• With Sacyrian accent

Five ways to improve fire prevention security measures

We believe that we need to take further steps to reduce these accidents, and we propose to implement a package of measures.

Ramón Sánchez Fernández
Director for Building Engineering 
Engineering and Infrastructure

 

In recent weeks, we have witnessed true tragedies in Spain with several fires in buildings as protagonists. On February 19, we learned of the death of three elderly women from smoke inhalation and burns of varying degrees due to fire at a seniors home. The investigation seems to point to the most probable cause of the fire being the explosion of a battery or electrical failure in the room where they were sleeping. However, it is suspected that fire protection and evacuation measures did not function properly, leading to this tragic ending.


On February 22, we witnessed the total combustion of two apartment buildings in Valencia in the span of just a few hours, with the sad result of 10 deaths and 138 homes consumed by flames.

The causes of the fire are unknown, but what we do know so far is that it spread very rapidly through the ventilated outer walls, also aided by the supply of oxygen provided by the strong winds that day. These events make us think that something is failing in our building stock. According to the report "Fire Victims in Spain in 2022" by APTB and the Mapfre Foundation, in that year there were 33,000 fires (requiring firefighter mobilization) in buildings in Spain, setting a record of 214 deaths, of which 176 occurred in homes.

This statistic draws attention to the number of deaths in homes, where typically -and inexplicably-, there are no fire detection systems. These systems are only installed in garages or high-risk premises. Half of the victims in care homes are senior residents, the living room is the riskiest area, and the most frequent cause of death is smoke inhalation. Secondly, unfortunately, nursing homes appear, with 16 deaths in 2022. The fire protection measures required for these types of facilities should be the same as those for a hospital, as both infrastructures are occupied by people who mostly require attention.

Among these measures are the installation of smoke detectors in rooms, portable fire extinguishers no less than 15 meters away, and manual alarm buttons in corridors and circulation areas. In high-risk areas, there are additional detection and extinguishing measures. Experience shows us that these measures are very useful in hospitals but insufficient in the case of nursing homes, whose residents have especially reduced mobility and lower cognitive abilities.

Finally, data show that in other buildings where fire protection measures are more sophisticated (automatic fire detection and extinguishing, alarms connected to firefighters), the number of victims is very low (five deaths in 2022), although the risks are high. For all these reasons, at Sacyr, we believe that we need to take further steps to reduce these accidents, and we propose to implement a package of measures:

1.    In nursing homes, install automatic detection and sprinkler systems. Ensure that proper system maintenance is carried out.
2.    In newly built residential buildings, regardless of the building's height, install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors inside the homes, as well as manual extinguishers on all floors.
3.    In existing homes, install smart smoke and carbon monoxide sensors. Use NextGen funds to expand these systems.
4.    Identify ventilated facades with insulating materials that react to fire. In these buildings, proceed to modify the facade or install automatic detection and extinguishing systems.
5.    Simplify and unify the vast amount of fire regulations that exist with the aim of conveying to the sector the importance of active and passive fire protection measures.

We need to make an effort to reduce the number of fire victims in our country.
 

Belgium wants to build the world's first artificial energy island. Credit: Elia

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An artificial island in the sea for a greener future?

Belgium has a solution for making the most of the energy from offshore wind farms: building the world's first artificial energy island. The country wants to connect offshore wind farms to the mainland with a pioneering hub in the sea.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

Construction of the world's first artificial energy island looks set to begin. At the end of 2023, Belgian transmission system operator Elia announced that it had received the environmental permit to launch the projectThe planned new island, called Princess Elisabeth Island, will be an energy hub 45 kilometres off the Belgian coast, connecting new offshore wind farms to Belgium's onshore power grid.

 

Turning the seas into the "power plants of the future"

 

In December 2022, the Belgian federal government granted the project 99.7 million euros from the European Union's Recovery & Resilience Facility. According to Elia, the company behind the initiative, construction will commence early this year and last until August 2026. The island will be made of sand and surrounded by an outer perimeter of concrete caissons. Its surface area above the waterline will cover six hectares, and its total area on the seabed will extend to a maximum of 25 hectares (the equivalent of 37.5 football pitches).

The island will be located in the North Sea and will allow Belgium to access energy produced by nearby offshore wind farms, trade renewable energy with other countries and increase Europe's interconnection. Europe's seas "are becoming the power plants of the future," says Nicolas Beck, Elia's head of community relations.

 

The island will connect new wind farms to Belgium's onshore electricity grid. Credit: Elia

 

The impact of the island on the health of the North Sea

 

The construction of an artificial island can have a significant impact on marine ecosystems. This depends on a number of factors, such as the geographical location, the size of the island and the construction methods used. In addition to the fact that it may involve the destruction of the marine ecosystem and affect fish stocks and other marine species that depend on that habitat for their survival, it could also affect the natural flow of water and ocean currents.

The Belgian authorities have recognised that new construction and installation plans cannot afford to ignore marine life, both above and below the water. In response to these concerns, Elia says it has opted for a "nature-inclusive design" that will seek to protect and even enhance the biodiversity of the area. "Elia want to minimise the disruptive effects the island will have on the surrounding marine environment at the same time as embedding real ecological and environmental value into its project," the company says.

To this end, they have taken a number of measures. "Ledges attached to the outer storm walls will provide somewhere for the black-legged kittiwake, a vulnerable bird species, to rest and breed," says the company, which also aims to create a rich and diverse artificial reef below the waterline. For example, it will install relief panels at each of the four corners of the island. These panels will provide a three-dimensional structure to which smaller marine organisms can attach, "creating a microhabitat for marine life".


 

Elia has received the necessary environmental permits to build the island. Credit: Elia

It is still too early to know with certainty how the construction of this artificial island will impact the marine habitat and to what extent it will become a crucial node for offshore wind energy in Belgium and Europe. Elia, which aims to connect the full capacity of new wind farms to its grid by 2030, insists that one thing is clear: "Only through the quick and extensive development of offshore wind will Europe be able to reach net zero emissions by 2050."


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

Several cities are using technology to improve the quality of life for their residents. Credit: Unsplash

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Top 5 most innovative technologies for smart cities

At CES, the world's biggest tech trade show, it's not all flying taxis and futuristic robots. We take a look at the most innovative gadgets for smart cities and smart homes.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

A technology that turns any countertop or surface into a charger, an autonomous machine that eliminates algae harmful to water quality and a biometric solution that puts an end to privacy concerns. We take a look at the most innovative inventions for smart cities and smart homes, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the organisation that organises CES, the world's largest annual technology event.

 

A countertop that charges your phone

 

FreePower can turn any countertop into a wireless charger—from a restaurant bar to a kitchen island or home office desk. "Early adopters of wireless charging technology are probably familiar with this scenario: placing a device on your charger before you go to bed, then waking up to a dead battery because it wasn’t aligned with the charger’s ‘sweet spot’," say the creators. Their technology features a free-standing architecture that does not require precise alignment. In other words, the user can avoid these problems and charge a mobile phone, headphones or console controller simply by placing it on the surface in question.

 

A cube that turns air into water

 

One of the most remarkable inventions at CES in terms of sustainability is an inflatable farm for growing food sustainably in deserts and drought-stricken areas. It is in these challenging places that another of the CTA's award-winning devices can be particularly useful: a device that creates water out of thin airCalled WaterCube 100, it can theoretically produce more than 100 gallons (378 litres) of fresh water a day. That would be enough for a household of four, according to its creators, who don't offer many details on how the technology works, but say that it "mimics nature's process to extract water from the air."

 

WaterCube 100 is a device designed to generate water from air. Credit: Genesis Systems

 

A window that generates electricity

 

From a floor that generates energy from footsteps to autonomous boats controlled by artificial intelligence, those were some of the most innovative green technologies of recent years. At this year's CES event, held between 9 and 12 January in Las Vegas, transparent solar glass called SQPV glass, which can capture light from both sides of the glass, won an award. Its creators claim that in addition to generating electricity from sunlight, it "can also harness energy from invisible light, even in dimly lit indoor settings or on a cloudy day."

