• Innovation

We developed a new type of concrete in Chile using glass waste 

Chile has launched a new example of circular economy applied to the creation of new building materials. This project consists of the development of a new type of concrete by recovering glass waste.

“We have been working since late 2020 to reduce the amount of cement used in concrete, and thus, cut down on CO2 emissions,” explains Victor Fabian Armijos, head of the Innovation Department at Sacyr Chile.

"After a series of technological processes, we managed to transform re-purposed glass into a new building material, which allows to replace between 10% and 20% of the required amount of cement in concrete,” explains engineer Sebastián Quiroz Durán, CEO of E-M, a start up that Sacyr collaborates with to develop this new material and large-scale project.

The latest results obtained in the laboratory agree with our research and show that, on average, glass enhances the mechanical strength of concrete after 28 days of curation up to 13.4%, and therefore also its durability. Thanks to glass having a fireproof, inert and pozzolanic nature and an amorphous atomic distribution, various areas of industrial applications have been opened, such as urban furniture, 3D printing and radiation protection in nuclear plants.

Thus, this new concrete would have a less cement in its composition, water, aggregates and glass (in powder form).  Currently the glass powder (tentatively called WG-X), is prepared through various selection, control, crushing and measurement processes.

"Cement itself and its production are very polluting activities within the construction industry and globally it represents 8% of the total CO2 released to the environment, so any decrease or replacement will be very significant when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint," explains Victor Armijos. It is also worth noting that for every m3 of concrete, about 100 750cc glass bottles are recycled.
 

 

Additionally, he adds that this project involves sharing this knowledge, since there are already other experiences in other countries, such as the bridge made with 70,000 glass bottles on Nuns' island, in Montreal, Canada.

For this reason, reports are made to demonstrate the technical and economic advantages of adding recycled glass powder into the formulation of concrete elements.

"Sacyr Chile has already obtained favorable results at the laboratory level, and now we want to replicate results on a larger scale”" explains the head of Innovation in Chile.

“The next stage will be to validate a non-structural concrete element on site, which will include about 5 to 8 m3 of concrete with this recycled material, in order to evaluate its behavior under normal conditions of exposure on the ground" explains Victor.

Since this project is part of the portfolio of strategic projects for the 2025 Sustainability Action Plan, Sacyr Chile will continue to collaborate with other strategic partners such as the academic sector, scaling up this type of projects with the Universidad de La Frontera, in Temuco, through additional studies of recycled aggregates as alternative construction materials for granular layers and concrete.
 

 

Recovery of Construction Waste in Chile


The construction sector in Chile is responsible for 34% of the creation of solid waste and at least 33% of GHG emissions.

There is little recovery of waste at multiple scales in Chile compared to the rest of the countries in the OECD. Only in non-hazardous municipal waste, it was reported to SINADER that 98.5% of its waste is eliminated and only 1.5% recovered. According to the scientific journal Resources, Conservation & Recycling, Chilean municipalities recycle 1.7% of domestic waste, the rest ends up in streets and landfills.

Mixed Construction and Demolition Waste represents the most impactful waste by volume, with approximately 74,000 m3 (for a 3-year period).

  • Innovation
  • Concrete
  • Chile
  • Cement
  • Science talks

Used and recycled clothes re-purposed for construction materials 

Thanks to a new composite created with textile fibers, through a university-led project, waste materials could be reused for facade cladding, floating flooring and acoustic false ceiling. 

In Europe alone, more than 16 million tonnes of textile waste are generated every year. Of that amount, 73% winds up incinerated or in landfills, and only 1% is recycled. 

Research group TECTEX of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya has launched a project that gives a useful outlet to this waste.

This group has created a new construction material from textile waste, preferably indicated for ventilated facade cladding plates within the framework of the RecyBuildMat project.

It is also expected that it can be used as floating flooring, acoustic false ceiling, drywall and other similar applications.

This material's composition (developed in a laboratory) includes binding agents and mineral fillers in addition to textile waste.

The material comes from conventional clothing waste of all kinds. Usually most clothes fibers have cotton and polyester in them. 1 kilo of recycled fibers is used per every square meter of material. In addition, being a residue formed by relatively long fibers and in the form of non-woven fabric, when mixed with cement, it gives advantageous mechanical performance, such as great deformability and resistance to breakage.

 

 


The material developed by TECTEX combines lightness and resistance provided by the textile, which also improves thermal and acoustic insulation. In addition, it can incorporate other functions such as self-cleaning or thermal absorption, with special additives.

“We are doing it within the framework of the Retos project, of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (MICINN). It started in June 2020, and will end in 2024. In addition, for the last 10 years we have been working on construction materials in the framework of challenging projects. The Retos projects reach the lab-level tests scope. To bring it to the market, it will depend on the promoter's desire to introduce this product to the market,” explains Mònica Ardanuy, Professor and head of the Textile Engineering section of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering of the Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya.

“Within the Retos projects framework, we can ask for a proof-of-concept project to test our materials in an environment close to real-life conditions. Subsequently, if there is any company interested in doing so, it could already be moved to the marketing level. We currently manufacture this material in 30x30 centimeters dimensions" says Ardanuy. 

"The plates are equivalent to a type of conventional fiber cement, which is what we commonly know as “uralite”. Uralite used to be a common material to make cover plates, facades, urban furniture, drainage pipes and other similar elements. The dangerousness of asbestos, one of the original raw materials in uralite, banned since 2000, was an important turning point in its production. Today, we have synthetic fibers that can replace asbestos fiber, such as polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) synthetic fibers, explains Josep Claramunt Blanes, Associate Professor at the Department of Agri-Food Engineering and Biotechnology Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.

 

 

“The difference is that, in conventional fiber cement, short fibers dispersed in the cement are used for reinforcement. This limits the energy absorption capacity of the material. Instead, we use a textile structure reinforcement, which gives resistance properties to the material that regular fiber cement does not have,” explains Josep. "This way we multiply some of the characteristics of fiber cement by 10.”

"Regarding cement materials reinforced with textile fibers, we use a non-woven fabric, which is like a felt, to make it much cheaper than other types of textile structures with weft and warp, commonly used for cement reinforcements,” says Josep Claramunt.

The price is similar to fiber cement and could compete well in many applications. In the case of drywall, so-called ”plasterboard" is more competitive than our material, although its performance is much lower.

As for the facades, current demanding regulations on comfort lead to multilayer construction solutions since it is very difficult to find a material that meets all the requirements. The material we are talking about would be the outer layer of protection and could replace those currently used (natural stone, ceramic, cement composites, aluminum or wood).
 

