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Reducing road noise with RARx

With this material, mainly formulated with dust from end-of-life tires, we reach the healthy noise levels proposed by the WHO.

Background noise is a great nuisance for many.  For this reason, materials such as RARx are of increasing interest to companies and infrastructure financing bodies.

This material reduces road noise by 10%, bringing it close to the healthy noise level proposed by the WHO for good health and well-being.

The use of this material has been included in the Silent Rubber Pave project, financed by Horizon 2020, with the aim of reducing noise pollution caused by cars rolling on asphalt. Cirtec, a Sacyr Green company, and Consulpav participate in this project.
 

 

Cirtec markets RARx, made from end-of-life tire dust from the Chiloeches tire recovery plant, also belonging to Sacyr Green, which favors the circular economy in our group.

RARx takes advantage of the sound-absorbing properties of rubber, allowing it to reduce the stiffness coefficient of asphalt, thus reducing the vibration caused by the passage of vehicles on the pavement. RARx also extends the life cycle of roads, which means that less maintenance is required, thus reducing costs during their useful life. 

RARx (manufactured in Spain and with a new plant in Mexico) is used on roads in Spain, other European countries and Latin America, with Mexico being the main market. 

 

 

 

"We would need regulatory changes that favor business growth. Environmental criteria should have greater relevance in the specifications for concessions and works, not only during construction, but also throughout the useful life of the infrastructure, something that is already being done in some European countries.

Studies such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) should be taken into greater consideration in order to improve the environmental quality of our roads," explains Guillermo Rodriguez Marfil, Cirtec technician and Sacyr Green engineer.

In Spain, the Sacyr Group has applied RARx on the A-32 (Linares-Albacete highway) on a section between Villacarrillo (Jaén) and Villanueva del Arzobispo (Jaén), on a section that opened in December 2022.
The company will build a new section of the Pirámides - Tulancingo highway in conjunction with Sacyr Construcción.

  • Roads
  • RAR X

The ozone layer protects life on Earth from ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. Credit: European Space Agency

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A promising recovery for the ozone layer?

Air conditioners, refrigerators, water boilers and even shoe soles are all examples of products that decades ago contained ozone-depleting substances. We look at how the Montreal Protocol has contributed to reversing this situation.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

The ozone layer in the stratosphere serves as a vital protective shield for all life on Earth. This invisible barrier protects the inhabitants of our planet from the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause sunburn and damage the health of humans, as well as having other harmful effects on animals, plants and even microbes. But there's a problem: this layer has an enormous "hole"—a less dense region of the ozone layer that lets UV rays pass through. Fortunately, a new analysis by a UN-backed panel of experts offers some encouraging news. The global phaseout of ozone-depleting chemicals is helping to slowly close this hole.

 

The big threats to the ozone layer

 

To understand why the ozone hole is closing, we need to consider how it was formed. The ozone layer is a region of high ozone concentration in the stratosphere, 15 to 35 kilometres above the Earth's surfaceaccording to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). In the mid-1970s, scientists realised that it was threatened by the accumulation of gases containing halogens (chlorine and bromine) in the atmosphere.

These chemicals, collectively known as ozone-depleting substances (ODS), were found in many products and appliances that millions of people around the world used in their daily lives. For example, ODS were used in air conditioners, refrigerators, aerosol cans, inhalers for asthma patients, solvents to clean electronics, insulation foams in homes and office buildings, water boilers and even the soles of shoes.

 

Various chemical substances deplete the ozone layer. Credit: NASA Goddard

 

How did this enormous hole appear?

 

Research published in the scientific journal Nature in the mid-1980s warned that the concentration of stratospheric ozone over Antarctica was rapidly decreasing. This is known as the ozone hole, which in September 2000 reached a record 28.4 million square kilometres, according to the European Environment Agency. That is equivalent to almost seven times the size of the European Union.

But how were these chemicals destroying the ozone layer? When a chlorofluorocarbon molecule—the most damaging ODS—reaches the stratosphere, it eventually absorbs ultraviolet radiation, causing it to break down and release its chlorine atoms. The UNEP explains that "one chlorine atom can destroy up to 100,000 ozone molecules." When there are too many of these chlorine and bromine reactions, it disrupts "the delicate chemical balance that maintains the ozone layer, causing ozone to be destroyed faster than it is created."

 

The ozone hole reached a record 28.4 million square kilometres in 2000.

 

The ambitious challenge of protecting this invisible shield

 

To prevent the hole from continuing to grow out of control, the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987. This global agreement, which came into force in 1989, decreed the elimination of 96 ozone-depleting chemicals and brought about changes in the manufacturing processes of many products. While more than 800,000 tonnes of chlorofluorocarbons were consumed in 1989, by 2014 this figure had fallen to 156 tonnes, according to the World Economic Forum. Today, the UNEP notes that 99% of the ozone-depleting substances controlled by the Montreal Protocol have been phased out.

This has resulted in a slow recovery of the ozone layer. By the end of 2022, the hole had an average area of 23.2 million square kilometres, slightly down from 23.3 million the previous year and well below the 27.5 million reached in September 2006 when the average area of the hole peakedaccording to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The European Space Agency (ESA) explains that large fluctuations in polar vortices and stratospheric temperatures cause ozone holes to vary in size.

 

A ban on various chemicals is helping to close the ozone hole. Credit: BBC News

 

Political action and climate change

 

"Today, the ozone hole is recovering thanks to clear political action. This example shall serve as an inspiration for climate change," says Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programmes. However, while ozone-depleting substances are no longer being produced, more and more greenhouse gases are being emitted.

Without the Montreal Protocol, ozone depletion would have continued to spread across the globe, which could have affected the health of the planet's inhabitants, as the UNEP highlights. For example, according to the agency, a global model suggests that by 2030 the successful implementation of this agreement will be preventing about two million skin cancers each year.

If efforts continue, the UNEP predicts that the ozone layer will recover during this century: "If current policies remain in place, the ozone layer is expected to recover to 1980 values (before the appearance of the ozone hole) by around 2066 over the Antarctic, by 2045 over the Arctic and by 2040 for the rest of the world."

 

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Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation.

The ASKA A5 is a car that can fold up its wings to drive on the road and unfurl them to fly. Credit: Aska

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Cars with retractable wings and other tech trends of 2023

The world's biggest annual tech news event, CES, offers a preview of the technologies that will take centre stage in the near future: from the rise of telemedicine to increasingly futuristic cars, the metaverse and Web3.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

Stepping into CES, the world's largest consumer electronics show, is like entering the future. At this must-attend event for the tech industry, which took place in early January 2023 in the hotels and convention centres of Las Vegas, you can see it all: robots that make cocktails, wireless TVsairbag belts that cushion the impact of falls and prevent fractures, and even helmets that scan brain activityLet’s take a look at the tech trends and gadgets that have attracted the most attention at this year’s show.

 

Flying cars with retractable wings

 

With around 300 vehicle technology exhibitors, CES is also one of the world’s largest auto shows. At this year's event, many eyes were on the ASKA A5, a flying car with a retractable wing system that is hoped to be on the market in 2026. The aim is for the driver to be able to fold up the wings for driving on the road and unfold them when they want to fly. In theory, this four-seater electric vehicle can drive on the road and has a flight range of up to 400 kilometres on a single charge.

On the mobility front, manufacturers are also working hard to make cars increasingly customisable. Last year BMW presented a car that could change colour at the touch of a button. This year it has expanded the options by introducing a bodywork full of electronic ink, allowing you to choose from 32 colours and create your own patterns. Volkswagen, meanwhile, has unveiled a car with a digitally camouflaged body whose pattern changes to the beat of the music.

 

The ASKA A5 can reportedly fly up to 400 kilometres through the air on a single charge. Credit: Global Update

 

Mobile-connected urine analyser

 

From helmets that measure brain waves to detect cognitive impairment to credit card-sized devices that perform electrocardiograms. These are some of the more curious health-related inventions on display at this year's CES. The CTA, the association that organises the event, says that more and more people want to use this kind of technology. Meditation and mindfulness apps, sleep-tracking apps, virtual and augmented reality, and online therapy and counselling platforms are particularly popular.

One of the most talked about devices at this year's event was U-Scan, which hangs from the toilet bowl to analyse the user's urine. The device detects and monitors a wide range of biomarkers and is linked to an app that provides information about the user's nutrition, hydration and even menstrual cycle. Withings, the French company that developed the device, says it is equipped with low-energy radar sensors to detect who is urinating by identifying the movement and distance of their pee stream. The app gives users practical advice on how to improve their health based on the results.

 

U-Scan is a mobile-connected urine analyser. Credit: Withings

 

Smelling the metaverse

 

Among the most significant developments at CES 2023 is a category dedicated to the metaverse and Web3—the next generation of the Internet. More and more companies are working to create an immersive virtual environment where users can interact with avatars, entertain themselves or purchase products or services. Technologies such as 5G, augmented reality and motion sensors are all being used to achieve this.