 

A machine that eliminates harmful algae

 

Harmful algae and cyanobacteria can produce toxins that can make people and animals sick and harm the environment, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Manual removal of these algae can be costly and carries some risks. The CTA points out that harmful chemicals are sometimes used and that environmentally friendly solutions take too long to take effect. That's where AI ECO ROBOT comes in, an autonomous system that promises to remove these algae and identify potential problems quickly and efficiently.

 

AI ECO ROBOT removes harmful algae from lakes, rivers and oceans. Credit: Jason Park

 

A privacy-friendly biometric solution

 

Facial recognition raises privacy concerns, not least because of the collection and storage of biometric data. The company Ghostpass aims to store biometric information individually on users' smart devices, rather than in bulk in the cloud. "Our solution is to send the biometric data detected by the authentication request to the user's smartphone for authentication. This allows the user to fully own the sovereignty of biometric information," it explains.

These are just some of the most innovative devices for smart cities and smart homes of the 21st century. But there are many more: from a pool-cleaning robot charged by the sun to plug-in smoke detectors, beds that monitor the heart rate and breathing of dogs and cats, or all kinds of smart mirrors. According to the CTA, all these devices share a common goal: "Energy efficiency and automation are leading trends in this sector, and consumers prefer products that save time and money while improving safety and overall well-being."


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

Collecting solar energy in space and beaming it back to Earth is not without its challenges. Credit: European Space Agency

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The dream of solar farms in space

The idea of putting solar farms in space has been around since at least the late 1960s. So far it has not gained sufficient traction due to cost and technological hurdles. But is it now technologically feasible?

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

While some researchers suggest using skyscraper lifts to save and generate energy, others are looking at ways to do it using snowmicroalgae or by equipping cruise ships with photovoltaic sailsAnother alternative that has been in the spotlight for years is solar space farms. What are the technical and economic obstacles to this energy utopia?

 

The quest for uninterruptible solar power

 

The idea behind space solar power is simple and appealing: harness solar energy in space, where it is continuously available regardless of local weather or darkness. This energy would be collected on satellites orbiting the Earth and then transmitted wirelessly to collection points on the surface. "The concept complements rather than competes with terrestrial renewables, because Space-Based Solar Power can make power available reliably on an ongoing 24/7 basis," says the European Space Agency (ESA).

ESA has signed contracts for two conceptual studies of space-based solar power plants on a commercial scale. "We are really starting from a blank sheet of paper to get an up-to-date design for what working solar power satellites could look like, sourcing promising ideas from everywhere we can, and leveraging the latest advancements in space and terrestrial technologies," says Sanjay Vijendran, ESA's SOLARIS director.

 

Various researchers hope to deploy solar farms in space. Credit: Euronews

 

The challenges of space solar farms

 

This idea is not new and has been around since at least the late 1960s, says Matteo Ceriotti, Senior Lecturer in Space Systems Engineering at the University of Glasgow: "Despite its huge potential, the concept has not gained sufficient traction due to cost and technological hurdles." For Ceriotti, the main limitation is the enormous amount of mass that needs to be launched into space and its cost per kilogramme. "Companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin are developing heavy-lift launch vehicles, with a focus on reusing parts of those vehicles after they have flown." While this can significantly reduce costs, it would still require hundreds of launches.

For Ceriotti, missions to deploy space-based solar power are challenging and some risks need to be assessed. "While the electricity produced is fully green, the impact of the pollution from hundreds of heavy-lift launches is difficult to predict," he stresses. "Additionally, controlling such a large structure in space will require substantial amounts of fuel, which involves engineers working with sometimes very toxic chemicals."

 

Deploying solar farms in space is costly and technically challenging. Credit: SciShow Space

 

A proposal "more feasible and desirable than ever"

 

Despite these limitations, Vijendran believes there are many reasons why space-based solar power "is looking a lot more feasible and desirable than ever before." "These include the reduced cost of launch to orbit with the advent of reusable launchers, the reduced cost of satellite hardware through mass production—seen with new constellations such as Starlink and OneWeb—and trends towards very modular solar power satellite designs." In addition, space robotics and in-space assembly and servicing technologies "have really come a long way in the last two decades." According to the expert, this will be essential for the construction and maintenance of solar power plants.

It is still too early to say whether solar farms will eventually reach space. While some companies, such as Space Solar, hope to have them operational by 2035, other researchers are focusing on other alternatives, such as putting reflectors in space to allow solar farms on Earth to work longer and longer. Ceriotti admits that the challenge of building such platforms in space may seem daunting, but insists that space solar power is technologically feasible. "To be economically viable, it requires large-scale engineering, and therefore long-term and decisive commitment from governments and space agencies," he concludes.

 


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

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The three longest undersea tunnels on the planet

Digging and building tunnels under the sea to connect remote regions presents a number of challenges, from water pressure and ground stability to subsequent maintenance. These are the world’s longest underwater tunnels.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

The Channel Tunnel is recognised by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern WorldAlso known as the Eurotunnel, it connects England and France and is one of the longest undersea tunnels on the planet. We explore the details of the construction of this and other pharaonic tunnels, such as the Seikan and Tokyo Bay tunnels, both in Japan.

Seikan Tunnel

Crossing southern Switzerland, the Gotthard Base Tunnel is one of the most amazing engineering feats on the planet. At 57 kilometres, it is the longest railway tunnel in the world. It is followed by the Seikan Tunnel, which is not only the second longest railway tunnel in the world, but also the longest with an underwater section. Located in Japan, it links the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. It is 53.85 kilometres long, 23 km of which are under the Tsugaru Strait.

"In 1954, a typhoon sank five ferry boats in Japan’s Tsugaru Strait and killed 1,430 people," says the International Tunnelling and Underground Spaces Association (ITA-AITES). In response to public outrage, the Japanese government sought a safer way to cross the dangerous strait. "With such unpredictable weather conditions, engineers agreed that a bridge would be too risky to build. A tunnel seemed a perfect solution."

Ten years later, work began on what would be "the longest and hardest underwater dig ever attempted." Construction was completed in 1988. Engineers managed to drill and blast through a seismically active area where they could not use a tunnel boring machine because of the unpredictable nature of the rock and soil. Up to 3,000 people worked on the tunnel at any one time, and 34 lives were lost as a result of cave-ins, flooding and other mishaps. The main tunnel is three storeys high, 284 metres below sea level and is one of the most ambitious engineering feats of the 20th century.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel is one of the most amazing engineering feats on the planet. Credit: Railways Explained

Channel Tunnel

In 1987, French President François Mitterrand and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher announced the start of construction of the Channel Tunnel. It was inaugurated on 6 May 1994 and is 50 km long, of which 38 km is located under seabed. To construct this infrastructure, also known as the Eurotunnel, workers used several massive tunnel boring machines, hand-operated excavators and roadheaders (excavators used to create large underground chambers). "Every generation has to do something exciting that will affect the future. This is wonderful, even better than I thought it would turn out," Thatcher said of the tunnel.

The megastructure, which links Folkestone in Kent, England, with Coquelles in Pas-de-Calais, France, is actually three parallel tunnels. "Trains go through two larger tunnels. A smaller service tunnel—used for ventilation and access—runs between the two train tunnels," explains the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). Passengers can travel through the tunnel in their own vehicles, which are loaded into special carriages. The journey takes only about 35 minutes and is made by trains that are 100% electric, according to Le Shuttle, the high-speed rail service.