 

At the moment, a cement manufacturing company is very interested in making this material usable. We have also started a collaboration with a company specializing in "panot" paving stones (signature paving stones in Barcelona) to make a pavement prototype with this technology. 

“In order to make this material, potential manufacturers should change or modify their current machinery to adapt to the new technology. That's the main issue we run into when we approach companies. We would like to be able to carry out some kind of corporate partnership to go from proof of concept to the real world” underlines Monica.

“As far as we know, there are no other similar materials that use the type of non-woven fabrics that we manufacture. This is difficult to find anywhere else because our fabric is specially designed for this material. As far as we know, there are no other universities or research centers that manufacture this type of non-woven fabrics for this specific type of reinforcement.” 
 

 

  • Materials
  • Innovation and technology
  • Cement

Facial recognition promises to help verify the identity of potential spies. Credit: Unsplash

  • Tungsteno

The controversy of facial recognition in the Ukraine war

Facial recognition company Clearview AI, which hopes to be able to identify "almost everyone in the world" by 2023, has offered its services free of charge to Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion. This is how the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence uses this technology and some of the risks involved.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

Facial recognition has the potential to identify spies or deceased people and help refugees reunite with their families in wars, but it also carries some risks with potentially catastrophic consequences. In the face of the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence has turned to a database of 20 billion faces from the company Clearview AI. Having examined how satellites are mapping the conflict in Ukraine and what technologies are helping to replace Russian gas, we now look at the pros and cons of using facial recognition in warfare.

 

Technology to verify identities in war

 

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Hoan Ton-That, the CEO of Clearview AI, started thinking about how he could help in the conflict. "I remember seeing videos of captured Russian soldiers and Russia claiming they were actors," Ton-That told The New York TimesThat's when he thought that with his facial recognition technology, the Ukrainians could verify the identity of potential spies and the deceased, as well as help reunite refugees with their families.

After offering Clearview AI's services to Ukraine for free, he created more than 200 accounts for users in five Ukrainian government agencies and translated his application into their language. Ukraine has since used the technology to identify Russian soldiers, alive or dead, and to verify that travellers in Ukraine are who they claim to be. Ukraine's strategies include identifying dead Russian soldiers and notifying their relatives. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov believes this is the best way to make the Russian public aware of the cost of the conflict and "dispel the myth of a 'special operation’ in which 'there are no conscripts' and 'no one dies’".

 

Ukraine uses facial recognition to identify dead Russian soldiers. Credit: DW Shift.

 

About 14 photos for every person on Earth

 

In the words of its creator, Clearview AI would be something like "a search engine for faces". "It kind of works like Google. But instead of putting in a string of words or text, the user puts in a photo of a face," explains Ton-That. As of today, the system has 20 billion faces and a large database of Russian citizens thanks to VK, the Russian Facebook.

Every day the company collects more and more images. In fact, it has indicated to its investors that by early 2023 it expects to have 100 billion photos of faces, enough to ensure that "almost everyone in the world will be identifiable", according to a financial presentation accessed by The Washington PostThose images equate to 14 photos for each of the seven billion people on Earth. Clearview AI explains that all of these images come from public websites, media outlets, mugshot websites, public social networks and other open sources.

All of this information, according to the company, "enables quicker identifications and apprehensions to help solve and prevent crimes, helping to make our communities safer". But its techniques may violate users' privacy rights. In fact, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fined Clearview AI more than £7.5 million (about 8.7 million euros) in May for collecting images from the internet to create a global facial recognition database. The agency has ordered the company to stop obtaining and using the personal data of UK residents that is publicly available on the web.

 

ClearView AI has 20 billion faces and a large database of Russian citizens. Credit: NOVA PBS Official.

 

A double-edged sword

 

As for the effectiveness of facial recognition software in warfare, there is conflicting evidence, as Felipe Romero Moreno, a lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire School of Law, tells The ConversationSome studies indicate that the technology can identify deceased people as well as, or better than, a human. However, according to the US Department of Energy, the decomposition of a deceased person's face can reduce the accuracy of the program.

In addition, as Romero points out, some research suggests that fingerprints, dental records and DNA remain the most reliable identification techniques. "But these are tools for trained professionals, while facial recognition can be used by non-experts," says Romero. It should also be noted that this technology sometimes fails, so it can mistakenly match two images or mismatch photos of the same person. In Ukraine, the consequences of any possible mistakes with artificial intelligence could be disastrous: "An innocent civilian could be killed if they are misidentified as a Russian soldier." Clearview AI insists that its tool should complement, but not replace, human decision-making.

 

Facial recognition systems often apply a number of biases and sometimes fail. Credit: NEC.

 

Moreover, if the technology can be used to identify both living and dead enemy soldiers, it could also be incorporated into systems that use automated decision-making to direct lethal force. As philosophers Darian Meacham and Martin Gak, who research ethics in conflict zones, point out: "This is not a remote possibility". Just last year, the UN reported that an autonomous drone may have killed people in Libya in 2020, and there are suspicions that autonomous weapons are being used in the war in Ukraine.

While facial recognition technology has enormous potential in such conflicts to identify individuals, the risks involved should not be overlooked. As Conor Healy, a facial recognition expert at surveillance technology research group IPVM, told the BBC, it is important for Ukrainian forces to recognise that it is "not a 100% accurate way of determining whether someone is your friend or your foe". "It shouldn’t be a life-or-death technology where you either pass or fail, where you could get imprisoned or, god forbid, even killed," he concludes.

 

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

  • Innovation and technology
  • Services

How does Europe finance sustainable urban mobility?

Cities require increasingly more space for urban mobility that is respectful of the environment and at the same time accessible and friendly to citizens. To manage these needs, Europe has created financing instruments that help economically cover these conditions through the launch of projects that favor the implementation of infrastructures in line with this objective.

EIT Urban Mobility, an initiative of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), an European Union agency based in Barcelona to this challenge and needs. Its functions include the analysis of issues in cities, and to specify measures to change them (reduce emissions, accidents, etc.)

“We work with universities, startups and research centers, as well as city administrations” explains Marta Álvarez, Stakeholder and Partnership Manager of EIT Urban Mobility | Innovation Hub South.  “At the moment, we have European funding, but in the future, we will have to self-finance," Marta explains. Spain is the largest recipient of EIT Urban Mobility funds.

