• Question: What new discoveries do you believe will radically change the field and industry of engineering?

    Asked by Nolte to Fe, Joe, Olivia, Pete on 17 Mar 2015.
    • Photo: Olivia Stodieck

      Olivia Stodieck answered on 17 Mar 2015:

      That’s a hard question!! I guess here are some ideas of discoveries that might have a big impact on engineering in the future:
      1) Super-materials like graphene (very strong), because we could build much lighter, much more efficient structures using these than what have a the moment.
      2) Materials that change properties based on temperature or applied electric current, because we could make new types of actuators with those, which could be activated using less energy, faster or be smaller than anything we have at the moment.
      3) New ways to store energy – better batteries will allow us to use more electric energy instead of fossil fuels like oil.
      4) 3-D printing, because it might allow us to design much more complex things in the future and make then much faster than we currently do
      5) Faster computers, because we can always use bigger, faster computers 😉

    • Photo: Felicity Harer

      Felicity Harer answered on 18 Mar 2015:

      Olivia already gave such great answers!

      I’m also excited about smart materials and 3D printing. Also biomaterials (more environmentally friendly ways of making things we have already) and embedded electronics (circuitry built in to other components).

      Beyond that, I think it’s more manufacturing methods that will change engineering, and focus on design. New ways of making things should radicalise the field – if you want an example look at the adoption of computers in the last few decades or the impact of the printing press hundreds of years ago. Then designing for different things will change things massively – designing for parts to be recycled, design for the different manufacturing methods, and making things as eco friendly and sustainable as possible.

      By the way, had a look at your CPU question. It looks like the limiting factor is the size of the atom. At the moment, gaps between components are only a few atoms thick so, with current manufacturing techniques, 14nm is pretty much the limit (maybe 11nm). So, for them to get any smaller, they’ll need to be made in a different way. Does that answer your question?

    • Photo: Peter Roskilly

      Peter Roskilly answered on 18 Mar 2015:

      In construction the current big ‘revolution’ is BIM (Building information Modelling).
      The phrase encompasses a lot, but boils down to managing a model of a building project more collaboratively and in such a way as to represent every stage of that projects life from Planning to Construction to use to demolition. It might not sound like much, but adopting a BIM way of working is a MASSIVE deal for Clients, designers, contractors and management companies alike as it forces us to totally change the way we work and how we share.

      In roads we’ve essentially be building them the same way for a very long time. Innovations in materials have been significant, but not revolutionary.
      There are some possibilities in the future however with the concept of modular roadways and Solar Roads.

      The construction industry as a whole however is painfully aware of its lack of sustainability and is constantly testing and trying out new/more sustainable materials.
      Timber structures, recycled plastic bridges fly ash concrete to name a few.