2024 marks 30 years since the opening of the Channel Tunnel. Credit: Practical Engineering

Tokyo Bay Tunnel

The world's third longest undersea tunnel is also in Japan. The Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line is a 15.1-kilometre highway project linking the city of Kawasaki with the city of Kisarazu on the Boso Peninsula. "The Aqua-Line consists of a 9.5-kilometre shield tunnel (the Tokyo Bay Tunnel) and a 4.4-km bridge from an artificial island to Kisarazu landing," says ITA-AITES.

Construction began in 1989, after 20 years of research. It took nine years to complete and was a complex civil engineering project, with challenges such as dealing with water pressure and soil stability. Today, it takes about 15 minutes to drive from one city to the other on the Aqua-Line. The alternative route, on the other hand, is 100 kilometres long and crosses the centre of Tokyo. According to ITA-AITES, the Aqua-Line helps ease traffic congestion in the heart of the Japanese capital.

The Aqua-Line consists of a bridge and an underwater tunnel running under Tokyo Bay. Credit: Driving Nippon

The Seikan Tunnel, Channel Tunnel and Tokyo Bay Tunnel are three of the longest undersea tunnels on the planet. Other such tunnels on this list include the Bømlafjord and Eiksund tunnels in Norway, the Sydney Harbour Tunnel in Australia and the Thames Tunnel in the UK. They all have one thing in common: not only do they cross large bodies of water, such as straits, bays or rivers, but they are also some of the most complex engineering projects in the world.

 

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

  • Engineering

The secret room where Michelangelo took refuge contains numerous drawings. Credit: Bargello Museum

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What lies inside Michelangelo's secret room?

Michelangelo hid in a small room for two months to avoid the vengeance of Pope Clement VII, according to the Bargello Museum in Florence. He used the walls as a canvas and made drawings that are now priceless.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno 

Fifty years ago, a secret room was discovered where Michelangelo once hid. For decades it has remained closed to the public. Then, in 2023, the Bargello Museum in Florence decided to allow a few lucky people to visit it. What precious treasures are hidden inside? Drawings and sketches of anatomy, faces and poses, mostly by the famous Italian sculptor.

A treasure found by chance


In 1975, Paolo Dal Poggetto, then director of the Medici Chapels Museum in Florence, asked the restorer Sabino Giovannoni to carry out some cleaning tests in a narrow corridor under the apse of the New Sacristy inside the museum. The elongated space, 10 metres long and three metres wide, had been discovered when Dal Poggetto and his colleagues were looking for a suitable location for a new exit to the museum. But when Giovannoni did some tests on the walls, he found something unexpected under two layers of plaster: a series of wall drawings of figures of various sizes, sketched with charcoal and chalk. 
"This room had been used as a coal depot until 1955 and then it was left unused, remaining closed and forgotten for decades, under a trapdoor completely covered by cupboards, furniture and piled-up furnishings," says the Bargello Museum. Poggetto attributed most of the drawings to Michelangelo. He hypothesised that the artist had hidden there for about two months in 1530 to take refuge from the vengeance of Pope Clement VII, who was angry with him for having been in charge of the fortifications during the brief period of Republican rule. 




The drawings were discovered by chance thanks to a cleaning carried out in 1975. Credit: Bargello Museum
 
Walls as canvases


"Naturally, Michelangelo was afraid and he decided to stay in the room," Monica Bietti, the art historian in charge of the Medici Chapels, told National Geographic magazine. The drawings, according to this hypothesis, would have been made during the artist’s period of "self-imprisonment", when he used the walls of the small room to sketch out some of his projects. These include works from the New Sacristy, such as the legs of Giuliano de' Medici, Duke of Nemours, and projects attributable to other sculptures and paintings. 
For Massimo Osanna, Director General of Museums of Italy, it is "a place of extraordinary charm, but very delicate due to the location of the narrow room in the museum's itinerary and the protection of the charcoal drawings on the walls." For this reason, visits are conducted in a controlled manner: in small groups of four people and a maximum of 100 people per week. "The limited number of visitors per time slot is due to the need to alternate the period of exposure to LED light with prolonged periods of darkness," says the museum.



The room first opened to the public in 2023. Credit: Bargello Museum
 
Are all the drawings by Michelangelo? 


It is impossible to confirm with absolute certainty that Michelangelo is the author of all the drawings on the walls. In fact, not all the figures show "the same sustained qualitative tension of Michelangelo's work," according to the Bargello Museum in Florence. William Wallace, a Michelangelo scholar and professor at Washington University in St. Louis, believes that Michelangelo was too important a figure to have holed up in such a cramped space. While he concedes that some of these drawings may be Michelangelo originals, he suggests that others are probably sketches made by his assistants during breaks in their work. 
What is certain is that it is a unique place. "This very small room is truly unique for its extraordinary evocative potential. Its walls seem to barely contain numerous sketches of figures, most of them monumental in size, traced with markings that testify to a great clarity of design," says Francesca de Luca, curator of the Medici Chapels Museum. Although we can’t be 100% sure of the identity of the artist or artists responsible for all the sketches, some experts are convinced that it was Michelangelo. One such expert is Bietti, who is convinced that Michelangelo "was a genius." "What can he do there? Just draw."
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Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation.

 

  • Painting
  • Italy

Volkswagen and other manufacturers are trying to integrate ChatGPT into their vehicles. Credit: Volkswagen

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Cars with ChatGPT and other tech trends of 2024

Cars with systems like ChatGPT, flying taxis, see-through televisions and robots straight out of science fiction. These are just some of the most innovative devices presented at this year’s CES, the world's largest tech event, which has just been held in Las Vegas.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

What are the most innovative and impressive tech products on the planet? The answer is probably to be found at CES, the world's biggest consumer electronics show. Here, devices such as the VHS video recorder, DVD players, the first 3D printers and the most advanced robots in existence have been unveiled. We take a look at the innovations that grabbed the most attention at this year's event, which took place in Las Vegas at the beginning of January, and the tech trends that are set to gain momentum in 2024.

From flying taxis to ChatGPT cars

Back in 2022, much of the attention at CES was focused on a BMW car that could change colour at the touch of a button, while in 2023, everyone’s eyes were on a flying car with a retractable wing system. The aim was for the driver to be able to fold up the wings when driving on the road, and unfurl them when it was time to fly. Cars that promise to take to the skies were also unveiled at this latest event. One such example is the S-A2, a taxi capable of flying at 193 kilometres per hour, presented by Hyundai Motor Group's Advanced Air Mobility company. It is due to be launched in 2028.

Hyundai's electric flying taxi could take to the skies at nearly 200 kilometres per hour. Credit: CNET

Manufacturers also want passengers to be able to talk to their cars. Volkswagen has announced that it will include the artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT in all its voice-assistant vehicles. BMW plans to partner with Amazon to integrate the Alexa voice assistant into its cars, and Mercedes-Benz is working with Azure OpenAI. The aim is for any passenger to be able to ask their vehicle all sorts of questions, such as where the nearest Chinese restaurant is or where to buy a phone charger.

Robots that follow you around the house and smile

All sorts of robots were on display in Las Vegas hotels and convention centres for CES, from dogs that kick their paws and move quickly towards you, to humanoid robots that look more like something out of science fiction. Among the most talked about this year were AI companion robots like Ballie. This is a yellow ball on wheels made by Samsung that can follow you around the house, analyse your posture with its camera, accompany you during exercise and control smart home devices.

Ballie is a home companion robot that can control lighting or other connected devices. Credit: Samsung

Another curious gadget is Magic Bay Robot, a conceptual accessory from Lenovo that is the size of a webcam and designed to sit on top of a computer. At the moment, its functions are very limited: it blinks, smiles and shows emotions when its eyes turn into stars. The company is considering adding more features, such as a speaker and microphone, so that it can also act as a voice assistant.