“When we put out a project, different joint ventures bid to cover it.  We have a yearly budget to finance projects, and the entire consortium of companies, startups, universities, research centers come together to request projects. We can develop the project from scratch and decide with whom to do it always within five areas of interest”, explains Celeste Reglá, Business Creation Project Officer of EIT Urban Mobility, Innovation Hub South.

 


EIT identifies nine areas (challenge areas) around which they work to structure their programs:


Active Mobility: aims to increase active mobility in EIT Urban Mobility partner cities. 
Intermodality: increased interconnectivity and accessibility.
Mobility infrastructures: it aims to promote innovation and improvement in mobility infrastructures the built environment. 
Mobility for all: To improve physical and geographical accessibility to sustainable means of transport, with a special focus on target groups and vulnerable travelers.
Sustainable urban logistics: This area aims to improve urban services, goods delivery, and waste management operations through logistics.
Creating public realm: to improve the design, use and management of public spaces, and reduction of space allocated to vehicles. 
Future mobility: Responsible for promoting digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G, sensors and smart infrastructure. 
Mobility and energy: This area is focused on the replacement of internal combustion engines (ICE) with cleaner fuel propulsion solutions.
Pollution reduction: this area aims to lower levels of urban mobility related pollution.

In addition to these nine identified areas of work, EIT Urban Mobility has three accelerator programs focusing on the following topics: Urban Air Mobility, Hydrogen and Mobility Data Spaces. 

 


EIT Urban Mobility, an initiative of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), an agency of the European Union, aims to provide innovative solutions and accelerate the transition to a truly multimodal, integrated and user-centered transport system.

As the main European innovation community in urban mobility, EIT Urban Mobility strives to avoid fragmentation by facilitating collaboration between cities, companies, education, research, and innovation to solve the most urgent challenges in cities.

Partner cities will become "living labs" where companies and education and research centers in the community will demonstrate how new technologies can work to solve real problems in real cities by transporting people, goods, and waste intelligently.
 

  • Sustainable movility
  • Vehicle mobility

Some German cities are studying which traffic lights can be switched off at night to save natural gas. Credit: Pexels.

  • Tungsteno

Turned-off traffic lights and cold showers to save gas

Faced with heavy dependence on Russian natural gas and unprecedented price rises, the EU is aiming to cut gas consumption by 15% over the next eight months. To achieve this, some countries have opted for common-sense measures, such as limiting the use of air conditioning and heating, and other much more surprising ones, such as turning off traffic lights at night or allowing only cold showers in public gyms.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

While some German cities have switched off some underused traffic lights and dimmed much of the street lighting at night, France has banned businesses that use air conditioning from leaving their doors open. All these measures have a very ambitious goal: to reduce the EU's gas consumption and to have sufficient reserves to get through the winterHaving looked at the technologies that aim to replace Russian gas, we now turn to the main gas-saving measures adopted by EU member states.

 

Saving gas for a safe winter

 

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sent energy prices soaring and put many countries on alert because of the risk of supply disruptions. Nearly half of EU states have already been affected by reduced supplies, according to the European Commission. The Commission has therefore launched a plan for all member states, regardless of their exposure to Russian gas, to reduce their gas consumption by 15% between 1 August 2022 and 31 March 2023.

The aim is for all consumers, public administrations, households, public building owners, energy suppliers and even industry to take measures to limit their consumption. "By substituting gas with other fuels and saving energy this summer, more gas can be stored for the winter," says the European Commission. In theory, acting sooner could help reduce the negative impact on GDP and alleviate market concerns and price volatility.

 

The European Commission aims for all member states to reduce their gas consumption by 15% over eight months. Credit: European Commission.

 

Traffic lights shut off, closed doors and cold showers

 

Around half of German households rely on natural gas for heating and some 13% of electricity comes from this fossil fuel. This year, summer nights in the German city of Augsburg are eerily dark and silent: the facades of historic buildings are not illuminated; streetlights are dimmed and most fountains are not working. The city has lowered the temperature in its public swimming pools and is checking traffic lights to see which can be turned off at night. In cities such as Hannover, it has been agreed that showers in gyms and sports facilities will be cold water and that hot water in public buildings will be turned off.

In France, gas is the third most consumed energy source, according to the French Ministry of Ecological Transition. It accounts for 16% of total primary energy consumption in the country, behind nuclear energy (40%) and oil (28%). There, it has been agreed that, in some cities such as Paris, air-conditioned shops must keep their doors closed and the illuminated signs of supermarkets and shopping centres should be switched off as soon as they close. Citizens have also been asked to turn off Wi-Fi, unplug devices and shut off lights in rooms they are not using.

In France and other countries, such as Greece and Spain, public facilities are required to adjust the temperature of air conditioning in summer and heating in winter. Spain has limited the use of A/C to 27 degrees Celsius in summer and heating to 19 degrees Celsius in winter in public buildings, as well as requiring that lights in shop windows and unoccupied buildings be switched off after 10pm. In addition, some countries plan to upgrade state buildings to make them more energy efficient. Greece, for example, has urged them to install window shields in buildings and to shut off computers after working hours.

 

Augsburg has implemented several energy-saving measures to deal with the natural gas crisis. Credit: Reuters.

 

Reducing dependence on Russian gas

 

The actions and guidelines that all these countries have voluntarily implemented affect trade, industry and households. The aim is to gradually reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels in the face of supply disruptions and unstoppable price rises. In the event of a high risk of gas shortages or exceptionally high gas demand, the European Commission could approve a Community alert. If this were to happen, a compulsory reduction in natural gas consumption could be implemented in all member states.

It is very difficult to know to what extent all these measures will work and whether the EU will achieve a 15% reduction in gas consumption over eight months. There are too many variables at play and what works in one country may not be successful in another. Among the factors that may play a role is public acceptance of these measures. A study published in the Journal of Economic Psychology concludes that people prefer measures that save energy through technical improvements to behavioural measures and, above all, to shifts in consumption. Moreover, some people are likely to be unwilling to sacrifice their own personal satisfaction.

Although some individuals prefer technical improvements to save energy, the scientific literature suggests that technology alone may not be sufficient in some cases. A review published in the journal Energy and Buildings indicates that humans and their energy-related behaviour in buildings also play an important role. The authors estimate that the savings potential of occupant behaviour is between 10% and 25% for residential buildings and between 5% and 30% for commercial buildings. While it remains to be seen whether the European Union will succeed in engaging the public to achieve its targets, for the time being some countries such as Spain and Poland are already preparing new initiatives to influence gas savings and, most importantly, to prepare for the eventuality of an energy crisis in winter.

