Flying Tanks, Six-Nippled Sheep, Walk-On-Water Shoes and 12 Other Flops from Great Inventors. Toronto : ECW Press, 2009. pages 239 - 240. Engineering Library T47 .W42 2009
8. Magnetic Cooling Enables Efficient, ‘Green’ Refrigeration, June 19, 2014. (Source: Phys.org)
9. Standard Specification for Reach-in Refrigerators, Freezers, Combination Refrigerator/Freezers, and Thaw Cabinets. ASTM F2520-05 (2012) (Source: ASTM International)
10. Pham, Hung. Lower-GWP Refrigerants in Refrigeration. ASHRAE-D-ANRC12-17. (Source: TechStreet)
11. Energy-Efficient Refrigerator Prototype Test Results [microform]. Washington, D.C. : U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Atmospheric and Indoor Air. EPA-430-R-94-011, June 1994. Main Media Collection Microfiche EP 4.2:R 25/3
Autumn is a beautiful season: waning days of warmth, cool nights, and dramatic color. All is blissful until the leaves fall from the trees covering the ground with a thick mass of debris. So begins the raking…or blowing.
Although not confirmed, it widely is believed that the leaf blower was invented by Dom Quinto in the late 1950s. It originally was introduced in the United States as an agricultural sprayer, but soon manufacturers saw an opportunity to use the blower as a lawn and garden maintenance tool.
Emissions from gasoline-powered leaf blowers, noise, carbon monoxide as well as airborne particulates are common complaints of the leaf blower. To minimize some of these side-effects, the leaf blower is governed by the U.S. E.P.A. emission standards for small engines, and to counteract the noise, several American cities have ordinances restricting lawn blower usage or mandating decibel levels. In fact, Caremel-by-the-Sea and Beverly Hills banned the implement in the 1970s citing it a noise nuisance.
So don’t throw out the rake just yet.
Determination Particulate Emission Rates from Leaf Blowers. Report written by Dennis Fitz, David Pankratz, Sally Pederson, and James Bristow, College of Engineering-Center for Environmental Research and Technology, University of California, Riverside, CA and Gary Arcemont, San Joaquin Unified Air Pollution Control District, Fresno, CA.
Outdoor Power Equipment Internal Combustion Engine-Powered Handheld and Backpack Blowers and Blower-Vacuums Safety Requirements and Performance Testing Procedures ANSI/OPEI B175.2-2012 (with A1-2013) (Source: TechStreet)