Pet robots were also in abundance at CES. One of the most eye-catching has been developed by Ogmen and uses artificial intelligence to try to calm a dog in distress distressed. The device, called ORo, allows owners to make video calls to their pet or give them treats or food. The tech event also featured a range of cooking robots, from those that can make tea or ramen noodles in a matter of seconds, to those that make cotton candy of different shapes and colours or use capsules to prepare ice cream.

Transparent televisions

At this unmissable event in the tech sector, you can get an idea of what the televisions of the future might look like. They may be wireless and magically stick to walls. Perhaps they will roll up or fold away when not in use to go unnoticed. Or, who knows, they might rotate to stand upright and consume content recorded with a mobile phone.

At this year’s CES, manufacturers have made a big push for transparent televisions. LG has launched the LG Signature OLED T, the first wireless TV with a transparent panel. The aim of this device, which should be available later this year, is that it can be placed in the centre of any room without being noticed. Meanwhile, Samsung has announced a fully transparent micro LED television.

LG has announced that the first transparent, wireless TV will go on sale in 2024. Credit: CNET

These are just some of the most innovative and curious tech products on the planet. Other innovations on the list include facial recognition light bulbs that promise to detect your emotional state and recommend lighting effects, plants that purify the air and lipsticks that diagnose medical conditionsOne thing that is clear after visiting CES is that 2024 will be a year in which artificial intelligence will be stronger than ever. Among the inventions to watch out for are technologies that can help prevent school shootingsautonomously pilot a boatdesign clothes or diagnose diseases.

These are just some of the most innovative and curious tech products on the planet. Other innovations on the list include facial recognition light bulbs that promise to detect your emotional state and recommend lighting effects, plants that purify the air and lipsticks that diagnose medical conditionsOne thing that is clear after visiting CES is that 2024 will be a year in which artificial intelligence will be stronger than ever. Among the inventions to watch out for are technologies that can help prevent school shootingsautonomously pilot a boatdesign clothes or diagnose diseases.

 

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

  • Tech
  • Car
  • Innovación

VR for hydraulic works maintenance

Sacyr Maintenance uses virtual reality (VR) in project management and presentation, creating immersive experiences with technical information and multimedia content. This approach makes the user the protagonist of the scene, where information is presented in a user-friendly manner.

This tool facilitates the maintenance and conservation of electromechanical equipment, civil and complementary service installations, as well as the operation of equipment and facilities. It also enables control and monitoring according to specific procedures that ensure service quality.

Virtual reality is used both in road maintenance and hydraulic works. In the latter, Sacyr Maintenance is responsible for the maintenance and conservation of 39 dams, four reservoirs, and 549 km of canals.

In the following link you can take an interactive tour of the Arlanzón Dam, managed by the Duero Hydrographic Confederation (Burgos), where we utilize virtual reality."

  • Sacyr conservation
  • Installations
  • Virtual Reality
  • Gafas de realidad virtual
  • Infraestructuras

Sustainable Asphalt Mixtures for Road Repair

At Sacyr Maintenance, we seek innovative solutions that represent an advancement not only in the management of our infrastructure to prevent accidents due to poor road surfaces but also in the use of materials that are increasingly environmentally friendly.

In 2022, we began using the innovative product ‘Reparabache’ in the MASAI mixtures for road pavement, a mixture with the same performance as conventional asphalt, but applied cold, quickly, simply, and cleanly, with immediate traffic reopening.

Among its innovations is the incorporation of rubber powder. Typically, two used tires are recycled per ton of mixture. 

This European Commission-approved product is 100% ecofriendly and fully reusable, as the surplus can be stored again. It also incorporates graphene in its manufacturing, which doubles its durability and improves its elastic recovery. Its demand is increasing, as it can be applied in adverse weather conditions. Additionally, it contributes to the reduction of noise pollution.

Its most common uses include asphalt spraying on supports for paving, priming in waterproofing systems, crack sealing, and making asphalt mortar.

On the other hand, among the MASAI mixtures is Bioroad, another additive that has received many accolades. It is a truly unique additive for asphalt mixtures, based on recycled vegetable oils and waste from olive oil processing.

With this additive, the need to use standard petrochemical melting agents is eliminated, as its composition includes 30-50% recycled vegetable oils and 20-30% other waste such as olive mill wastewater (residue from pressing olives).

The functionality of these by-products has been achieved through nanotechnology using graphene.

Thanks to Bioroad, asphalt mixtures can be manufactured at lower temperatures, reducing energy consumption and the carbon footprint generated by traditional hot manufacturing processes.

These asphalt mixtures are produced between 120-140 degrees Celsius (40 degrees less than traditional methods).

Additionally, recently on the Turia Highway (CV-35), currently managed by Sacyr Concesiones, pothole repair and crack sealing operations have been carried out using a variant of Bioroad, called Lazarus. It is a modified petrochemical compound containing bituminous binders with graphene-based nanomaterials, improving the life and resistance to fatigue cycles of the pavement.

2% of this mixture is added to milling remnants (asphalt removed from damaged roads). Lázaro is an additive designed to manufacture mixtures with 100% milled material. It is composed of vegetable oils and other products, enriched with graphene.

On the same road, we have also used AC 11 Surf, a cold mix asphalt, consisting of a bituminous emulsion. The bags are of AC11 SURF bituminous mixture type with more than 20% RAP (recycled asphalt pavement).

It is produced semi-hot (approximately 30ºC less than a conventional mixture) thanks to ecological additives that also allow it to be stored in bags and applied cold.

We have also used 'Repara Sellagrietas', an anionic bituminous emulsion (mineral-based, with a negative electrical charge, enriched with graphene, of viscous consistency, and applied cold), which is applied directly to the crack without any other additive for repair.

  • Road maintenance
  • Innovation
  • Tungsteno

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  • Airbus

Gunung Padang is supposedly the oldest pyramid on the planet. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  • Tungsteno

The controversy behind the world's alleged oldest pyramid

A study has suggested that the oldest man-made pyramid on Earth is on the island of Java in Indonesia. We look at why this discovery, which could mark a turning point in what we know about past civilisations, has been criticised by the archaeological community.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

The debate over which pyramids are the oldest has raged for years. But countries like Egypt now have a new challenger: Indonesia. So says a team of scientists who claim to have found a buried pyramid complex that would be the oldest on the planet, according to research recently published in the journal Archaeological Prospection. But their findings have drawn criticism from a number of archaeologists.

 

The world's oldest pyramid?

 

The site in question is called Gunung Padang, which means "mountain of enlightenment" in the local language, and has been the site of religious rituals throughout history. According to the authors of the study, it could be up to 27,000 years old. "Evidence from Gunung Padang […] suggests that advanced construction practices were already present when agriculture had, perhaps, not yet been invented," the authors write.

Gunung Padang consists of a series of stone terraces that sit atop an extinct volcano. In the 19th century, it was described as an ancient cemetery on top of a mound, and since the late 20th century there have been several investigations of the site. The latest, recently published in Archaeological Prospection, concludes that "it is not a natural hill, but a pyramid-like construction".

Using ground-penetrating radar, the authors claim to have discovered several deeper man-made layers beneath the main building, the lowest of which (a hardened lava core) shows signs of having been "meticulously sculpted". "These findings offer valuable insights into the construction history of Gunung Padang, shedding light on the engineering capabilities of ancient civilisations during the Palaeolithic era," they say.

 

Gunung Padang is claimed to be older than the Egyptian pyramids. Credit: OzGeology

 

Doubts about Gunung Padang

 

Several archaeologists have been sceptical about the conclusions regarding Gunung Padang's unprecedented antiquity. "The data that is presented in this paper provides no support for its final conclusion—that the settlement is extraordinarily old. Yet that is what has driven the headlines," Flint Dibble, an archaeologist at Cardiff University, told The GuardianHe says he is "very surprised this paper was published as it is" and accuses the authors of the study of failing to provide evidence that the buried material was made by humans.