 

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

  • Traffic light
  • Energy saving
  • Oil & Gas
  • Electricity
  • Services

We improve encapsulation rubber performance

Encapsulation rubber products used for the floors on sports tracks and playgrounds  have improved their performance to increase their durability, consistency and appearance thanks to a Sacyr Green project.

Recycled encapsulation rubber products present multiple problems after installation such as color and property loss due to exposure.

This means that these products have not been able to displace end-of-life tires or TPV (thermoplastic vulcanizates) industrial products from the market, which are non-recycled and currently used massively at a much higher cost and improvable quality.

Therefore, Sacyr Green and more specifically, Valoriza, are working on the project "New improved encapsulation rubber products" to improve the performance of encapsulation rubbers from end-of-life tires to make them more competitive by increasing their technical performance, as well as to automate the manufacturing process, consequently giving a new life to the tires, promoting recycling and the circular economy.

 

 

The overall objective of this project is to develop a new range of encapsulation rubber end-of-life tire products to use on safety pavements with improved performance in terms of color, elasticity and durability.

Environmental, strategic and business objectives include increasing the content of this type of waste by promoting the circular economy, boosting the added value of the materials generated in the treatment of end-of-life tires and developing a new product with high added value by expanding the business line, increasing Valoriza's competitive advantage.

The objective is to increase the production of encapsulation rubber from 400 t/year to 2,000 t/year by process automation; achieve more accurate results; improve product quality to make it more competitive; have a higher tire recovery rate, reduce production costs and obtain new products (prefabricated parts through the use of presses).

“This way, we will improve the performance of encapsulation rubber from end-of-life tires to make it more competitive by increasing its demand, in addition to automating the manufacturing process, giving a new life to these tires, promoting recycling and the circular economy,” explains Ana Benavent, Technical director of Valoriza.

EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) is an ASTM M class kind of rubber, a thermosetting polymer with good abrasion and wear resistance. Therefore, it is mostly used in the areas of playgrounds that wear easily, such as the areas right after slides or the areas under swing sets where the feet may cause friction.

 

Chiloeches rubber recycling plant (Guadalajara)

 

The colors are very bright, but the problem is that they contain a lot of lime, so over time they turn white and lose that bright color and also tends to harden.

The advantage of this material is that it is not a black rubber granule coated with a colored layer, the material is the same color all the way through, which is why it is used in the wear areas of children's playgrounds, because, although it wears a little, the black color inside does not come through compared to encapsulation rubber and EPDM.

TPV are thermosoft plastics, a blend of a thermoplastic matrix and rubbers capable of vulcanizing. TPV also have a good resistance to abrasion and wear.

The pros of encapsulation rubber are:

  • It is more sustainable, has a higher proportion of recycled materials originating from end-of-life tires (TPV does contain some recycled material, but in lesser amounts).
  • It is more cost-efficient.
  • It is more durable and elastic.

  • Tires

Saudi Arabia has plans to build The Line near the Red Sea, over an area of about 34 square kilometres. Credit: Neom

  • Tungsteno

The 170-kilometre-long skyscraper city: an achievable dream?

170 kilometres long and 500 metres high—these are the mind-blowing dimensions of the enormous skyscraper that Saudi Arabia plans to build to give shape to a futuristic city called The Line. But to successfully construct this city without cars, pollution or accidents, it will have to overcome arduous challenges.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

A futuristic city without roads, cars or emissions; while these features alone would make The Line surprising, its dimensions are most unusual: 170 kilometres long and 500 metres high by 200 metres wide. Having analysed the "ideal city" designed by Leonardo da Vinci, the floating islands to enlarge Manhattan, and a city run by artificial intelligence, we now turn to examine the feasibility of this ambitious project announced by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.

 

The dream of a city without pollution or accidents

 

The Line is supposed to be built in north-western Saudi Arabia, near the Red Sea, on an area of only about 34 square kilometres. "It will use less land when compared to other cities of similar capacity," say its creators. In theory, the city will run on 100% renewable energy and prioritise nature, health and wellbeing over transportation and infrastructure.

Salman insists that "we cannot ignore the environmental and livability crises facing our world's cities," and is committed to building "something as ambitious as Egypt’s pyramids." The solution its creators promise is an idyllic place, "without pollution and traffic accidents, coupled with world-class preventive healthcare, so people will live longer." They also intend to rely on a natural ventilation system to ensure that residents enjoy an ideal climate all year round.

The aim is for the city to house around nine million residents and create some 380,000 jobs by 2030. This proposal "challenges traditional flat, horizontal cities" by opting for the vertical construction of a towering skyscraper 500 metres high (which today would occupy 12th place on the list of the tallest buildings in the world) that stretches in a straight line along a length never before seen in a building and has mirrored facades. In theory, the facilities that residents will need to frequent on a day-to-day basis will be just a five-minute walk away and there will be a high-speed train that will run from one end of the city to the other in 20 minutes. "Not paying expenses such as car insurance, fuel and parking will mean more disposable income for citizens," its creators argue.

 

The aim is for The Line to house around nine million residents and create some 380,000 jobs by 2030. Credit: Neom.

 

Robot dinosaurs, an artificial moon and a lot of controversy

 

The Line is part of a much larger and even more ambitious project: a megacity called Neom, which is being built in Tabuk province and looks like something out of science fiction. In addition to flying taxis, its creators want it to house robot dinosaurs, cloud-seeding technology and a giant artificial moon. The project, with an initial investment of $500 billion, is not without controversy. Although its creators claim that Neom would be built on virgin land, in reality, some 20,000 people will be forced to relocate because of its construction. These residents belong to the Huwaitat tribe, which has been spread across Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Sinai Peninsula for many generations.

"For the Huwaitat tribe, Neom is being built on our blood, on our bones," Alia Hayel Aboutiyah al-Huwaiti, a London-based activist and member of the tribe, told The Guardian. She sees it as a city for tourists and people with money: "It’s definitely not for the people already living there." For months, the tribe has been harassed, arrested and abducted by Saudi forces apparently because of their refusal to relocate to facilitate the Neom project, according to Al Jazeera.

In addition, expatriates recruited to work on the initiative criticise their managers for making unrealistic demands and turning a blind eye to discriminationas reported in The Wall Street Journal. Among the employees who have resigned from the project or been fired are those who were poached from companies such as Walt Disney, Siemens AG and Marriott International. The controversy also prompted the video game company Riot Games to cut ties with the megacity's promoters and not accept sponsorship.