To achieve a more realistic immersive experience, wearables that recreate senses appear to be a step in the right direction. Last year, a Spanish company unveiled a wireless haptic vest that allows users to feel more than 30 different physical sensations in real time in the virtual world: from a gunshot or a punch to an insect bite or a hug. One of the most curious inventions at CES 2023 is a helmet that allows users to smell the metaverse. The device, developed by OVR Technology, has a cartridge with eight primary aromas that can be combined to create different scents. "The quality of these experiences will be measured by how immersive and emotionally engaging they are. Scent imbues them with an unmatched power," says Aaron Wisniewski, CEO and co-founder of the company.

 

OVR Technology's helmet to "smell" the metaverse is one of the most curious inventions at CES 2023. Credit: Washington Post.

 

These are just some of the more promising inventions on display at CES 2023, which this year saw attendance levels similar to those before the pandemic. In total, the event attracted more than 3,200 exhibitors and 115,000 industry professionals. The trade show, which has been held for more than 50 years, has showcased revolutionary devices in the past, from the VHS video recorder and the CD to high-definition television, Blu-ray and 3D printers. We will have to wait and see whether the devices on show at this year's event will be forgotten or will mark a turning point in history.

 

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Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation.

  • Innovation and technology
  • Science talks

How to store energy using thermophotovoltaic batteries

Research groups like Alejandro Datas’, researcher at the ‘Instituto de Energía Solar’ of the UPM and scientific coordinator of the Amadeus and ThermoBat projects, research new storage systems for renewable energy. 

One of the main current problems in the field of renewables is how to store the energy they produce. Despite of Spain being a major generator of solar and wind energy, we are only able to utilize that energy as it is produced, because there are no effective energy storage systems available to store the energy and use it as needed. 

Fortunately, research groups like Alejandro Datas’, researcher at the ‘Instituto de Energía Solar’ of the UPM and scientific coordinator of the Amadeus and ThermoBat projects, research new storage systems for renewable energy.  After graduating in Electrical Engineering in 2004, Alejandro obtained his PhD in 2011 at the UPM.

His research focused on thermal energy storage at very high temperatures and conversion into thermophotovoltaic energy. 

Datas began his research in conventional photovoltaic technology development when he ran into the storage issue.
Project Amadeus’ origin was in Datas’ PhD dissertation, focused on thermophotovoltaic energy. “Same as the sunlight, anything radiating heat also radiates light, so I focused on converting stored heat into electricity”, Alejandro said.  

So Datas’ journey started with project Amadeus, and had later continuity with two new projects: TermoBat and SunSon.

Direct photovoltaic energy storage systems in thermophotovoltaic plants, or integrating electrical storage and co-generation in homes and districts are just some of the potential applications of the devices resulting from project Amadeus, which has funding from Future Emnerging Technologies (FET), of the European Commission’s 2020 Horizon program.
 

 

“Our technology is based in a hypothesis: there is surplus from renewable energies, but it is going to naturally occur in moments with low demand. The key is to find a storage system that is cheap”, explains Datas.

 “For certain applications, cost-efficiency is more important than efficiency”, explains the researcher. “We focus on heat, which is one of the most cost-efficient ways of storing energy. More specifically, we will store heat in silicon-based alloys, able to store large amounts of energy”, he explained. 

Silicon is one of the most readily available materials in the Earth crust, it’s cheap, and high in energy density. Quartz is rich in silicon, and the material’s melting point is over 1,400 degrees Celsius, so it is incandescent when stored and then turns that energy into electricity. It can absorb surplus energy and then return it, using the energy that was stored first. 
 

 

Datas’ group is currently developing a prototype for a thermophotovoltaic battery. Project Amadeus drew the first steps using more basic concepts, and thanks to the success in this first stage, they received financing for project TermoBat, to develop a first prototype with real-world applications. Termophoton was the company in charge of bringing the lab technology into the market.

“We’ve also obtained new European funding for a project starting in December aimed at developing a solar energy storage system. To that end, we will use concentrated solar energy to melt silicon”, Alejandro said.

This new storage system could potentially replace lithium batteries, which have a major downside in environmental impact and with their production being mostly concentrated in two or three countries. Price fluctuations are also heavily dependent on producer countries. Also, the storage capacity of lithium batteries is very short.

 

 

“Our energy storage systems are long-duration and cheap. We aim for under €20/kWh prices, and lithium batteries now stand at €200 to €300/kWh. Our batteries have a 10-100 hour storage capacity, while lithium batteries’ is barely over four hours”, says Alejandro.

"Our batteries need to be big enough to be profitable, at least over 1 MWh for large buildings. Our system is hybrid, so it provides both electricity and heat. What it doesn’t give off in electricity, it does in the form of heat, with a 40% efficiency. The other application consists of network management, a photovoltaic system can integrate it into a plant for better management on when to sell energy to other sub-stations at a network-wide scale."

“Project SunSon will test out our technology at the Plataforma Solar de Almería (PSA). This Ciemat-owned photovoltaic facility is a major industry lab, probably the largest solar concentration lab in Europe”, the researcher says.

  • Photovoltaic
  • Batteries

The crypto winter unleashed in recent months has caused the values of most cryptocurrencies to fall. Credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer / Flickr

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Crypto winter or a dying asset?

The unprecedented collapse of cryptocurrencies has been compared to the dotcom crash of the 2000s. Although some experts predict a crypto winter that could end with the extinction of these assets, there are others who plan to invest in the sector as a long-term strategy.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

While there was a time when the sky was the limit in the cryptocurrency market, in recent months it has experienced an unprecedented slump. While some are calling this a crypto-winter and believe there is no going back, one of the world's largest investment banks is planning to spend tens of millions of dollars on the sectorBut has the cryptocurrency bubble burst for good or is there still a glimmer of hope?

 

From crypto winter to 'bloodbath'

 

2022 was a difficult year in the cryptocurrency sector. The price of Bitcoin fell by more than 60%, while the overall cryptocurrency market capitalisation lost a value of $1.63 trillion. The collapse of the FTX exchange, Sam Bankman-Fried's cryptocurrency empire, has caused headaches for several companies. This is because such companies tend to be closely intertwined: as well as investing in one another, they also buy tokens from each other and lend capital to each other.

There are signs that a significant number of retail investors have become discouraged to the point of abandoning cryptocurrencies altogether, Bitfinex analysts tell Reuters. "This is not the winter season anymore, this is a bloodbath, because the FTX crisis was like a domino that toppled so many companies," says Linda Obi, a crypto investor who works at blockchain firm Zenith Chain.

 

Cryptocurrency buying and selling platform FTX filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2022. Credit: Wall Street Journal

 

A long-term opportunity?

 

Despite the collapse of cryptocurrencies, big banks such as Goldman Sachs have seen an opportunity to buy or invest in companies in this sector. Mathew McDermott, head of digital assets at Goldman Sachs, told Reuters that the FTX implosion has increased the need for regulated and more reliable cryptocurrency players. "We see some really interesting opportunities, priced much more sensibly," he said.

The bank's chief executive, David Solomon, told CNBC that while he sees cryptocurrencies as "highly speculative," he sees a lot of potential in the underlying technology as its infrastructure becomes more formalised. What happened to FTX, according to Solomon, "is only going to accelerate the focus on making sure we have a prudent regulatory structure for all of these activities." Mark Bruce, chief executive of Britannia Financial Group, believes that "customers have lost trust in some of the younger businesses in the sector that purely do crypto, and are looking for more trusted counterparties."

Some banks, on the other hand, are more sceptical. HSBC CEO Noel Quinn told a banking conference in London a few weeks ago that he had no intention of expanding into cryptocurrency trading. And in early December, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said: "I don't think it's a fad or going away, but I can't put an intrinsic value on it."

 

The collapse of the cryptocurrency sector may have a global impact. Credit: CBS News

 

The long-awaited end of crypto winter

 

As we wait to see if the collapse of FTX and the meltdown of the crypto world spurs more regulation, there are those who speak of a crypto winter or even a possible crypto extinction. For Peter Schiff, CEO and chief global strategist at Euro Pacific Capital, this is not a crypto winter because that implies that "spring is coming." "This is also not a crypto ice age, as even that came to an end after a couple of million years. This is crypto extinction," he warned on Twitter.

There is no doubt that 2022 has been a rough year for these assets, but it is still too early to say with certainty whether the situation will improve. Past experience indicates that the average crypto winter lasts about four years. While it is currently not possible to predict when this crypto winter will end—or if it will end at all—a four-year winter would mean that cryptocurrencies might not recover until 2026. In recent years, various retail investors, venture capital funds and even public companies have invested in these assets. While some experts are pushing the idea of crypto extinction, there are those who believe that this sector has probably become too important a part of mainstream financial markets not to recover.

 

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Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation.

  • Finanzas

Tech giants like Amazon have announced massive layoffs in recent months. Credit: Amazon

  • Tungsteno

The contagion of mass layoffs among tech giants

Thousands of tech workers have lost their jobs at companies such as Meta, Twitter, Google and Amazon. While some experts blame the massive layoffs on the previous high number of hirings and the economic recession, others argue that it is an indication that companies are copying each other without thinking through the consequences.

