Scratching beneath the surface

Features Editor

There are some trends that always seem set to continue. General Elections will keep getting more depressing than inspiring. Hollywood will keep making superhero movies. And populations will keep moving from the country into cities.

As the need to find room for urban working and living intensifies, it inevitably falls to engineers to think up solutions. In the 1920s, they built tall; and in some parts of the world they still do. Elsewhere, however, the pressures of city planning and sometimes unpleasant open-air environments are leading to an increasing interest in looking underground.

In this issue’s cover feature, we take a look at some of the most innovative approaches to underground civil engineering in cities, from an inventive solution to an everyday problem in Tokyo; the remarkably practical approach to planning in Helsinki, where the local taste for an active lifestyle has to be balanced by the frostbite-inducing weather for much of the year; and a remarkably ambitious plan for an inverted skyscraper underneath the most important public square in Mexico City.

Our Q&A stays with the subterranean theme, taking us into the tunnels and caverns of CERN in France and Switzerland for a rare insight into the engineering, rather than the physics, of the Large Hadron Collider. Senior engineers answer our readers’ questions on how the LHC was upgraded to double its power, allowing it to hopefully shed light on the most puzzling theories about the universe.

We come back to the surface for our interview, where the senior engineer of automotive technology provider GKN talks about how hybridisation is improving the capabilities of road vehicles, including giving the performance of all-wheel-drive without the increase in fuel consumption and emissions conventionally associated with them.

Elsewhere in this issue, you can read about the shape of things to come at the cutting edge — or the growing face — of 3D printing from one of the main centres for its development, Professor Rochard Hague’s laboratories at Nottingham University; the engineering consequences of the pharmaceutical sector’s shift towards more personalised medicine; and moves towards the  development of hybrid passenger aircraft. Previews of what visitors to the upcoming Engineer Design and Innovation Show and the Subcon exhibition in Birmingham can expect, and a look at careers in oil and gas, round off our May issue.

Click here to access of digital version of our May issue