 

The Line will supposedly run on 100% renewable energy and prioritise nature, health and wellness. Credit: Neom.

 

Securing funding and other major challenges

 

For all the controversy surrounding this mega-project, many details about the construction and operation of The Line have yet to be made public. Behind the ambitious promises, there are many technical and economic challenges. Although Saudi Arabia is enjoying windfall revenues from high oil prices, it has not been very successful in attracting financial resources and investment from foreign governments and companies, according to The New Arab.

An initial assessment of the project, accessed by The Wall Street Journal, concludes that the city would have to be built in stages, which could take up to 50 years. In the assessment, Neom employees raise some concerns. For example, they note that after the pandemic, some people may not want to live in a high-rise environment. They also stress that the size of this giant skyscraper could alter the dynamics of groundwater flow in the desert wadis (a dry valley or river through which water only flows in the rainy season) and would restrict the movement of birds and other animals.

While it remains to be seen whether Saudi Arabia is able to meet these challenges, The Line is yet another example of the strong commitment of large nations to smart cities equipped with the latest technologies. It would not be the first time that the country has abandoned a vanity project. For example, during the last oil boom, it announced plans to build the world's tallest skyscraper, but the project was eventually put on hold. However, if it eventually succeeds in building The Line, one thing is clear: it will be a unique city in the world.

 

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

  • Sustainability
  • Skyscraper
  • With Sacyrian accent

Los contaminantes de preocupación emergente: la amenaza difusa

La contaminación del medio ambiente es uno de los mayores problemas ambientales actuales, que junto al cambio climático amenaza especies y ecosistemas y ponen en riesgo la vida en el planeta. La contaminación de las aguas supone adicionalmente un problema aún más grave.

Domingo Zarzo /

Director de Innovación y proyectos estratégicos de Sacyr Agua

 

La contaminación de las aguas supone un problema grave debido a que 800 millones de personas carecen de servicios básicos de agua y 2.200 millones no tienen un suministro seguro y accesible, y 3.600 millones de personas carecen de saneamiento. 

Frente a los vertidos accidentales o puntuales de contaminantes en altas concentraciones, más preocupante aún es la contaminación difusa producida por miles de compuestos cuyos efectos son poco conocidos y que se encuentran muy extendidos en el medio ambiente en concentraciones muy bajas.

Muchas de estas sustancias son tóxicas o cancerígenas, se acumulan en las grasas de distintas especies, sedimentos marinos y de ríos y lagos (bioacumulación), se van incrementando a lo largo de la cadena trófica (biomagnificación) y pueden tardar muchos años en descomponerse (son persistentes).

Aunque la conciencia sobre el problema de la contaminación no es nueva, en la actualidad nos enfrentamos a algunos retos relativamente recientes (o al menos somos más conscientes de ellos); los micro y nanoplásticos, las superbacterias y los microorganismos resistentes a los antibióticos y los contaminantes de preocupación emergente (CPEs), que trataremos en más profundidad.

Los contaminantes de preocupación emergente son compuestos que se han detectado en las aguas recientemente (previamente desconocidos o no reconocidos como contaminantes) y sobre los cuales hay preocupación acerca de sus efectos sobre la salud y el medio ambiente, ya que no son bien conocidos.

Se trata de distintas familias de compuestos que incluyen medicamentos y productos farmacéuticos (¡pensemos en la cantidad de ibuprofeno o paracetamol que puede llegar al agua!), productos de cuidado personal, pesticidas, drogas de abuso (sí, se detecta por ejemplo cocaína en las aguas residuales), esteroides y hormonas, hidrocarburos aromáticos policíclicos (PAHs), etc. 

 

 

Últimamente también se está poniendo el foco en los PFAS (sustancias perfluoroalquiladas) que se usan en productos textiles y domésticos, lucha contra incendios, procesado de alimentos, construcción, industria, electrónica, etc. y que suelen encontrarse con más frecuencia en el agua, en pescados, frutas, huevos y productos derivados del huevo.

 ¿Y por qué nos preocupan? Porque…


    Pueden acabar en las fuentes de agua potable y ser un peligro para la salud y el medioambiente
    Algunos son cancerígenos
    Algunos son disruptores hormonales
    No hay regulación ni concentraciones máximas para su vertido en todos los casos, ya que ni siquiera hay una lista definitiva y esta sigue creciendo
    Muchos son productos de consumo habitual (antibióticos, medicamentos diversos, hormonas, drogas de abuso, etc.)
    La lista de compuestos puede ser casi infinita y su detección y tratamiento es caro


¿Cómo entran en el medio ambiente?


La mayor parte de estos compuestos se incorporan al medio ambiente y al agua desde las aguas residuales, los lixiviados de RSU, los drenajes agrícolas, residuos y vertidos industriales y la aplicación de lodos de depuradoras.


¿Cómo los analizamos?


Su análisis requiere de técnicas de concentración y extracción en fase sólida o líquida (ya que se encuentran a concentraciones muy bajas) y análisis por técnicas como la cromatografía líquida o de gases acoplada a espectrometría de masas (GM-MS / LC-MS) o ICP-Masas para compuestos inorgánicos y metales, por lo que se trata de análisis caros, lo que dificulta su determinación.

Por ello en la actualidad se están haciendo esfuerzos en hacer listas de compuestos que sean representativos y más frecuentes y sirvan de indicadores de la presencia de familias de compuestos sin tener que analizarlos todos individualmente.

Las concentraciones en que se encuentran en el agua pueden ser tan bajas como partes por millón o por trillón, lo que dificulta su análisis y el estudio de sus efectos sobre el medio ambiente o los organismos vivos. Para hacernos una idea de la pequeña magnitud de la que hablamos, un investigador español decía que era tan difícil analizar contaminantes a esas concentraciones como encontrar la gorra del capitán del Titanic dentro de su barco.


¿Y cómo podemos eliminarlos?


Aunque estas concentraciones tan bajas hacen difícil incluso su detección, contamos con una batería de tratamientos para su eliminación que incluyen procesos biológicos, de adsorción sobre carbón activo, procesos de oxidación avanzada o tratamientos de membrana como la ósmosis inversa. Cabe destacar que los procesos de adsorción o membranas no son destructivos y los que lo son pueden producir sustancias aún más tóxicas que las originales, lo cual representa otro problema adicional.