Meta announced in November 2022 the historic layoff of some 11,000 employees—13% of its workforce. That same month Twitter did the same with some 3,700 workers, and in early January 2023, Amazon said it planned to slash more than 18,000 jobsNumerous tech giants such as Netflix, Alphabet and Microsoft have put a freeze on hiring and made massive layoffs in recent months. We analyse this complex situation and its impact on both companies and their employees.

 

Layoffs spill over from one company to another

 

In 2022, hiring at technology companies in many countries slowed down compared to 2021 and layoffs skyrocketed. In the US alone, more than 91,000 workers in the tech sector were laid off in 2022, according to a tally by Crunchbase"The layoffs that are happening seem to be, not in all cases, but in some cases, corrections to that excess behaviour which has occurred over the last couple of years while money has been cheap and easy," Richard Mabey, CEO of contract automation platform Juro, tells Business Insider. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, has conceded that he was wrong to assume that business growth would continue at the pace achieved during the pandemic, when the tech giants' earnings went through the roof.

While some experts blame the layoffs on the large number of hirings in recent years and uncertainty in the face of the economic downturn, others believe there are other reasons. One such expert is Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, who says: "Could there be a tech recession? Yes. Was there a bubble in valuations? Absolutely. Did Meta over-hire? Probably. But is that why they are laying people off? Of course not. Meta has plenty of money. These companies are all making money."

According to the expert, the massive downsizing is mainly the result of "social contagion". "Layoffs are the result of imitative behaviour and are not particularly evidence-based," he says. There are some examples of past mass layoffs. After the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, according to Pfeffer, every airline did layoffs except Southwest. By the end of that year, Southwest "gained market share."

 

Large hiring efforts in recent years and the economic downturn have led to massive layoffs. Credit: Wall Street Journal.

 

Reputational damage, stress and other consequences

 

With this move, investment in future technology is being cut. Mabey believes that eliminating equipment can lead to slow growth in certain areas, which would negatively affect future earnings. "Short-term cash savings, medium-term pain," he says. Pfeffer agrees that layoffs can be counterproductive: "Layoffs do not solve the underlying problem, which is often an ineffective strategy, a loss of market share, or too little revenue. Layoffs are basically a bad decision."

Moreover, by doing so, companies are sending a message that has an impact on their image and reputation: "Employees and people looking for jobs remember how organisations acted during the economic downturn," Danny Allan, chief technology officer at software firm Veeam, tells Business Insider. Mabey agrees that when a company makes a major cut in its workforce it is sending a message to its employees, who "have long memories": "We care more about money than we care about you."

The stress created by layoffs has a devastating effect on employee health and substantially increases mortality and morbidity, says Pfeffer. Research indicates that involuntary job loss is associated with an increased likelihood of suicide and attempted suicide.

 

The stress created by layoffs has a devastating effect on employee health. Credit: NBC News

 

Alternative solutions to avoid layoffs

 

But if layoffs sometimes don't work, what would be the best solution for these companies? Pfeffer gives the example of Lincoln Electric, a well-known manufacturer of arc welding equipment, which, instead of laying off 10% of its workforce, made everyone take a 10% pay cut, except for senior management, who took a larger cut. "So instead of giving 100% of the pain to 10% of the people, they gave 100% of the people 10% of the pain," he says.

We will have to wait a few months to see the consequences of these massive layoffs play out. For the time being, Pfeffer does not rule out that they will spread to other sectors. In fact, he says, it is already happening: "Retailers are pre-emptively laying off staff, even as final demand remains uncertain." In the event that layoffs are unavoidable, the best course of action for the company would be to help employees as much as possible and to be honest, says Allan: "Giving your employees confidence and clarity about what the future holds for you as a company is probably the best thing they can do during challenging economic times."

 

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Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation.

  • Innovation and technology
  • New technologies
  • Engineering

AI applied to earthworks 

Terraplan optimizes deadlines and costs and minimized the environmental and social impact in the first project stages thanks to better equipment planning and scheduling.

In construction planning, especially in linear projects (roads and railways), earthworks are a complex process that involves many variables affecting the final result.

To facilitate these tasks and help in early decision making, we have launched the Terraplan project.

Planning the removal and placement of earth, especially in difficult-to-access areas is a task that site managers spend a lot of time on. 

They have to find the balance between material removal, paving, type of terrain, environmental conditions, accessibility, social constraints... A puzzle that Terraplan tries to provide an efficient response to by facilitating the planning of operations and machinery for the teams involved. This way, they can focus more on the analysis of performance and execution of the work.

"With Terraplan we can optimize the deadlines and costs of the work and minimize the environmental and social impact of earthworks," explains Íñigo del Rey, head of business applications at Sacyr Ingeniería e Infraestructuras

"It's a project that the planning, topography and machinery departments have been working on for a year and a half, after an initial analysis with the company's earth production experts. Through different artificial intelligence algorithms, we created a web tool that will be accessible by the production teams to plan and track their work and machinery," he explains.

 

 

The use of Terraplan will have an impact on all types of works, but especially on our road and rail concessions, which will optimize deadlines and costs.

"We are currently testing it internally; we expect it to be operational in three months. It is a proprietary software based on the knowledge of Sacyr's experts that uses AI with optimization algorithms. It is fed with data from layout programs, especially Istram, which is generally used in topography to carry out site measurements," explains Íñigo del Rey.

 

 

The software is similar to DamTetris, a program created in-house at Sacyr to sequence concrete placement in large dam projects that optimized planning and resources. 

Thanks to Terraplan, we will be able to submit more optimized bids for tenders, with a reduction in the uncertainty inherent in economic proposals.

  • Earth
  • Infraestructures
  • Roads
  • Railway
  • Services

Digitization on railroad vegetation management

We’ve automated tasks on the field and generated alerts to optimize daily tasks using an AI-based program.

Vegetation growth on railroads can cause fires or damage the infrastructure, which has motivated our setting in motion a new project to digitize activities and automate field work on the rail facilities included in the ADIF contract awarded to Valoriza, in a joint venture with Servicios Industriales y Transportes.

Vegetation management via this system will be done on conventional railroad lines and on the meter-gauge rail network in Southern Spain, more specifically in 11 provinces: Almería, Badajoz, Cáceres, Cádiz, Ciudad Real, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Sevilla. 

The aim of railroad vegetation management is to keep railways and platform areas and transition zones clear of vegetation.

 

 

This way, we can obtain information about the activities performed in real time by the different teams working on vegetation management to achieve a completely digital workflow. 

This platform, based on GIS (Geographic Information System) technology brings new functions and advantages to the table. 

Field work automation and real-time report digitization helps achieve the full working digital cycle and automated certifications. 

These tools allow to analyze and view the data efficiently, with precise and up-to-date data, and detect any anomalies in the tasks performed, activities or teams. 

The platform also uses artificial intelligence algorithms to identify data patterns and trends and can create alerts for more agile decision-making.

Reports can be filled in, reviewed, and sent from any mobile device, reducing working times, mistakes, and costs associated to manual work and paperwork. 

Automated works can be certified, ensuring the quality and integrity of the data. 

 

 

Sustainable Development Goals


Sacyr’s commitment to sustainability and innovation is the core foundation of this Valoriza contract that contributes to the fulfilment of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9, which includes the development of dependable, sustainable, resilient, and quality infrastructure.

 

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Railway
  • Railway infrastructures

Big Ben has become a symbol of London, as well as the setting for numerous films. Credit: UK Parliament

  • Tungsteno

The secrets of the world's most iconic clock

The enormous dials of the Great Clock of Westminster housed in Big Ben are seven metres in diameter. Each hour hand measures 2.7 metres, while the minute hand is 4.5 metres long. Let’s look at how this iconic London megastructure was erected and the challenges it faces today.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

The tower of Big Ben (officially renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012) is about the same height as 21 London double-decker buses stacked one on top of the other—some 96 metres—and houses the most famous clock on the planet. As well as being the setting for films and series such as Peter PanFriendsThe Parent Trap and Minions, it has become one of the most characteristic symbols of London. As we enter the new year, we take a look at the construction and maintenance of this iconic clock, whose tower has begun to lean like the Tower of Pisa.

Two years to build the clock mechanism

An accidental fire in 1834 destroyed most of the old Palace of Westminster, which housed the British Parliament; only a few parts of the structure survivedThe new design, devised by architect Charles Barry, retained these surviving medieval parts and included two towers. According to the website of the UK parliament: "The clock tower on Barry’s original proposal was not the 96-meter tall iconic building we know and love today." The young Gothic Revival architect Augustus Welby Pugin collaborated with Barry on the design and decorative elements of the New Palace of Westminster, and through his influence the clock tower gained in size and importance.

Constructing a clock of such magnitude was a great challenge. It took two years to complete its mechanism and cost £2,500 (the equivalent of about £285,000 today). The clock successfully began to tell the time in May 1859. To ensure that it worked perfectly, a telegraph cable was used to send the time on the chronometers at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich—the most accurate in the country—to the New Palace of Westminster.