The controversy stems in part from the fact that the paper has been reviewed by controversial British writer Graham Hancock, who is known for writing books on conspiracy theories and for promoting unsupported hypotheses about highly advanced ancient civilisations. "He invokes myths, fanciful and often incorrect interpretations of archaeological sites," says geologist Marc Defant.

Bill Farley, an archaeologist at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, refers to one of Hancock’s theories: "A theory that says a group of ancient sages taught us everything we know simplifies history to a crude level and also robs Indigenous people of the claim that they developed their own ancient culture and sophisticated crafts." For the expert, "it is very reasonable that this paper is being investigated. It was not worthy of publication and it would not shock me if it is eventually retracted," he adds.

 

Archaeologist Bill Farley has reacted to the findings on his YouTube channel. Credit: Archaeology Tube

 

In a matter of weeks, Gunung Padang went from being a nondescript hill in Asia to being the alleged remains of Earth’s oldest human-made pyramid. Following the publication of the research, the find made headlines and became one of the most attention-grabbing scientific news stories of 2023. But the doubts raised by other archaeologists highlight one thing: the importance of finding evidence that proves beyond doubt that the material removed was sculpted by humans and that Gunung Padang is indeed the world's oldest pyramid.


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

  • Sostenibilidad

New Tool to Measure Our Environmental Impact

Our Quality, Environment and Energy Department, in collaboration with business and ecology consultancy firm Natural Business Intelligence (NBI), we have developed a platform that allows us to understand the impact caused by our projects on the different ecosystems where they are carried out, through a geopositioned file. 

At Sacyr, environmental protection is a priority for us at every project we develop.

 Our Quality, Environment and Energy Department, in collaboration with business and ecology consultancy firm Natural Business Intelligence (NBI) -winner of Sacyr iChallenges 2021-, we have developed a platform that allows us to understand the impact caused by our projects on the different ecosystems where they are carried out, through a geopositioned file. 

Thanks to this platform, we can optimize carbon offsetting measures based on the impacts caused by our activity, which was previously calculated manually. All this will allow us to achieve an estimate net debt with nature in an automated, scalable, and efficient way.

This platform uses satellite imaging to analyze how we have affected the project environs and to understand whether the balance is positive or negative to adjust our measures accordingly. 

 

 


 

To do this, we collect the necessary free-access satellite images to calculate the indicators of ecosystem services before and after construction. This calculation is currently applied to our P3 projects in all countries.

'Different actions are reflected in each country’s environmental management plans adapted to the regulations and specifics of each region. Through the tool, we can identify those measures that have greater benefits on the environment, contributing to a positive or net balance. Thanks to these advances, we develop measures adapted to the specifics of the environments and the present ecosystem services,' explains Claudia Pérez, environmental sustainability analyst at the Quality, Environment and Energy Department. 


'At Sacyr, we take on the challenge, and we move forward with our commitment, reducing and avoiding the loss of nature, restoring, regenerating, and transforming current systems to stop the agents that negatively impact biodiversity,' says Claudia.

 


 

Natural Capital Strategy


In 2020, we started designing our natural capital strategy, which uses the mitigation hierarchy as a management approach. This consists of implementing good practices that reduce or mitigate impacts caused by activities, works, and development projects in a given space.

In 2021, we launched a project to understand the potential impacts of our activity. Thanks to this initiative, we identified the ecosystem services included in the CICES (Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services) classification that are relevant to the company. These services are essential for reporting the environmental evolution of our projects.

Once we had identified the material ecosystem services, we defined a robust methodology to calculate the natural capital. Additionally, in 2022, we created a Biodiversity and Natural Capital Committee to reinforce our commitment to the environment. This body's main objective is to establish initiatives and review results related to biodiversity projects."

Gran Torre Santiago is the tallest skyscraper in South America. Credit: Pelli Clarke & Partners.

  • Tungsteno

The three most iconic skyscrapers in Latin America

In Latin America, some buildings seem to touch the sky. This is the case of the Obispado Towers in Mexico, Gran Torre Santiago in Chile and the One Tower in Brazil. We investigate the interesting features of these three iconic skyscrapers.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

Gran Torre Santiago in Chile rises 300 metres into the sky. As well as being one of the tallest skyscrapers in Latin America, it also stands out for its ability to withstand earthquakesIt survived the 8.8 magnitude quake that devastated much of central and southern Chile in 2010. This is how it and other iconic Latin American skyscrapers such as the Obispado Tower in Mexico and the One Tower in Brazil were built.

Torres Obispado (Mexico)

Torres Obispado (Obispado Towers) is a complex of two skyscrapers located in Monterrey, completed in 2020. With a height of 305 metres and 62 floors, the tallest building in the complex, called T.Op Torre 1, is also the tallest in Mexico and Latin America. It houses offices, a hotel and commercial space. The smaller, 156-metre, 42-storey tower is designed for residential use only. Both structures have a 12-storey car park.

The architects opted for a sustainable design. They chose energy-efficient LED lighting and air-conditioning systems, and prioritised natural light to reduce energy consumption. They also used rainwater to irrigate gardens and green areas. Next to these megastructures will be the Torre Rise, a new skyscraper that began construction in 2023. If all goes according to plan, on completion it will be 475 metres high and have 99 floors.

 

Torre Obispado is the tallest tower in Mexico and Latin America. Credit: Skyscrapers & MegaProjects

 

Gran Torre Santiago (Chile)

 

Gran Torre Santiago (Great Santiago Tower) is 300 metres tall and has 64 floors. Construction began in 2006 but was not completed until 2014 due to the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. It is the main building of the Costanera Center complex, located in the heart of the financial district of Santiago, the capital of Chile. The glass-clad tower made from recycled steel has a sophisticated structural earthquake protection system and uses water from the San Carlos Canal to cool the building.

Surrounded by the majestic Andes Mountains, Gran Torre Santiago is a modern expression of the shape of an obelisk, according to international architectural firm Pelli Clarke & Partners. Its upper floors house an observatory. "No human-built form can compete with the power of these mountains. The tower is designed to be part of the city, without cosmic pretensions," said Argentine architect César Pelli, who helped design the tower.

Gran Torre Santiago withstood a strong earthquake in 2010. Credit: OneCity

 

One Tower (Brazil)

 

One Tower is the tallest skyscraper in Brazil and the second tallest in South America (after Gran Torre Santiago). Located in the city of Balneário Camboriú in southern Brazil, it is also the tallest all-residential building in Latin AmericaIt is 290 metres high and has 70 floors. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), each floor contains two apartments, with the exception of four floors dedicated to recreational areas.

Construction was completed in 2022 and involved more than 2,000 workers. More than 9,000 tonnes of steel and 24,992 cubic metres of concrete (the equivalent of more than 8,000 truck mixers) were used to erect the megastructure. The skyscraper has five lifts that travel at a speed of five metres per minute, reaching the top in less than a minute.

 

The One Tower skyscraper is the tallest all-residential building in Latin America. Credit: AçoForte Chapas

These are just some of the most iconic skyscrapers in Latin America. Others include the JW Marriott Panama, the tallest in Panama; the Torre Latinoamericana and the Torre Insignia, both in Mexico; the Edifício Copan, in Brazil; and the Colpatria Tower, in Colombia. As well as being located in Latin America, all these buildings have something else in common that is immediately striking: they seem to caress the sky.

 


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The Angel sculpture is 6.7 metres tall and weighs seven tonnes. Credit: Javier Samaniego / Flickr

  • Tungsteno

The model who inspired the Angel of Independence

The Greek goddess Nike crowns Mexico City's most emblematic monument. But was this sculpture inspired by a real woman? We investigate the answer to this and other questions about the monument that is today the scene of many protests, marches and celebrations.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

The Angel of Independence is one of the most representative monuments in the Mexican capital. This bronze statue represents Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. There are some hypotheses as to who the model was, from the secretary of a former president of Mexico to a seamstress. 