 

 

Además de estos contaminantes de preocupación emergente, se han utilizado en las legislaciones otras listas de contaminantes como la de sustancias peligrosas, las sustancias prioritarias y las sustancias peligrosas prioritarias, que incluyen plaguicidas, metales pesados, compuestos organoclorados, hidrocarburos aromáticos y otros. 

Uno de los más conocidos de estos plaguicidas, el DDT, tuvo una historia de éxito y caída en desgracia, pasando de ser aplaudido por salvar miles de vidas en la Segunda Guerra Mundial e incluso a la concesión de un premio Nobel, hasta su prohibición total y aparición en todas las listas de contaminantes peligrosos. 

 

Fuente: elaboración propia


¿Tenemos una regulación especial para estas sustancias en Europa?


Sí, ¡y además se trata de legislaciones muy recientes!

El Reglamento (UE) 2020/741 relativo a los requisitos mínimos para la reutilización del agua para agricultura contempla requerimientos adicionales sobre metales pesados, plaguicidas, productos farmacéuticos y otras sustancias de preocupación emergente entre los que se incluyen microcontaminantes y microplásticos.

La nueva regulación de aguas potables (Directiva 2020/2184) relativa a la calidad de las aguas destinadas al consumo humano también ha introducido una lista de observación para compuestos emergentes, productos farmacéuticos y microplásticos.

Igualmente la Comisión Europea aprobó en mayo de 2021 el Plan de Acción “Hacia una contaminación cero del aire, del agua y el suelo”, que entre otros objetivos para 2030 incluye los siguientes:


○    Mejorar la calidad del agua, reduciendo los residuos, los desechos plásticos en el mar (en un 50%) y los microplásticos liberados en el medio ambiente (en un 30%)
○    Mejorar la calidad del suelo, reduciendo las pérdidas de nutrientes y el uso de plaguicidas químicos en un 50%


¿Y Sacyr ha realizado alguna acción o investigación sobre contaminantes emergentes?


¡Desde luego!

Sacyr ha realizado varios proyectos de investigación relacionados con el estudio y eliminación de contaminantes emergentes, como un estudio realizado en la EDAR de La Franca (Asturias) donde se ensayó la eliminación de contaminantes emergentes en un filtro verde, con muy buenos resultados para algunos de los compuestos estudiados (por ejemplo se produjo una gran eliminación de cafeína).

En la actualidad, en el marco del proyecto Misiones-SOS-AGUA XXI financiado por CDTI con fondos Next Generation y liderado por Sacyr Agua, una de las líneas de investigación trata sobre el análisis y tratamiento de contaminantes de preocupación emergente en aguas residuales y lodos que vayan a ser utilizados en agricultura, así como su efecto sobre suelos y cultivos.

Igualmente, Sacyr diseñó y construyó hace unos años el tratamiento terciario para la EDAR de La Gavia, en Madrid, del Canal de Isabel II, que, con un caudal de diseño de 1,5 m3/s es una de las mayores instalaciones con oxidación avanzada (ozono/agua oxigenada/radiación ultravioleta) de España.

Para finalizar, recomendación.

Todos podemos hacer algo por nuestra parte, usando los medicamentos con prudencia y sólo cuando sean estrictamente necesarios, usando productos de cuidado personal que sean biodegradables y en la menor cantidad posible, usando plaguicidas ecológicos o que no dañen el medio ambiente y ¡nada de drogas!
En otra ocasión hablaremos de los micro y nanoplásticos, que merecen un capítulo aparte.

  • Metal-bearing wastewaters

The Antonov An-225 was 84 metres long and 10.2 metres high. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

  • Tungsteno

How the world's largest aircraft was built (and destroyed)

The invasion of Ukraine has wiped out one of the jewels of world aviation. A Russian attack in February destroyed the Antonov An-225, an achievement of human engineering. This is how its owners aspire to rebuild the largest aircraft on the planet.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

The world's largest aircraft, the Antonov An-225, has been destroyed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As well as being the heaviest cargo aircraft ever to take to the skies, it was once the star of air shows in Canada, Great Britain and the USA and has transported all kinds of goods, from locomotives and satellites to planes, trucks, food and medicines. In fact, it broke the record for cargo volume when it transported medical equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic. We take a look at the history of this gigantic aircraft, equipped with six engines and 32 wheels, which holds dozens of Guinness World Records, and how its owners are now planning to rebuild it.

 

A legendary aircraft

 

The An-225's story begins in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Soviet Union was in the middle of a space race with the United States. This aircraft, called Mriya, or 'dream' in Ukrainian, was built in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, It was intended to carry the Energia carrier rocket and the Buran spacecraft between space facilities in the former Soviet Union. This giant of the skies first took off in 1988 and was the inspiration for Antonov Airlines' slogan: "No other name carries more weight."

As well as being the heaviest aircraft ever built, it was also the longest-span aircraft in service (some 88.4 metres). Powered by six turbofan engines, it has a length of 84 metres, a height of 10.2 metres and a maximum payload of 250 tonnes, which can be carried internally or externally on its upper fuselage. That's the weight of 250 cars or 5,000 truck tires. The An-225 entered commercial service in 2001. Since then, it has flown all over the world carrying cargo such as electrical transformers and mobile power generators.

It has also been used to move supplies during some humanitarian crises. Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, it flew material to the neighbouring Dominican Republic. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was also used to transport medical supplies to affected areas. The plane carried 100 tonnes of medicines, laboratory test reagents, medical masks and other protective gear representing a volume of 1,000 cubic metres.

 

The Antonov An-225 has a maximum payload of 250 tonnes, which can be carried internally or externally on its upper fuselage. Credit: Antonov.

 

The 'dream' was cut short

 

The aircraft was to remain in operation until at least 2033, according to its creators. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine cut these plans short. The aircraft was parked at an airfield near Kiev when it was attacked by "Russian occupiers" on 27 February 2022, Ukrainian officials said. "The nose of the plane was completely destroyed, seemingly the victim of a direct artillery hit," says CNN journalist Vasco Cotovio, who was later on the scene. There was also serious damage to the wings and some of the engines. Although the tail end "was spared major impacts, it has some holes caused by shrapnel or bullets".

Upon receiving the news, several users expressed their dismay on social media. "Mriya - You will always be remembered! We pay tribute to the world's largest transporter!" said aviation blogger Sam Chui on Twitter. There is no aircraft quite like the An-225. Although the Soviets' intention in the 1980s was to build three aircraft, the sheer size, technical complexity and economic cost meant that only one was ever completed. The Antonov company began construction of a second aircraft, but never finished it.