The clock mechanism is regularly tested to ensure it works perfectly. Credit: UK Parliament

Big Ben as a symbol of freedom

The five bells of this iconic clock are struck by hammers from the outside. The largest bell, which is called Big Ben, weighs 13.7 tonnes. Its chimes, which can be heard more than eight kilometres away, have been silenced on rare occasions; for example, for maintenance work and in 1916 to protect the city from attacking German Zeppelins.

More than two decades later, during the Second World War, the bells played a different role. "The bells of the clock tower have been broadcast on the radio since New Year’s Eve 1923 and they became a symbol of freedom throughout the Second World War, raising the morale of people at home and of those fighting overseas," says the UK Parliament.

As the gigantic structure was too easily recognisable in the London sky, in 1939 the clock's lights were switched off until the end of the war in 1945. This did not prevent the Palace of Westminster from being hit by bombs 14 times. But it was not until decades later that it was discovered that the damage had been more severe than previously thought: "Modern surveying technology revealed fractures and structural damage which was not detectable by the methods available in the 1940s and 1950s."

The Palace of Westminster was hit by bombs during World War II. Credit: UK Parliament

Big Ben tower mimics that of Pisa

On top of all this damage, London's legendary clock tower has begun to lean like the Tower of Pisa"I have heard tourists there taking photographs saying: ‘I don’t think it is quite vertical’ - and they are quite right," John Burland, emeritus professor at Imperial College London, tells the BBC. In theory, the tower is slowly sinking because of underground work that has been carried out in the area over the past few decades—on underground lines, car parks and the sewers.

The tilt accelerated between 2003 and 2011, increasing to 0.9 millimetres a year, compared to the long-term average rate of 0.65 millimetres a year, according to a report commissioned by the London Underground and the Parliamentary Estates Department. Burland told Reuters that if the process were to accelerate further, "we would have to look at doing something, but I don't think we need to do anything for a few years yet." At the current rate, engineers say, it would take 4,000 years to reach a tilt as exaggerated as the Tower of Pisa.

London's legendary clock tower has begun to lean like the Tower of Pisa. Credit: Pexels

While waiting to see how the tower's leaning progresses, a variety of maintenance projects have been carried out over in recent decades. Between 2017 and 2022, the Great Clock underwent "the most intensive conservation in its history," according to the UK Parliament. The Victorian mechanism of the clock was successfully reinstalled, the bells were tested and energy-saving LED lighting was fitted to the clock faces. During this conservation work, visits to its iconic clock tower have been paused. The UK Parliament, which expects to welcome visitors again in spring 2023, says: "Big Ben is coming back."

 

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Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation

  • Historic building

Scientists in Antarctica are housed in research bases that in recent years have become more efficient and aesthetically pleasing. Credit: Hugh Broughton Architects

  • Tungsteno

The challenge of building in Antarctica drives architectural innovation

In the 20th century, architects designing structures for Antarctica sought only to shelter scientists from the cold. Nowadays, they are pursuing another ambitious goal: to bring aesthetics and energy efficiency to the coldest, driest and windiest continent with the highest average altitude on the planet.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

Winter temperatures in Antarctica are low enough to freeze water all the time, according to NASA. This ice-covered continent "is too cold for people to live there for a long time." While the aim in the 20th century was to build practical bases that could house scientists, today architects are also prioritising other objectives that take this discipline into unprecedented territory.

 

Scientific bases in the planet’s coldest corner

 

The Antarctic Treaty, signed in Washington on 1 December 1959, set aside this continent for scientific research. Scientists take turns visiting and conducting research to, for example, better understand climate change, ozone depletion and sea level rise"The Antarctic region is a matchless 'natural laboratory' for vital scientific research that is important in its own right and impossible to achieve elsewhere on the planet," says the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

Scientists are housed in research bases that are prepared for the extreme cold and have become more efficient and aesthetically pleasing in recent years. "As architects, we are concerned with human comfort, so we set out to create a kind of atmosphere that would promote well-being," Emerson Vidigal, a principal at Estudio 41, the Brazilian architecture firm that designed the Comandante Ferraz Research Station, told The New York Times.

 

Some architects prioritise aesthetics and energy efficiency in state-of-the-art scientific research stations. Credit: Estudio 41.

 

Increasingly aesthetic and sustainable buildings

 

Brazil's Comandante Ferraz Research Station was praised by The New York Times as something that "could be mistaken for an art museum or a boutique hotel." It was designed by the architects of Estudio 41, after its predecessor was destroyed in 2012 after an explosion in the machine room ignited a fire. Its creators claim that in certain places on the planet, "thinking about a building is almost like constructing a garment, an artefact that protects and comforts."

"This is a problem of technological performance, but one that must be combined with aesthetics," they say. The structure is made up of several blocks: an upper one that houses the cabins and the dining/living area, a lower one that includes laboratories and areas for operation and maintenance, and a transverse block that houses a video room/auditorium, a meeting/videoconferencing room, a library and a lounge. The station also has photovoltaic panels and wind turbines.

Some Antarctic structures have also been given an attractive design and a futuristic feel. The Halley VI British Antarctic Research Station is mounted on giant steel skis and hydraulically powered legs that allow the station to "climb" and rise above the snow each year and to be moved. It consists of several blue modules that house sleeping quarters, laboratories, office areas and energy centres inside. A larger, two-storey red module is, in the words of its designers, the social heart of the station and is used for living, dining and entertainment. "Inspiring interior design provides an uplifting environment to sustain the crew through the long, dark winters, helping to combat the debilitating influence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons)," says Hugh Broughton Architects, the design firm.

 

The red module at the Halley VI Research Station is intended for dining and entertaining. Credit: Hugh Broughton Architects

 

While some architects design new structures, others work to modernise existing ones. An example of this is McMurdo Station, operated by the United States and the largest in Antarctica, which began in 1956 as a temporary naval base and has grown in an ad hoc manner to encompass more than 100 buildings. The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science (AIMS) project aims to improve energy efficiency and reduce operation and maintenance costs at McMurdo Station. This is vitally important, according to Alexandra Isern, head of Antarctic sciences at the National Science Foundation, because "the more we spend to keep the building going, the fewer resources we have to get researchers out in the field."

 

The challenges of building in Antarctica

 

To construct these types of bases, there are a number of challenges to overcome. Christopher Robert Lloyd, a site supervisor for the Danish architecture and engineering firm Ramboll and currently working on a new Antarctic scientific support facility at the British-operated Rothera Research Station, explains that "there’s really no such thing as a ‘standard’ polar laboratory to copy from, and the building must incorporate an aircraft control tower, a snowplough and skidoo garage, and facilities to make fresh water and electricity for the entire station. There aren’t many buildings in the world that can do that, or anything similar."

Furthermore, the station has to be completely self-sufficient and able to adapt to any need: "A field workshop may have to double as a dining room one year or, if the worst comes to the worst, a field hospital in another," says Lloyd. In addition, it is not easy to build in Antarctica using materials found in the environment. In a place with no trees or bushes there is no wood, so almost all bases are built using prefabricated elements that are assembled on site.

 

The scientific bases are mainly built with prefabricated elements and aim to be self-sufficient. Credit: Estudio 41

 

Architects have sought to overcome all these challenges and build in a unique environment. Bert Buecking, a partner at bof architekten, tells The New York Times that a radical change in the approach to these projects came about relatively quickly. "When the UK built Halley VI, many nations realised the importance of doing something special, and not just doing something," he concludes.

 

· — —
Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation. Devised by Materia Publicaciones Científicas for Sacyr’s blog.

  • Architecture
  • Services

We're involved in the development of a universal traffic system with connected operators

Sacyr Maintenance is part of the DGT 3.0 project, a platform involving several actors of the traffic and mobility ecosystem. 

Sacyr is part of this pilot project with case study 12 “Connected operators and smart traffic cones”. It is about capturing information for the real-time protection of the people working on road conservation in the field.

“The idea is that the different actors working on road maintenance have a universal language to communicate with the DGT 3.0 management platform; so that any application can connect with the road and collect information of interest," explains Jorge Zarzuelo,  head of innovation, procurement and machinery park of Sacyr Maintenance.

As for our project, it is planned that the smart traffic cone will have a device that, when activated, uploads its position to this platform to warn that work is being done on that road.

These devices can also be connected to navigation systems to report incidents on the road, emergency or tow truck services, etc. It is a step forward in terms of infrastructure communications with the user, with the regulatory body, a logical step, on the other hand, with the arrival of connected or autonomous vehicles.

"We have yet to decide on the final solution for the smart traffic cone to locate the device, but we are close", Zarzuelo explains.

 

 

In addition, Sacyr is collecting information on other case studies, for example, the sensors that the operators will wear to connect with the DGT, traction control of cars; use of fog lights, etc.

“Our goal is to enforce bilateral communication to strengthen the safety of our workers, inform the user, reduce risks, and therefore, make a higher quality service,” emphasizes the expert.