We take a look at the history of this monument, which was restored after being badly damaged by an earthquake in 1957, and has been the scene of political demonstrations, military parades and patriotic celebrations.

 

The most representative symbol of Mexico City

 

"If you ask the people of Mexico City what symbol best represents the city, nine out of ten will say the Angel," says the Mexico City government, noting that the sculpture is officially known as the Monumento a la Independencia (Monument to Independence). The project was designed and built by architect Antonio Rivas Mercado. This iconic monument was inaugurated in 1910 by Porfirio Díaz, then president of Mexico, to commemorate the centenary of the beginning of Mexico’s War of Independence.

Since 1925, the monument has housed the remains of the 14 heroes of the War of Independence. They are Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama, José Mariano Jiménez, José María Morelos y Pavón, Pedro Moreno, Víctor Rosales, Francisco Xavier Mina, Guadalupe Victoria, Vicente Guerrero, Andrés Quintana Roo, Nicolás Bravo, Mariano Matamoros and Leona Vicario. This final person was a "journalist and supporter of the rebels" and is the only woman buried in the mausoleum.

 

The Angel of Independence is one of the most representative symbols of Mexico. Credit: Intangible Productions

 

A seven-tonne Greek goddess

 

At the base of the column there is a sculpture of a boy leading a gigantic, laureled lion, symbolising the Mexican people "strong during war and docile during peace". There is also a bronze figure at each vertex. They represent law, justice, war and peace. The 36-metre high column conceals a 200-step staircase leading to a viewing platform. A statue 6.7 metres high and weighing over seven tonnes crowns the column. This figure, representing the Greek goddess Nike, was designed and cast by the Franco-Italian artist Enrique Alciati.

There are two hypotheses as to who the model for the sculpture was. According to one, it was a secretary of President Porfirio Díaz called Ana María Mazadiego Fernández. Another theory is that the model for the face and legs of the Angel was Ernesta Robles, a 23-year-old seamstress who was said to love ballroom dancing and who apparently caught Alciati’s eye one night. Although these hypotheses have been widely circulated on the Internet, neither of them has yet been confirmed.


 

The Monument to Independence has been the site of celebrations of historical events. Credit: Mexico City Government

 

From earthquakes to historical events

 

The Angel has suffered several earthquakes. In one that occurred on 28 July 1957, the sculpture fell to the ground and broke into several pieces. The original head of the figure is now in the Historical Archive of Mexico City, in the Palace of the Counts of Heras - Soto. The restoration of the monument took more than a year. The monument was also damaged by other earthquakes in 1985 and 2017.

Nevertheless, it still stands today, and over time has become the starting point for major protests and marches, as well as many annual parades. It has also been the scene of numerous triumphs for the Mexican national football team, Olympic athletes and even Leo DiCaprio winning an Oscar. And that's not all. The Angel is also visited by millions of tourists who come every year to see what is arguably Mexico City's most iconic monument.


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  • Monuments
  • Mexico

The Monument to the Virgin of Peace is a colossal sculpture commemorating peace. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  • Tungsteno

The secrets of the Monument to the Virgin of Peace

At over 46 metres tall and 16 metres across, the stratospheric dimensions of the Monument to the Virgin of Peace have made it one of Venezuela's most iconic sculptures. We investigate the curiosities of this 1,200 tonne mega-construction.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

According to a legend from the late 1550s, the figure of the Virgin Mary appeared several times to residents of the town of Carmona, in the state of Trujillo, Venezuela. She was seen walking in the afternoons to buy candles for her hearth. Some men asked her why she was walking alone, to which she supposedly replied: "Not alone, but with God, the sun and the stars." In honour of this apparition, 40 years ago a gigantic concrete statue of the Virgen de la Paz was erected on top of the hill called Peña de la Virgin.

 

One of the tallest sculptures in the Americas

 

The most striking feature of this sculpture is its sheer size. It is 46.72 metres tall, 16 metres across and 18 metres deep at the base, and weighs about 1,200 tonnes. "It is the tallest habitable sculpture in the Americas, centimetres taller than the Statue of Liberty," affirms the Venezuelan Ministry of Economy and Finance. It is also taller than Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Some say it is the best work of Manuel de la Fuente, a Spanish sculptor and professor at the University of the Andes in Venezuela. The sculpture took 18 months to complete and cost nine million bolivars. It stands out because it is sculpted on a steel structure that forms the skeleton of the work, which is cast in concrete. It was inaugurated on 21 December 1983 by the then President of Venezuela, Luis Herrera Campins.

 

The sculpture is more than 46 metres tall and weighs 1,200 tonnes. Credit: Drones Valera

 

Five interior viewing platforms spread across the body

 

This iconic sculpture is located 11 kilometres southwest of the city of Trujillo and is 1,600 metres above sea level. Visitors can climb up the interior of the statue and look outIts five viewpoints offer panoramic views that encompass part of the state of Trujillo, the Sierra Nevada de Mérida and the southern shore of Lake Maracaibo. The first viewpoint is 18 metres from the base, at the height of the sculpture’s knees; the second, in the left hand, is four metres higher; the third, in the right hand, is 26 metres high; the fourth, at the waist, is 28 metres above the ground; and the final viewpoint, which looks out through the eyes of the statue, is located at a height of 44 metres.

In her right hand, the Virgin holds a dove. "It symbolises the duty of the Presidency of the Republic of Venezuela to cry out for peace on earth," explains the Venezuelan radio station Otilca Radio. Over time, the Virgin of Peace has become a place of pilgrimage, where many tourists and devotees flock "to make vows, pray rosaries and seek spiritual peace," according to the Venezuelan television channel Venezolana de Televisión.

 


 

The sculpture has five viewpoints. Credit: Venezuelan Ministry of Economy and Finance

 

Every year on 24 January, Venezuelans commemorate the Day of Our Lady of Peace, the patron saint of the state of Trujillo since 1568. "To honour their patron saint, the people of Trujillo hold the traditional procession of the Virgin," explains the Venezuelan Ministry of Economy and Finance. On 24 January 2023, the newspaper El Nacional reported that more than 5,000 of Trujillo’s faithful and devotees would take part in the celebration of the 453rd anniversary of their patron saint.

 


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

  • Monuments

Jane Drew is one of the leading architects of Tropical Modernism. Credit: RIBA Library.

  • Tungsteno

The woman who left her mark on tropical architecture

Early in her career, Jane Drew set up an architectural practice for women to enable them to succeed in a male-dominated profession. Not only did she participate in one of the best experiments in urban planning and modern architecture of the 20th century, but she also became a benchmark of tropical modernism.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

British-born Jane Drew was one of her the first female architects in the United Kingdom. In a male-dominated sector, she was a pioneer in the field of modern tropical architecture. She became a leading light and today one of the UK's most prestigious awards for women architects bears her name. We look at the life and work of a woman who believed that buildings should be constructed using materials and techniques appropriate to the local climate.

From kitchen designer to tropical modernist icon

Drew graduated from the prestigious Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1929. One of her first design commissions was to redesign a kitchen, something that often happened to women at the time. Although she was offended, she began her career designing ergonomic kitchens and was responsible for the standard height of ovens that is still used today. She soon set up an all-female architecture practice to help women succeed in a male-dominated profession. But her plans were cut short when her studio was bombed during the Second World War.

 


 

Jane Drew worked alongside her husband, architect Maxwell Fry. Credit: RIBA Library / ICA

 

Years later, she married the architect Maxwell Fry. Both concentrated on public works in British West Africa. Among the buildings they designed were several schools in Ghana and the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. By incorporating indigenous design motifs, they created a new style known as tropical modernismTheir buildings were also notable for their comfort and use of shade and natural ventilation. These details were reflected in their books Village Housing in the Tropics and Tropical Architecture in the Humid Zone.