The Ukrainian authorities have announced their intention to rebuild the aircraft: "We will fulfil our dream of a strong, free and democratic Ukraine". The Ukrainian state defence company Ukroboronprom, which managed Mriya, estimates that restoring the plane will cost over $3 billion and take more than five years. It originally aimed to have the costs covered by the Russian Federation, "which has caused intentional damage to Ukraine's aviation and air cargo sector," it said in a statement in February.

 

The aircraft was stationed at an airfield near Kiev when it came under Russian attack on 27 February 2022. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

 

The challenge of rebuilding the aircraft

 

Rebuilding a plane of such dimensions and characteristics is a very ambitious challenge. Andrii Sovenko, an engineer and aviation expert who has worked for Antonov since 1987 and has flown on the An-225 as part of its technical crew, stresses that the systems and equipment on board the aircraft have been critically damaged. "Restoring them will be the hardest. This is due to the fact that most of the various electrical systems, pumps and filters used on the An-225 are all from the 1980s," he says. Some of this equipment is no longer in production, so it is unlikely that it can be rebuilt exactly as it was.

The expert believes that "it is impossible to talk about the repair or restoration of this aircraft—we can only talk about the construction of another Mriya, using individual components that can be salvaged from the wreckage and combining them with those that were, back in the 1980s, intended for the construction of a second aircraft," he says.

The Antonov company says that some basic airframe additions for the new aircraft are availablebut it stresses that the new Mriya must meet current and future airworthiness standards. This "will require a large amount of design and engineering work, selection and purchase of appropriate components, test program etc." "The amount of funding and the possibility of using the components of the An-225, which was destroyed by Russian troops, will be determined by a special commission," the company says.

 

The owners of the Antonov An-225 aim to rebuild the aircraft. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

 

It’s still too early to say whether the Mriya will eventually be rebuilt. The creators of this legendary aircraft are hoping for international technical and financial assistance, as well as the participation of leading companies in the global aviation industry. What is clear is that there is still a long way to go before such a reconstruction takes flight; for the time being it remains a "dream", honouring the original Ukrainian name of the largest aircraft ever to have flown in the Earth’s skies.

 

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

  • Planes
  • Services

Promoting the use of recycled aggregates in construction and demolition

Valoriza and Surge Ambiental (Sacyr Green) are spearheading an initiative that aims to provide a solution to construction and demolition waste. 

Introducing Valrec: a project that aims to promote the circular economy and improve the recovery and recyclability of these materials, while minimizing the amount relegated to landfills. 

Comprised of nine companies and three research centers and funded by the Community of Madrid, Valrec is a circular economy project designed to promote the re-use of construction and demolition waste. 

“At the moment, the process is very linear. Aggregates are extracted from mines, the concrete is manufactured, and they are mixed with other elements in the dismantling phase and taken to landfills. The Valrec project and its members aim to make the economy system more circular, emphasizing the need to encourage the use of recycled aggregates, sorting at the source, and digitization,” explains Juan Diego Berjón, head of Waste Treatment Services at Surge Ambiental.

Royal Decree 646/2020 of July 7, regulating landfill waste disposal, establishes three types of waste: inert, hazardous, and non-hazardous. The new waste law increases taxation on all waste at the time of recycling. At present, however, in many cases, outright disposal is more advantageous than recycling. 

“Our aim with the Valrec project is to give value to waste and avoid landfills. Inert waste should not be dumped in landfills; it can be recycled 100%. The current problem is construction’s waste management model, where landfill is the cheapest option because it does not involve sorting. Everything is mixed together and tossed,” says Berjón.
 

 

While not logged in Spain, natural aggregate is a limited resource. If we do not recycle and extract natural aggregates from waste, we will end up depleting this natural resource. 

The new Law 7/2022, on waste and contaminated soils for a circular economy, favors the circular economy as it requires recycling 10% of the waste generated. The Valrec project aims to capitalize on this situation.

“Waste contains products and byproducts that we were uninterested in until now, but with finite raw materials, we could have a supply problem in the future. That’s why it is so important to separate waste and extract the raw materials to recycle and revalorize them,” Berjón explains.

In the Community of Madrid there is a large quantity of recycled aggregates that are not in high demand and, thus, wind up in landfills. Valrec is the ideal solution to address this problem, generating an industrial fabric and green jobs around the recycling of construction and demolition waste. 

The Valrec consortium consists of Surge Ambiental and Valoriza—both part of the Sacyr Group—Allgaier Mogensen, Adcore, Sika, Sodira, Hormicruz, Kolokium, and the Green Building Council-Spain (GBCe). It also has support from the Tecnalia technological research and development center, the Eduardo Torroja Institute of Construction Sciences (IETcc), and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM). 

The project has an execution budget of 5 million euros and a duration of 24 months. Valrec is subsidized by the 2020 call for aid to improve public-private cooperation in R&D in areas of strategic importance to the Madrid economy on tractor projects developed by open innovation hubs within the Regional Research Strategy for Smart Specialization (RIS3).
 

  • Waste
  • Building
  • Infrastructures

Tunel 4.0: Google Maps for excavation

Our Tunel 4.0 project aims to improve the tunnel construction process through four courses of action.

Our Tunel 4.0 project aims to improve the tunnel construction process through four courses of action: i) using Li-Fi (Light Fidelity) technology to send voice and data through tunnel lighting; ii) equipping machinery with sensors to facilitate predictive maintenance analysis and to monitor them; iii) developing real-time positioning systems for excavation; and iv) developing web applications to automate RMR (rock quality) calculations. 

Retro line

In the tunneling process, the excavation operator typically has poor visibility and must depend on the surveyor to indicate the excavation line. 

“To resolve this issue, Cavosa created Tunel 4.0, a type of Google Maps for the excavation process, allowing operators to know where they are at all times, in an effort to reduce the over-excavations that can occur when boring tunnels,” explains Pablo García del Campo, Technical Director of Cavosa.

These over-excavations can result in additional excavation time, an excess of material to be removed, and an increase in the volume of concrete required for support and cladding.
 

 

 

RMR line

RMR is a parameter that indicates the quality of the rock mass under excavation, which serves as the basis for selecting the support, the length of the passage, and the stability of the tunnel without support. The RMR must be measured after the completion of each pass. 

The work of calculating the RMR is one of the most dangerous and complicated jobs for a geologist since their presence on the tunnel’s face poses a risk and the manual measurement of the distance between fissures on the rock face is a laborious task. 