Future car drivers might also have access to it through a mobile app, an open-source technology so that it does not depend on anyone and at the same time be used. 

Although Sacyr Maintenance is involved in this project, it is also planned to see it passed on to Sacyr Concesiones. 

 

 

How DGT 3.0 works


It is an public cloud IoT platform developed by the Spanish traffic authority (DGT) with scalability, availability, security and portability potential, which allows interconnectivity between all the actors involved in the traffic and mobility ecosystem, such as: vehicle and signaling devices manufacturers, public transportation platforms, municipalities, insurers, and application providers related to safe and intelligent mobility and the different road users.

 

 

The objective of this platform is to achieve target 0 deaths, 0 injuries, 0 congestion and 0 emissions, through the use of a technological platform that allows to keep the different road users connected in real time, offering information that allows to create a digital ecosystem of mobility solutions in the urban and interurban environment that improve traffic circulation and congestion and pollution levels.

  • Road maintenance
  • Sacyr conservation

The F-35, in addition to being one of the stealthiest fighters, can reach a speed of Mach 1.6. Credit: Lockheed Martin

  • Tungsteno

The most expensive weapon in history

Stealthy, supersonic and capable of vertical take-off and landing. These are some of the characteristics of one of the stealthiest and most sophisticated fighter planes on the planet. Here we explore how the United States aspires to maintain its dominance of the skies.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

The F-35 is the most expensive weapon in history. The Pentagon's estimated cost to develop and acquire this fighter jet has risen from $398 billion to $412 billion, according to the latest program report from the US Department of Defence. This is more than the GDP of countries such as Egypt and Denmark, according to World Bank data.

 

One of the stealthiest fighters in history

 

This fifth-generation fighter, in addition to being one of the stealthiest fighters in history, can reach a speed of Mach 1.6. Unthinkable a few decades ago, as Tom Burbage, Lockheed's general manager for the program from 2000 to 2013, told The New York Times"If you were to go back to the year 2000 and somebody said, ‘I can build an airplane that is stealthy and has vertical take-off and landing capabilities and can go supersonic,’ most people in the industry would have said that’s impossible."

Its creators boast that the "F-35 has an unmatched ability to evade enemy detection and enter contested airspace." These aircraft are built to fly undetected by radar and heat cameras, an incredible feat of engineering considering that the engine of supersonic aircraft tend to get very hot. In addition to the fact that this aircraft aims to go undetected by enemies, it also has offensive capabilities. In fact, it carries weapons internally in stealth configuration or externally in certain environments, sporting a total of more than 8,000 kilos of offensive weapons.

 

The F-35 has been designed to go undetected by enemy radar. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

 

More than a plane, a computer with wings

 

One standout feature of this beast of the skies is its impressive computing power. This prompted Air Force chief of staff General Dave Goldfein to call it "a computer that happens to fly." Or as Justin "Hasard" Lee, an Air Force F-35 pilot instructor, told Popular Mechanics: "There has never been an aircraft that provides as much situational awareness as the F-35."

F-35s collect and analyse a wealth of information from the battlefield and share it with ground, maritime and air assets. In addition to being able to receive voice commands, they are equipped with an array of advanced sensors. Some of these send high-resolution, real-time images to the pilot's helmet—which costs about $400,000—from six infrared cameras mounted around the aircraft. This allows the pilot to have a 360-degree view and see what is happening outside the aircraft at all times.

 

F-35s can receive voice commands and are equipped with an array of advanced sensors. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

 

From vertical landing to aircraft carrier operations

 

There are three variants of the F-35 that are very similar to each other. All are single-seat fighters and differ from each other mainly in the way they take off and land. The F-35A is designed to operate from conventional runways and is the most common variant, used by both the US Air Force and the majority of its international allied customers. "The [F-35A] would allow for migration by US forces to an almost all-stealth fighter force by 2025," Edward Aldridge, former Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, tells Popular Mechanics.

The second variant, the F-35B, can land vertically like a helicopter and take off over very short distances, allowing it to operate from more limited bases. Thanks to the power generated by this aircraft's engine, a swivelling jet pipe capable of rotating 95 degrees in 2.5 seconds redirects its thrust downwards, while lift fans beneath the cockpit and wings work together to produce powerful vertical thrust. Finally, the F-35C has been designed for aircraft carrier operations.

 

The F-35B can take off and land vertically like a helicopter. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

 

Behind all the technologies that make these models unique fighters, there is a colossal investment. In fact, the cost of the F-35 program may rise considerably over the next few years with maintenance. The Government Accountability Office warns that their operating costs could become unaffordable within 15 years. By 2036, the Pentagon could be spending an additional $6 billion a year more than it originally planned to maintain the fleet.

Despite its monumental cost, more and more powers are turning to the F-35 to replace their increasingly obsolete fleet of tanks and rapidly ageing fighters. The unstoppable trend of buying this type of aircraft to renew military arsenals is based on its potential to replace a number of different weapons and aircraft. The F-35 aspires to do almost everything a military could wish for and thus become the most versatile and advanced fighter aircraft of any that will be built in the coming decades.

 

· — —
Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation. Devised by Materia Publicaciones Científicas for Sacyr’s blog.

  • Planes
  • Water

Drones autónomos que viajan por colectores y tuberías para crear gemelos digitales

Sacyr Agua está empleando una herramienta realmente novedosa para inspeccionar colectores de saneamiento de aguas residuales.

Los colectores de saneamiento de aguas residuales son de difícil acceso por el peligro que suponen para los operadores durante los trabajos de inspección.

Por ello, hasta ahora, utilizaban robots con cables de hasta 200 metros para revisar parte de estos túneles subterráneos, pero esta corta distancia no era suficiente para inspeccionar el estado de todo el colector, dejando grandes zonas fuera del alcance del área de actuación. 

Sacyr Agua ha inspeccionado 4.895 metros del emisario principal de Vitoria-Gasteiz a petición y/o promoción de AMVISA, dentro del servicio de mantenimiento de la red de saneamiento que presta en la capital alavesa con un dron autónomo, de la empresa Hovering Solutions. Desde la ejecución de esta red de saneamiento, a finales de los años 80, nunca se había inspeccionado. 

 

Ventajas

 

Las principales ventajas de esta herramienta son la geolocalización de cada imagen, la medición de los elementos fotografiados, la generación de una nube masiva de puntos con los que poder “renderizar” la forma del conducto, la reducción de los puntos de acceso de los colectores, entre otros.

En 2021, Sacyr Agua empezó a colaborar con Hovering Solutions, una empresa que ha desarrollado pequeños drones o robots aéreos que vuelan por entornos subterráneos como estos colectores, tuberías, túneles, minas subterráneas, etc.

Vuelan de forma autónoma varios kilómetros y no requieren de piloto ni señal GPS. El dron navega y explora los colectores de un punto A a un punto B, según programación, capturando datos.

El dron captura imágenes panorámicas, y cuenta con geolocalización referenciada, va añadiendo esa información a cada imagen capturada y a la vez, va realizando un mapeo 3D por láser del colector.

Como resultado, el sistema genera un gemelo digital del entorno subterráneo en tres dimensiones. El modelo 3D te permite conocer por donde transcurre la traza del colector en coordenadas absolutas (latitud y longitud)  así como el área y forma de la sección en cada punto.

“La información que recoge este robot es muy útil para nuestro día a día, porque de un vuelo de cinco minutos se obtienen gigas de información (imágenes georreferencias y forma del colector por la nube de puntos) de la que podemos identificar los puntos de especial atención para hacer un seguimiento” explica Alberto Diaz Gutierrez, delegado de la zona norte de Sacyr Agua.


Ayuda en la detección de la reparación de colectores


Los colectores están construidos generalmente con hormigón, y se suelen degradar a partir de los 20 o 30 años. Las inspecciones suelen hacerse más o menos cada tres años. De esa manera, con este nuevo sistema, se puede “atacar” con precisión si se encuentran calcificaciones o si hay que hacer alguna reparación, por lo tanto, se cuenta con más seguridad para acometer las reparaciones. 

“Este pequeño dron, de unos 47 centímetros, vuela en tuberías de más de 1,2 metros de diámetro, si no, habría riesgo de colisión. Siempre guarda un mínimo espacio de seguridad”, explica Alberto. En 2023 la tecnología de Hovering Solutions también podrá realizar vuelos autónomos en conducciones de 900 mm gracias a la miniaturización de los robots.

“Trabajar con Sacyr nos ayuda a dar a conocer esta nueva tecnología que hace cinco años ni siquiera existía. La estamos introduciendo de forma satisfactoria a los contratistas principales, a diferentes clientes y entidades públicas como el Canal de Isabel II, El Consorcio de Aguas de Bilbao o AMVISA, para su utilización durante las tareas de inspección y digitalización subterránea”, explica Fran Espada, CEO y fundador de Hovering Solutions.

Hovering Solutions se creó en 2016, en Londres (UK), y 2017 en Madrid (España), con capital español. “Nosotros desarrollamos tanto el hardware (la electrónica y chasis del dron) como los algoritmos de navegación que permiten navegar de forma autónoma a través de los colectores subterráneos. Navegan sin piloto, sin luz y sin GPS.