Drew saw architecture as an artistic medium, but valued it more as a tool for reform and for providing access to education and health, says The Architectural Review: "I practised architecture in a time full of hope and optimism. At a time when we felt that the changes in architecture and urban planning that we proposed would transform living conditions and improve the world. In a time of great hope for the future," said the British architect, according to Architectural Digest magazine.

 

Jane Drew is considered a pioneer of tropical modernism. Credit: AA School of Architecture.

 

One of the greatest experiments in architecture

 

Drew's work in Africa brought her to the attention of the Indian government. The architect spent three years working side by side with Le Corbusier to design the city of Chandigarh. Located about 250 kilometres north of New Delhi on the plains of the Punjab, the city is notable for its grid system in a country where urban centres are often synonymous with chaos.

Chandigarh is considered one of India's finest experiments in 20th century urban planning and modern architecture. "The city plan was conceived as post war 'Garden City' wherein vertical and high rise buildings were ruled out, keeping in view the socio economic-conditions and living habits of the people," reports Architectuul. The metaphor of a human being was used to describe the plan: the "head" contained the capital complex, the "heart" the commercial centre, and the "arms", which were perpendicular to the main axis, housed the academic and leisure facilities.

 

The aim was for Chandigarh to be a modern and functional new city. Credit: City Beautiful.

 

In the 1960s, Drew returned to the UK. One of her most notable works from this period was the interior design of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, for which she even designed some of the furniture. Drew used architecture as a tool to improve people's health, general well-being and living conditions. She was a visiting professor at both Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and eventually became one of Britain's best-loved architects, according to the Britannica encyclopaedia. She was also the first woman to sit on the Council of the Royal Institute of British Architects. A few months before her death in 1996, she was awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.


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

  • Infraestructuras

Environmental commitment and innovation on the Hernani railway

We have commissioned the Madrid-Irun railway line 30 days ahead of schedule. This project stands out for the wide range of especially innovative machinery and techniques used and developed for its construction, adding value to the project.

 


We have commissioned the Madrid-Irun railway line 30 days ahead of schedule.

"An exceptional and unparalleled human team of over 120 professionals has made this complex project a reality," explains José Rodríguez, project manager of the Hernani-Astigarraga JV Phase 2 with Sacyr Engineering and Infrastructure.

The project involved the construction of 1.54 km of high-speed track and 4.5 km of new electrified track of conventional width between the two Guipuzcoan towns. It included the construction of three viaducts and eight walls of different kinds.

"Executing a project of this nature would have been impossible without the dedication, effort, tireless work, and skill of our professionals, committed to the project right from the start," emphasizes José Rodríguez.

This project was carried out by a JV comprising Sacyr Construcción (60%), Sacyr Neopul (10%), Construcciones Mariezcurrena (15%), and Construcciones Zubieder (15%).
 

 


 

Cable-stayed viaduct

One of the viaducts in this section, the Hernani viaduct, is the first cable-stayed viaduct in the entire Spanish High-Speed Rail Network.

It is 482 meters long, allowing for two crossings over the Urumea River, passing under the A-15 through two cable-stayed substructures with maximum spans of 67.2 and 120 meters. The viaduct requires 108 cable stays to support the 14.5-meter-wide deck with a variable depth of up to four meters.

Over 20,000 m³ of concrete (the equivalent to eight Olympic pools) and 4,000 tons of steel were used on the viaduct build. The U-shaped section has a usable width of 10.7 meters to accommodate the double-track plate and gutters.


End of the Project

On October 30, the 1,553-meter-long right lane track section between kilometers 618+274 and 616+721 was put into service.

This milestone allowed to restore the original double-track circulation on this line, as, since March 7, 2022 circulation was limited to a single track due to construction works.


Innovation, the core of this project

This project stands out for the wide range of especially innovative machinery and techniques used and developed for its construction, adding value to the project.

Firstly, Sacyr Neopul motorized PEM-LEM track-laying solutions were used for the pre-assembly, transfer, and assembly of the escape. Among the heavy machinery used are pavers, profilers, and stabilizers, as well as the assembly teams for the overhead line.

Different solutions for deep foundations and ground improvement techniques have also been executed using innovative methods.

In addition, a complete 3D model of the entire project has been created, allowing to anticipate error and fault identification, a key and differentiating factor in proposing optimizations and improvements to the project.

 


 

Project of Marked Environmental and Sustainable Character

The entire project is framed within the public maritime-terrestrial domain zone of great ecological richness defined by the Urumea River bank, giving it a marked environmental character. To preserve the environment, the following actions have been developed:

- Over 6,000 m² of elastomeric sheets have been installed under the tracks to attenuate and minimize vibrations produced by the passage of trains. These blankets have been manufactured from recycled rubber.

- Carbon footprint during construction has been minimized by using concrete made with more sustainable cements, with a 20% reduction in emissions and more than 20% recycled materials.

- Management through ex-situ techniques of 16,807 tons of soils contaminated with organic compounds and heavy metals.

- Treatment to prevent the proliferation of allochthonous vegetation through the mechanical removal of 11,500 m² of invasive exotic species.

  • Bridges
  • Railway infrastructures
  • Train

The Delta Programme aims to prevent flooding in the Netherlands. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

  • Tungsteno

The largest sea defence project in the world

Rising sea levels threaten all types of infrastructure, from roads and bridges to power stations, sewage treatment plants and landfill sites. The Netherlands’ Delta Programme aims to prevent damage from possible flooding.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average global sea level has risen by 21 to 24 centimetres since 1880, which is increasing the risk of flooding in many parts of the world. While some researchers are trying to develop technology to slow the melting of glaciers, other places are preparing to prevent water from destroying them. The Netherlands is betting on the National Delta Programme, dubbed by some media as the world's largest sea defence project.

 

Unstoppable sea level rise

 

"As the ocean warms and the ice sheet melts, sea level goes up around the world," Nick Golledge, professor of glaciology at Victoria University of Wellington, told The ConversationThe outlook for the coming years is grim. NOAA says it is likely that sea levels will rise by at least 30 centimetres by 2100 compared to the beginning of the century, "even if greenhouse gas emissions follow a relatively low pathway in coming decades."

The Netherlands is a "low-lying, flood-prone country," says the Dutch government, which is looking for the best way to protect the nation. "After the disastrous floods in 1953, the government took steps to protect the country better against flooding. Agreements were made about the height of the dykes and the management of the coast," it says.

On 1 February 1953, the North Sea Flood killed 1,836 people in the Netherlands and devastated 2,070 square kilometres of land in the south-west of the country. Floods have a greater impact now than in 1953 and the threats are more serious, as the government points out. In addition to rising sea levels, torrential storms are becoming more extreme, temperatures are rising and water shortages are more frequent.

 

The great flood of 1953 is known as the North Sea Flood. Credit: British Pathé

 

Giant flood dykes

 

Dutch engineer Johan van Veen drew up a flood-prevention plan decades ago, which took on added urgency after the 1953 disaster. It involved building dikes to protect the densely populated areas at the mouths of the Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt rivers. "A total of 13 dams, including four barrier and nine secondary dams, were built to close off the mouths and inner reaches of the broad, long, interconnected inlets that for centuries had exposed the region to the destructive power of the North Sea," explains the Britannica encyclopaedia.

The largest dyke is the Oosterscheldekering. It is nine kilometres long and has 65 concrete pillars and a total of 62 steel gates (each 42 metres wide and up to 12 metres high). This system allows the floodgates to close within 75 minutes if it is detected that the sea level could rise more than three metres above the "normal Amsterdam level," which is the same as average sea level.

 

The American Society of Civil Engineers recognises the Delta Works as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Credit: XL Creations

 

The ultimate plan against floods?