Somos solo tres empresas en el mundo ofreciendo este tipo de tecnología comercialmente, y de ellas la única europea es Hovering. Hasta la fecha, hemos realizado centenas de vuelos subterráneos autónomos, y hemos cubierto una distancia máxima de 7 km en un solo vuelo, lo que supone un hito en el sector.”, explica Fran Espada.

  • Drones
  • Sacyr Agua

Metals and minerals found in nature are key to making mobiles and other devices. Credit: Unsplash.

  • Tungsteno

Four key chemical elements hidden in tech devices

Minerals, as well as being important for fertile soils and growing food, are essential for our modern technological society. We mine minerals from the earth and extract chemical elements that we use to make all kinds of tech devices, from mobile phones and computers to medical devices, electric vehicles and solar panels.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

While copper is essential for making mobile phones, lithium is used for electric car batteries, boron for microprocessors and tungsten for turbine propellers. Some devices would not exist (at least as we know them today) without these materials. We investigate which chemical elements are key to making the most promising devices and technologies on the planet.

"I think most people do not have any idea of the range and scale of metals and minerals that are used to make electronics," says Richard Herrington, Head of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London. He is referring to all those elements that are used to make everything from computers to mobile phones, vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels. That "technology that we didn't have 15 or 20 years ago that we now take for granted."

Copper

More than 30 different minerals are used to make a mobile phone, for example. "The content of copper in a mobile device far exceeds the amount of any other metal," says the US Geological Survey. This element, used for millennia to make primitive tools, comes from the mineral source chalcopyrite, although it can also be found in other minerals such as bornite and chalcocite. Its high electrical and thermal conductivity makes it ideal for the electrical wiring of many other devices such as hydroelectric turbines. Currently, Chile, Peru and China are the largest producers of copper.

 

Copper is a reddish metal noted for its high electrical and thermal conductivity. Credit: Pxhere

 

Lithium

 

"Lithium ion batteries power almost all electric vehicles available, as well as most personal electronic devices," notes Geoscience AustraliaThis element, in addition to marking a breakthrough in electric mobility, is used to store energy generated from solar and wind technologies. Sourced mainly from Chile and Argentina, it can be extracted from lithium chloride salts found in brine pools, as reported by the Geological Society of London. As the amount of lithium available in nature is limited, manufacturers themselves see a need to recycle it within the context of the emergence and growth of the electric vehicle market.

 

Chile is a major producer of lithium, a key element used to make electric batteries. Credit: Bloomberg Quicktake.

 

Boron

 

From microprocessors to the camera chips in mobile phones and the coatings used to protect their touchscreens, these are just a few examples of the many devices whose manufacture requires borax, a mixture of boron-containing minerals. This chemical element is also used in semiconductor devices such as integrated circuits and capacitors. Among its qualities, it helps to form layers on metal that protect devices against corrosion and provides structural support and insulation. Turkey and the United States are the largest global producers of boron.

 

Boron is a chemical element useful for making the microprocessors and chips in mobile phone cameras. Credit: James L Marshall / Wikimedia Commons

 

Tungsten

 

Tungsten, another key element in some technological devices, is twice as dense as steel and four times harder than titanium. Together with cobalt and neodymium, it makes our phones vibrate. "All three elements are used in the small but heavy mass that is spun by a motor inside our phones in order to create vibrations," explains Hywel Jones, a materials researcher at Sheffield Hallam University, in The Conversation. As well as being used in the manufacture of high-performance steels, combined with carbon it "creates an extremely hard ceramic for cutting tools used in the machining of metal components in the aerospace, defence and automotive industries." The alloys of this element, which comes mainly from China, are good conductors of electricity and are also used in X-ray tubes and turbine propellers.

 

 

Tungsten is present in mobile phones, X-ray tubes and turbine propellers. Credit: Alchemist-hp / Wikimedia Commons.

 

"It is really important that we all understand where the raw materials come from, that metals and minerals are in the Earth where nature puts them. They don't come from a factory," says Herrington. Knowing where these and other resources originate, he says, can help people to appreciate their value. This is important as we become increasingly dependent on them. "These metals create brilliant colours on our smartphone screens, powerful batteries in our hybrids and more energy-efficient air-conditioners." So says David Abraham, author of the book The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age, according to which the use of gold, copper and rare metals has increased 27-fold in the past 100 years.

This growth in demand highlights the importance of building a circular economy that minimises or eliminates waste from all these devices, says Herrington. More than 50 million tonnes of e-waste is discarded every year, according to the United Nations"Rather than creating things like mobile phones, using them for a while and putting them in a drawer when we buy a new one, we have an obligation not to lose track of where those precious materials are, and to ensure we are making products in forms that can be readily recycled," he concludes.

 

· — —
Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation. Devised by Materia Publicaciones Científicas for Sacyr’s blog.

  • Materials
  • Lithium
  • Infrastructures

We create concrete with steel from end-of-life tires 

Advantages include, cutting CO2, saving water, reducing the contamination of asphalt, and helping to preserve forests. In addition, each dose achieves better fiber distribution thanks to their smaller diameter and length.

Sacyr Engineering and Infrastructure, together with Sacyr Green, and in collaboration with Flexofibers, have established a strategic positioning, with new concrete reinforcing fibers that replace traditional methods of reinforcement, made out of end-of-life tires (ELTs). Their first application has been to a slope on the exterior of the Zumelegi tunnel in Elorrio (Biscay). 

These innovative fibers play a key role in achieving circularity, applying disruptive technology to their extraction from tires, and in particular their cleaning, conditioning, and sorting.

The processes used maintain their most special properties, like flexible steel, with a tensile strength of 2,500 mega pascals, and they are 100% recyclable.

The concrete created using these fibers is certified by the Instituto de Ciencias de la Construcción Torroja to promote the development of the circular economy.


 

 

Studies involved a series of tests to gauge the compression behavior of the new steel-fiber concrete and check its level of energy absorption. In total, eight measuring cylinders were tested, four for each type. As for the results after 28 days of tensile strength tests, an average of 37 MPa was reached .

These types of fibers are similar to those that appear in polymers, with the advantage of steel and tire recycling. 
Other advantages include, for example, cutting CO2, saving water, reducing the contamination of asphalt, and helping to preserve forests. In addition, each dose achieves better fiber distribution thanks to their smaller diameter and length.

In conclusion, Sacyr Ingeniería e Infraestructuras, with the active participation of Cavosa and its Innovation department, together with Sacyr Green and Flexofibers, have delivered fibers made from recycled ELT tires, offering the incredible advantages mentioned before, becoming a potential competitor in terms of fibers used to reinforce concrete.

We are now in the finishing straight, refining the product so it can be applied in any project in the present and future, as we strive to incorporate the circular economy as an essential element of the business. 

  • Engineering
  • Concrete
  • Steel

Russia deployed two dolphin pens to its most important naval base in the Black Sea in February. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

  • Tungsteno

Spy dolphins and other animals recruited in wars and emergencies

During the First World War, anyone caught 'killing, injuring or molesting' a pigeon could be imprisoned or fined. The work of carrier pigeons and other animals such as dolphins, camels and dogs has been fundamental in military conflicts and other catastrophes.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

Russia has deployed trained dolphins to protect a naval base in the Black Sea during the invasion of Ukraine, according to the United States Naval Institute (USNI). This is not the first time that trained or device-equipped animals have been used during armed conflict. For decades, humans have used marine animals such as whales and seals, and other creatures such as horses, elephants, pigeons and dogs in wars and humanitarian emergencies. We look at the role these animals have played in ensuring security, communications and transport.

 

Dolphins and whales in military training

 

Two pens of dolphins were moved to the base at the Sevastopol harbour—Russia's largest naval base on the Black Sea—in February, the same month that the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, according to a USNI analysis of satellite imagery. "The dolphins may be tasked with counter-diver operations—a traditional role both the U.S. and Russia have trained marine mammals for," the USNI explained. In theory, this could prevent Ukrainian special operations forces from infiltrating the harbour underwater to sabotage warships.

Russia has used dolphins in other conflicts, sometimes as spies with surveillance equipment attached to their bodies. In fact, satellite imagery from 2018 suggests that these animals were used at the naval base at Tartus in Syria during the Syrian war. In addition to dolphins, Russia has in recent years relied on other marine mammals with thicker layers of blubber to keep warm in the Arctic north, such as beluga whales and seals. In fact, in 2019 a beluga whale wearing a Russian harness appeared in northern Norway. The country's intelligence agency believed the animal had probably been part of a Russian research programme, according to the BBC.

 

Fishermen in Norway spotted a beluga whale in 2019 wearing a harness rigged to carry a camera. Credit: Ein Dahmer / Wikimedia Commons.

 

From camels transporting the wounded to carrier pigeons

 

For centuries, humans have also used all kinds of animals in warfare as a means of transport. For example, during the First World War, which took place between 1914 and 1918, combatants on both sides had large cavalry forces mounted on horses and camels, as noted by the Imperial War MuseumWhile horses were faster, camels better withstood the harsh conditions in desert and semi-arid lands. Both animals were also used to transport the wounded. In addition to horse-drawn ambulances, camels were equipped with a kind of stretcher on their sides to carry injured men to safety.

Other animals such as mules, donkeys, oxen and even elephants were used in both World Wars to carry heavy loads and to assist in the construction of roads and railways. After the Second World War, two circus elephants in Hamburg, Germany, named Kiri and Many, were mobilised to help clean up the damage from Allied bombing.

Meanwhile, pigeons and dogs have been trained to carry messages in such conflicts. In fact, carrier pigeons played such a vital role during the First World War that, under British law, anyone who killed or injured one could be imprisoned or fined. Dogs have been particularly useful in locating landmines (as have rats) or other explosive devices. Thanks to their keen sense of smell, dogs are also able to seek out soldiers and civilians in danger or in need of help.

 

A horse-drawn ambulance on the Western Front during the First World War. Credit: Imperial War Museum.

 

Rescue dogs and canaries in coal mines

 

Precisely for this reason, dogs are often of great help in locating survivors in other disasters, such as collapsed buildings or earthquakes. "They can detect live human scent, even if a survivor is buried deep in rubble," says the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The most common breeds for this type of work are Labrador, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Malinois and Border Collie.

Some animals were also used to ensure safety in places such as mines before electronic detectors were available. Miners in the UK used to take canaries down into coal mines to detect possible toxic gases. These animals are more sensitive than humans to carbon monoxide and other poisonous gases. In the 1890s, John Scott Haldane, also known as the “father of oxygen therapy,” suggested that if canaries became ill or died in the mine, that would give miners a warning to evacuate.

Around the same time, in other places such as Colorado (USA), coal miners were keeping an eye on the behaviour of mice, which were quite sensitive to changes in the mines’ air quality. If the rodents appeared lethargic, miners knew there was trouble afoot, according to the Denver Public Library. These animals also had extremely good hearing. When the mice scattered unexpectedly, it could mean that mine beams had broken somewhere in the shaft or that a roof collapse was imminent.

 

The cages were used to transport mice or canaries, which were utilised to detect the presence of poison gas in wars and in coal mines. Credit: Imperial War Museum

 

These are just a few examples of the potential that humans have seen in dolphins, whales, seals, horses, camels, dogs, mice and canaries for transport, communication, surveillance, search and rescue and ensuring safety in potentially dangerous places. Their skills, strength, endurance, sharpness and highly developed senses make these animals a great help in extreme conditions.

 

· — —
Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation. Devised by Materia Publicaciones Científicas for Sacyr’s blog.

  • Infrastructures

We developed a new technology to save on concrete in tunnels

The Innovation area of Sacyr Engineering and Infrastructures, in collaboration with AI-TOP, is developing the project SHOTCRETE, consisting of building a prototype unit fitted with a scanner that allows for greater control on how thick the concrete layer projected onto the tunnel is.

The process of gunning concrete (shotcrete) on tunnel walls (projecting the concrete using a cannon onto the surface) is always imprecise, not only because of the amount of materials required, but because of the thickness required by project specifications.

This way, thanks to a laser, the worker operating the shotcrete robot can pinpoint where the layer is thinner and check whether the shotcrete was applied properly.

“The project arises from the need to control the thickness of the shotcrete projected onto the tunnel walls. Normally, we do it by eye, but we don't have a clear assessment yet, the topography survey must confirm whether we comply with the thickness”, explains Pablo García, Technical director of Cavosa. “We want to know what the state of the tunnel before gunning is, then establish specific shotcrete thickness, mark the areas where the application was thin, etc." says the expert.


 

 

 

First, the starting vault is scanned, then we apply the shotcrete, go over with the scanner again, and thus, the operator obtains information about the result, and checks in real time whether the thickness of shotcrete is right and, whenever we detect any areas with thinner application, we can go over them immediately.

“The idea was to test it on a real tunnel. Normally, gunning shotcrete creates dust, and therefore we need to fit the scanning equipment with a protective case specifically designed for this project. This way, whenever the equipment is not being scanned, it is protected from dust, projections, humidity, etc." says Carmen Martín Granado, project manager and manager of Topography in Spain at Sacyr Engineering and Infrastructures.


 

 

Cavosa has already tested this system on the Zumelegui tunnel, part of the "Construction of the Vitoria – Bilbao – San Sebastián High-Speed rail platform” Project.

“The tests carried out in the Zumelegui tunnel have shown that we also need to adapt the software to the different circumstances that may arise during the project. We are going to improve the software to speed up times and adapt it to other tunnels. The tests are correct, but we want the system to be flexible enough to apply to all types of tunnels", Carmen says.

This system entails considerable cost savings, not only on materials (an estimated improvement of 5%-7% reduction in the volume of concrete projected), but also on time, because if the thickness is not right post topographic survey, we need to reposition the machine and gun again.

 

 

Tunnel breakthrough


This same tunnel has also achieved a new milestone on September 9th, 2022. We made breakthrough in the Elorrio - Elorrio stretch. This section is designed for mixed traffic circulation with a maximum speed limit of 220 km/h for travelers and a minimum of 90 km/h for freighted products.

The tunnel has a total length of 206 m mine, and 279 m including the false tunnels and oblique tunnel mouths, with a single tube double track typology, ballasted section, and a 35 m maximum height.  

  • Engineering

A team of researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis aims to use lifts in high-rise buildings to store energy. Credit: Unsplash

  • Tungsteno

The curious idea of using skyscraper lifts to store energy

Using skyscraper lifts to store energy when there's a surplus and generate it when it's scarce. That's what a team of researchers aims to achieve with a new gravity-based system, details of which have been published in the journal Energy. We analyse the potential and the limitations of this technology.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

There are more than 18 million elevators in operation worldwide, many of which spend a significant amount of time standing still. But what if, when they were not transporting people, they could be used to store or generate electricity? That is the ambitious goal pursued by a team of scientists at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, who have developed a gravity-based system to turn tall buildings into batteries and improve power quality in urban environments.

 

The challenge of storing energy in lifts

 

The planet is undergoing a rapid transformation away from our dependence on fossil fuels. As the United Nations has indicated, renewable energy is key to tackling the climate crisis, and its growth seems unstoppable. By 2026, the International Energy Agency forecasts that global renewable electricity capacity will increase by more than 60%. By that year, this type of energy is expected to account for almost 95% of the rise in global energy capacity. Solar power alone will provide more than half of this increase.

But this transition requires affordable solutions for storing energy. Some scientists and companies are investing in gravitational energy storage, a technology for storing potential energy with solid materials at different heights. A team of researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) have come up with a new concept using lifts and empty flats in skyscrapers to store energy. This solution, dubbed lift energy storage technology (LEST), is based on gravity and involves storing energy by "lifting wet sand containers or other high-density materials, transported remotely in and out of the lift with autonomous trailer devices."

The study's lead author, Julian Hunt, has always been fascinated by topics related to potential energy—the idea of generating power from changes in altitude, such as hydroelectric power, pumped-storage, buoyancy, and gravity energy storage. "The concept of LEST came to me after spending a considerable amount of time going up and down in a lift since I recently moved into a 14th floor flat," he explains.

 

Energy consumption in elevators is typically 2% to 10% of the building's total consumption. Credit: Unsplash

 

Skyscrapers in New York, Dubai and other major cities

 

The strength of this proposal is that it can take advantage of already existing infrastructure. The idea is to use lifts in high-rise buildings to transport weighted containers from lower to upper apartments to store energy, and do the reverse to generate electricity. This system, according to the researchers, "is particularly interesting for providing decentralized ancillary and energy storage services with daily to weekly energy storage cycles."

Buildings consume about 40% of the world's electricity, according to the study. Their demand tends to vary greatly on a daily and weekly basis, and during holiday seasons. Lift energy consumption is typically 2%-10% of total building consumption. During peak hours, they can account for up to 40% of the electricity demand.

"LEST systems are particularly interesting during the night when most lifts are not being used, as the autonomous trailers can continue to fill the lifts with containers to provide ancillary services to the power grid," the researchers explain. The global storage potential for the technology ranges from 30 to 300 GWh and is mainly in metropolitan areas with high-rise buildings in cities such as New York, Chicago, Toronto, Dubai, Doha, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney.

 

World map showing cities with buildings taller than 250 metres. Credit: Hunt et al.

 

The limitations of such an ambitious technology

 

Despite the potential of this system to generate a small but constant amount of energy, it also has some limitations. For a start, there are still some details that need to be worked out before the system can be implemented. In addition, space must be found inside the buildings to store the weights and the study did not take into account the load-bearing capacity of the roof of these structures. That is, the total mass in kilograms per square metre that the roof can support without collapsing. "It is rather unlikely that buildings in the past have been designed with the idea that they might serve as energy storage facilities in the future," the research notes.