 

Some media are calling it the "largest water defence structure in the world." But will this feat of hydraulic engineering be enough to stem the predicted rise in sea levels due to climate change? It is too early to answer this question with any certainty. Some argue that even the most sophisticated dykes will not be enough, and suggest covering areas with sand dunes to create higher ground to prevent flooding, and investing more in floating farms.

Others point out that even successful policies need to be maintained and adapted to changing times. Recently, the Dutch successfully reformulated their "delta approach" to adapt to "the possible but uncertain impacts of climate change," according to the book Great Policy Successes. Adapting the plan to current challenges is something the Dutch government has been working on for years.

Projects like the Delta Programme are important to mitigate the destructive effects of climate change. Floods are expected to increase in several parts of the world in the coming years. Between 1993 and 2015, the risk of coastal flooding increased by almost 50% globally, according to an article published in Nature CommunicationsAbout 26% of the Netherlands is below sea level and nearly 60% is vulnerable to large-scale coastal and river flooding. Other research published in the same journal suggests that by 2050, coastal areas where 300 million people now live could be flooded every year.


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

  • Infraestructuras

Millimetric Precision for Building the 906-meter Los Feos Viaduct

Sacyr Engineering and Infrastructure is building the railway section Los Arejos-Níjar, which is part of the Mediterranean Corridor of the High-Speed Line Murcia-Almería (Spain).

Among the unique infrastructures of the section, three viaducts stand out, which will be launched from one of their supports. The first of them is the Los Feos Viaduct.

This viaduct over the dry bed of a rambla is 906 meters long and its 17 spans total a collective maximum span of 67 meters. Its construction has just achieved a significant milestone: the first six culverts have been placed, at 153 meters in.

Launching in this type of viaduct, being so long and with such a self-weight to mobilize, is not a common occurrence, explains Francisco Julián Rodríguez Muñoz, manager for this project.

"Viaducts of mixed metal and concrete structure with a double-width track, by their very nature, are complicated. This one is even more so because we launch it with the lower concrete slabs and the upper pre-slabs installed. It will be secure among the national records of launches of metal railway bridges," Rodríguez adds.

35 Sacyr team members from diverse areas have successfully completed the launch of this first section, composed of six of the 34 culverts (each measuring 30 meters and weighing 100 tons) required for the infrastructure.

 


 

For the launching system, a lifting crane has been installed at the end of the bridge, while at the back of each section, the crawling tail is placed. There, 800-ton jacks are installed, which will be responsible for tensioning the drag cables and pushing the bridge forward. Rockers and side guides have been placed on all the piers and in the push park, which are responsible for sliding and fitting the bridge into place.

Once the entire deck has been launched, the upper and lower slabs will be assembled and concreted.

"In the first span span launch, you confirm that all the work of over a year has been done well," explains Francisco.

The secret to success lies in manufacturing tolerances and exhaustive topographic control, i.e., the minimum allowed errors in this process. When launching the spans from one support to the other, which is nearly a kilometer in length, geometric eccentricities must be minimal.

There is only a lateral margin of two centimeters along the entire length of the viaduct and three millimeters of flatness in the lower platform.

 


 

 

In total, six launches will be carried out: four of six spans and two of five. The last launch is scheduled to take place in the summer of 2024.

For the launch of the metal decks, high-precision topographic devices and sensors have been installed in various sections of the bridge and the nose. In addition, software has been developed to make geometric corrections in the launch process.

Through a tablet, mobile, or PC, one can check how the launch is progressing; any user can see the real-time data of the bridge's topography.

In the future, the viaduct will have seismic elements and state-of-the-art supports such as spherical supports and dampers, which will allow accommodating this viaduct of such length to different thermal and seismic effects.

Pondio Engineers have carried out the design and constructive project of the viaduct, the project for its launch, and provide technical support to Sacyr Engineering and Infrastructure.

  • Railway infrastructures
  • AVE
  • Viaducts
  • Spain

The Stone of El Peñol is a gigantic rock measuring 220 metres high. Credit: Angie Carvajal / Flickr

  • Tungsteno

A rock with more than 700 steps to 'touch the heavens'

The Stone of El Peñol is one of the largest rocks on the planet. It can be climbed using the so-called "stairway to heaven" that runs up one side. We look at how this extraordinary natural phenomenon was formed and how it has become an iconic tourist attraction in Colombia.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

A rock that seems to touch the sky. This is the Stone of Peñol, also known as El Peñol or the Rock of Guatapé, one of Colombia's main tourist attractions. This 220-metre high monolith has more than 700 steps leading to the top. Its shape is the result of wind and water erosion and there are several myths and stories about it, such as that it came from outer space or is the result of a volcano.

The 'jump' to the top of the rock

This enormous granite rock, composed of quartz, feldspar and mica, is located in the municipality of Guatapé, in the department of Antioquia. The first person to climb to its summit was Luis Eduardo Villegas López on 16 July 1954. "A mad priest called Alfonso Montoya, in the middle of the 40-hour sermons during the patron saint's festivities, urged the people of Guatapé to climb it once and for all," says Álvaro Idárraga Alzate, a retired teacher from Guatapé who studies the monolith.

He says the people of Guatapé were like toads: "They stared at the stones and were afraid to jump, knowing that up there they would find the image of a saint, a miracle and gold. He told them some stories. Then this man (Villegas) climbed the stone. Then he bought a small piece of land in front of it, and after that he bought the other farms around it, one after the other," says Idárraga.

 

The Stone of El Peñol is one of the largest rocks on the planet. Credit: Slowly Anywhere

 

A rock that came from outer space?

 

From the ground up, the rock is 220 metres high, but according to Idárraga, its depth, reaches 2,500 metres below the surface: "It's like a pin that's just showing its little head." There are many myths about the origin of the stone. Some claim that the monolith came from outer space, while others say that the cracks on its surface are the marks left by the devil's axe. "The stone is not a meteorite, nor a piece of krypton, nor a celestial body," says Idárraga.

María Isabel Mejía Cerón, a geologist and university professor, explained to the Colombian newspaper El Espectador that some of the largest rocks in Antioquia are the result of tectonic, orogenic and magmatic movements that took place between 90 and 70 million years ago. In fact, she says that El Peñol is a volcanic rock that did not rise above the Earth's crust. Some geologists think it is likely that the rock is an outcrop that came to the surface after millions of years on the tectonic plate of the Antioquia Batholith and through the erosion of soils.

 


 

The Stone of El Peñol offers one of the most attractive views in Colombia. Credit: Babak Fakhamzadeh / Flickr

 

From a ritual site to a tourist attraction

 

In pre-Hispanic indigenous times, this monolith was the centre of rituals, according to several Colombian media citing the Historical Museum of El Peñol. El Espectador indicates that, according to some archaeological studies, the areas around El Peñol may have been used as a rubbish dump by the indigenous people. Over the centuries, the land was fertilised and cultivated. Later, Empresas Públicas de Medellín built a huge reservoir on the surrounding land to generate electricity, which boosted tourism but also forced the migration of many inhabitants of the municipalities of El Peñol and Guatapé.

In the mid-20th century, some of the locals considered the stone a nuisance, as they had to travel around it to tend to their crops. Little did they know that this gigantic granite monolith would eventually become an iconic tourist attraction. To reach its summit, Luis Eduardo Villegas built a handmade wooden staircase, which was later replaced by concrete.

For centuries, this monolith has left many generations speechless. "Looking at this rock of such enormous dimensions, in this place, the observer cannot help but wonder in amazement: What effort of nature would have been necessary to remove this enormous mass of sedimentary rock from its site and place it here, whose vertical strata indicate its formation and the portentous cataclysm to which the monolith owes its position?" wrote José María Gutiérrez de Alba in a manuscript in 1875Thousands of tourists have come to contemplate it and capture from its summit some of the most attractive postcard images of Colombia.

 


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

  • Geology
  • Buildings
  • Colombia

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