In addition, energy planners would have to be convinced of the potential benefits of such a storage system compared to alternatives. Behnam Zakeri, a researcher in the IIASA Integrated Assessment and Climate Change Research Group and co-author of the study, believes that policymakers and electricity system regulators should adopt strategies to incentivise high-rise buildings to share their distributed storage resources, such as LEST, with the central grid.

Power generation will depend on the number of lifts in the buildings under consideration. The technical lifetime of the system, according to the researchers, can vary from 20 to 30 years. It is still too early to tell whether this lift energy storage technology can be massively deployed in high-rise buildings. But Zakeri is clear: "Environmentally friendly and flexible storage technologies like LEST are set to become more and more valuable to society in a future where a large share of its electricity comes from renewables."

 

· — —
Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation. Devised by Materia Publicaciones Científicas for Sacyr’s blog.

  • Energy
  • Lift
  • Building
  • Renewable energy
  • Services

We’ve created a road additive formulated with recycled vegetable oil

Thanks to the Bioroad additive, manufactured asphalt mixes yield better results and specifications than traditional ones, thus promoting the circular economy and environmental protection.

We have created a truly unique additive for asphalt mixes, formulated with recycled vegetable oil and byproducts olive oil processing.

With this additive, the need to use standard petrochemical fossil melting agents is eliminated, as its composition contains 30-50% of recycled vegetable oils and 20-30% of other residues such as olive oil derived amurca. Repurposing of these by-products has been achieved thanks to nanotechnology through the use of graphene.

Thanks to Bioroad, asphalt mixes can be manufactured at lower temperatures, thus reducing energy consumption and the carbon footprint generated by traditional hot manufacturing processeses. These asphalt mixes are manufactured at 120-140 ºC (40 ºC less than the traditional process). 

 

 

 

On the other hand, thanks to Bioroad it is also possible to manufacture what is commonly known as durable asphalt mixes. These are asphalt mixes that once manufactured can be stored either in bulk or in sacks and applied or used up to 5 years post-manufacture.

The additive not only makes the asphalt less polluting, but also provides greater resistance to fatigue and road wear due to the effects of water, temperature and use. As these materials are manufactured at a lower temperature, the aging of the bitumen is slower.

Bioroad was invented by Jorge Coelho, founder of Único Asfaltos, which has merged with Sacyr Green into Sacyr Único, a new Sacyr Green company, which will join CIRTEC in its strategy of developing sustainable products and solutions for the road in the field of the circular economy.

"With Bioroad, producing asphalt mixtures at lower temperatures that allow to be applied on site several months after manufacture is a reality and without sacrificing quality of conventional asphalts", explains Guillermo Rodriguez Marfil, Project Engineer at Sacyr Green.

The asphalts, which are durable post-application, have been measured for their rapid trafficability, fast curing, and macro and microtexture values, and are in accordance with the values required for the continuous granulometry mixes manufactured in the traditional hot method.

 

 

 

Application at AUNOR


Last November 2, concession company AUNOR, with the technical collaboration of CIRTEC, Sacyr and Único Asfalto, applied this asphalt mix on part of junctions in the Concession area.


The section in question was on the Autovía del Noroeste, a P3 company of the autonomous community of the Region of Murcia. This highway is the axis connecting the Northwest Regions with the city of Murcia. The junction between the RM-15 highway and the RM-532 road that connects the highway with the town of Cieza was selected as the section to apply the asphalt mix on.

"Accessways 3 and 4 were selected and half of each was treated with the hot mix asphalt and the other half with the semi-hot asphalt mix manufactured with Bioroad, in order to be able to compare the future performance of both types of mixes," says Juan Carlos Ruiz, head of AUNOR's Operation and Maintenance Department.

"By doing both sections simultaneously, one section with a semi-hot mix and another with a standard mix and monitoring their performances in the coming years will allow us to demonstrate through a real use case study that the quality of semi-hot asphalt mixes exceeds that of hot mixes, opening a new path to sustainability," explains Carlos Rodriguez, director of the Spanish Highways Department of Sacyr Concesiones.

  • Roads
  • Road maintenance

The global energy crisis and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have put nuclear power at the centre of the debate. Credit: Unsplash

  • Tungsteno

The unexpected return of nuclear power

In the midst of a series of global crises—energy, climate and political—many powers have strengthened their commitment to nuclear energy. Although this type of energy aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it suffers from the same old drawbacks: high costs and the need to manage the radioactive waste. Have we learned to control its risks?

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

Throughout history, there have been no end of proposals to dispose of nuclear waste: from catapulting it into space, disposing of it between tectonic plates or burying it deep underground on remote islands. Today it is stored in places like the Hanford Site in Washington State, USA, which is considered the world's largest nuclear graveyard. In its 177 underground waste tanks, there are 200,000 cubic metres of high-level radioactive waste. The energy crisis and the war in Ukraine are prompting an unexpected return to nuclear power around the world. We analyse the pros and cons of nuclear energy and the challenges it poses, for example, in disposing of radioactive waste.

 

A big push for nuclear energy

 

Nuclear power provides about 10% of global electricity generation, according to the International Energy Agency: "It has historically been one of the largest global contributors of carbon-free electricity and while facing significant challenges in some countries, it has significant potential to contribute to power sector decarbonisation." The organisation stresses that nuclear power has avoided about 55 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions over the past 50 years, "nearly equivalent to two years of global energy-related CO2 emissions."

In recent months, several countries have strengthened their commitment to nuclear energy. From 1 January 2023, investing in certain nuclear power plants will be considered "sustainable" by the EU. Their main argument for this change is that it emits virtually no greenhouse gases. For a nuclear power plant to be considered "sustainable", one of the requirements is that the country where it is installed must have final repositories for low and intermediate level radioactive waste already in operation and detailed plans to open a disposal facility for high-level waste by 2050.

The German government, meanwhile, has announced that it will keep its last three nuclear plants in operation, a reversal of a popular nuclear phase-out policy that began after the Fukushima accidentThe move, prompted by the escalating economic war with Russia and rising fossil fuel prices, marks the first departure from a two-decade policy focused on abandoning nuclear power.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also announced in August that the government would restart several idled nuclear plants and develop plans to build new, more advanced reactors. The move comes about a decade after the country suffered the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. On 11 March 2011, Japan was rocked by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami that caused waves more than 10 metres high and ended with the explosion at the Japanese atomic plant and the release of large amounts of radioactivity into the environment.

 

The European Commission has recently recognised nuclear power as "green". Credit: DW News

 

Nuclear power plant accidents and other risks

 

Such accidents, and others like those caused at Chernobyl in 1986, generate radiation that can remain present in the environment for years, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. In fact, radioactive water from the Fukushima plant is still an urgent problem ten years after the nuclear accident. In addition to the fact that such accidents have harmful effects on animals and plants, they can also damage human health.

Humans can become contaminated if they ingest or breathe in radioactive materials or if these come into contact with their skin, hair or clothing, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Beyond certain thresholds, radiation can impair the functioning of tissues and/or organs and can produce acute effects such as skin redness, hair loss, radiation burns or acute radiation syndrome," adds the World Health Organisation, which stresses that populations exposed to radiation may also be at increased risk of developing cancer. All these consequences, combined with catastrophes such as Chernobyl and Fukushima, have fuelled public opposition to nuclear power, Sharon Squassoni, a research professor at George Washington University and board member at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, tells the website Grid.

 

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident occurred on 11 March 2011. Credit: BBC News

 

The nuclear waste dilemma

 

Nuclear power has other limitations. Some reports indicate that its reactors are seen as increasingly uneconomical and too slow to reverse carbon emissionsAdded to this, the dilemma of how to manage nuclear waste has plagued industry, academics and governments for decades. All sorts of ideas have been proposed, but most have been rejected as impractical, too expensive or ecologically unacceptable. For example, some have suggested sending the waste into spaceimmobilising it in synthetic rockburying it in ice sheetsdumping it on the world's most isolated islands or disposing of it in the deepest ocean trenches.

To store radioactive waste until it disintegrates or until a better solution is found, many powers use nuclear graveyards. Governments and industry consider that deep burial of this waste is, at least for the time being, the best solution. But there are those who see some limitations to this alternative. Paul Dorfman, founder of the Nuclear Consulting Group, tells The Guardian that "the bitter reality is that there is no scientifically proven way of disposing of the existential problem of high- and intermediate-level waste. . . . But given the huge technical uncertainties, if disposal does go ahead and anything goes wrong underground in the next millennia, then future generations risk profound widespread pollution," he says.

 

Nuclear power can generate radioactive waste that must remain isolated for centuries. Credit: Unsplash

 

There is no doubt that the global energy crisis and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change have put nuclear power at the centre of the debate. It is not the first time that this type of energy has gained popularity amidst uncertainty about energy supply. Squassoni recalls that the oil crisis in the 1970s "was what convinced France and Japan to go all in on nuclear. I’ll be curious to see if this panic about energy scarcity has a boosting effect for nuclear energy," she concludes.

 

· — —
Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation. Devised by Materia Publicaciones Científicas for Sacyr’s blog.

  • Energy
  • Nuclear fusion

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