For that reason, Sacyr has developed a web/mobile application that recognizes most parameters, automates the calculation, and increases the safety of personnel. 
 

 

 

“Thanks to the development of this program, by simply taking a photograph and applying a series of filters, we can precisely define, detail, and measure each fissure on the excavation face, then calculate—for example—one of the characteristic RMR parameters, reducing the exposure time of operators and increasing their safety,” says Miguel Martín Cano, Manager of Knowledge and Innovation Projects at Sacyr Engineering and Infrastructure. 

This innovation has resulted in the development of software and applications that are already in use at a number of our projects currently underway. 
 

  • Tunnels

Mary Anderson invented a windscreen wiper operated by a handle from inside the vehicle.

  • Tungsteno

The windscreen wiper and other inventions created by women

One day Mary Anderson was on a streetcar and noticed that the driver had to repeatedly wipe the snow off the window. She came up with a solution: a wiper activated from inside the vehicle to remove the snow. We analyse how the windscreen wiper was born and other great inventions originated by women.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

The forerunner of Wi-Fi was pioneered by a woman. Women also made it possible for man to reach the Moon and for the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. After looking at the lives and work of four history-making female engineers and ground-breaking women architects, we now look at major inventions created by women: from windscreen wipers and the modern refrigerator to maritime signal flares and one-handed syringes.

 

Maritime signal flares

 

When she was just 16 years old, Martha Jane Hunt Coston (1826 – 1904) eloped with her partner, Benjamin Franklin Coston, who was a promising young inventor. In the years that followed, Benjamin perfected some explosive rockets and created a new type of primer for artillery pieces. He also developed a gas based on rosin (a coniferous resin) and used with great success in commercial and domestic lighting in hotels, lighthouses, steamboats, cottages and churches. However, continued exposure to toxic fumes led to Benjamin’s early death in 1848, leaving 21-year-old Martha a widow with four young children.

Shortly after his death, Martha Coston began going through her husband's papers. "I came upon a large envelope containing papers and a skilfully drawn plan of signals to be used at sea, at night, for the same purposes of communication that flags are used by day," she says in her autobiography. It was then that Coston set about studying and perfecting her husband's project, which was at a very preliminary stage. The ultimate goal was to create a signal flare that, when exploded, would scatter flames of various colours in particular combinations to express a communication code. As the young inventor lacked technical and scientific training, she was forced to sometimes pose as a man when dealing with experts in chemistry and pyrotechnics.

For a long time, the flares were difficult to make and use, the lights didn’t last long enough to be detected from ship to ship or from land, and the casings could not withstand the sea conditions. But eventually Martha Coston managed to file a patent for this night-time pyrotechnic signalling system in several countries. She created a device capable of emitting several signals, whose communication code was an "alphabet" consisting of ten numbers (0 to 9) and two letters (P and A). The lights could be seen at a distance of about 40 kilometres. These flares were used during the US Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, and later by the United States Life-Saving Service. The inventor also sold her system of long-lasting signal flares to navies, shippers and yacht clubs around the world, revolutionizing naval communication.

 

Martha J. Coston created a flare system for communicating at sea at night. Credit: Spanish Patent and Trademark Office / Wikimedia Commons.

 

Syringes that can be used with one hand

 

Among the most influential women in the field of medicine, Letitia Mumford Geer stands out. This American nurse patented in 1899 the first medical syringe that could be used with only one handThis invention consisted of a cylinder, a piston rod, a handle and a nozzle. It was also the first syringe to contain glass parts. The piston rod had a U-shaped handle for easier gripping and to prevent hands from slipping when using it.

"The operator must insert the nozzle into the rectum and hold the cylinder by placing the fingers of the same hand in the rigid arm of the handle," the patent states. One of the great advantages of this invention is that both doctors and patients could use it on their own: "The handle can be drawn into a position near to the cylinder while injecting the medicine by the use of one hand, thereby enabling the operator to use the syringe-upon himself without the aid of assistant." Modern syringes are inspired by Mumford's syringe, which was easy to use and inexpensive and could be used for rectal injections and similar purposes.

 

Syringes prior to Mumford's invention had to be used with two hands. Credit: Unsplash.

 

The windscreen wiper

 

In 1902, Mary Anderson visited New York. "She was riding a streetcar and it was snowing. She observed that the streetcar driver had to get out and continually clean off the windshield," Sara-Scott Wingo, Anderson's great-grandniece, tells US National Public Radio (NPR)Seeing that this was causing delays, she came up with a possible solution: could some sort of blade wipe off the glass without the driver having to leave the streetcar? And thus the windscreen wiper was born.

The American returned to Birmingham, made a sketch of her device, wrote up a description of it and applied for a patent. In it, she explained that this device should be operated by a handle inside the vestibule of the car and be easily removable when not required, "thus leaving nothing to mar the usual appearance of the car during fair weather," according to the patent.

The inventor unsuccessfully tried to interest some companies in making such a device for use in automobiles, whose popularity was growing at this time. "We regret to state that we do not consider it to be of such commercial value as would warrant our undertaking to sell it," Dinning and Eckenstein said in a letter. Some even scoffed at Anderson's invention, believing that it would distract the driver and cause accidents. Over the years, however, windscreen wipers became indispensable on all types of vehicles, and Anderson finally gained some recognition when she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2011.

 

Over the years, windscreen wipers became indispensable on all types of vehicles. Credit: UntoldEdu / YouTube.

 

The first modern refrigerator

 

The Chinese cut and stored ice around 1000 BC, while the Egyptians and Indians learned 500 years later to leave earthenware pots outside on cold nights to make ice. If today it seems unthinkable to imagine a house without a fridge, it is impossible to talk about one of the most widely used household appliances on the planet without mentioning Florence ParpartThis American was the creator of the modern version of the refrigerator in 1914.

In order to improve the preservation of certain foods, she took advantage of the fact that electricity was becoming more and more widely used in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. Although iceboxes were already a common kitchen appliance and there were those who had tried to create electric refrigerators without much success, this new technology was able to preserve and cool food much more effectively. Over time, this type of refrigerator became almost as ubiquitous in American homes as electricity itself. A few years earlier, in 1900, Parpart had also filed a patent for a much improved street-cleaning machine, which ended up in cities throughout the United States.

 

Throughout history, different methods have been used to keep food and drink cold. Credit: Adam Ragusea / Youtube.

 

Apart from maritime signal flares, one-handed syringes, the windscreen wiper and the first modern refrigerator, there are many other inventions pioneered by women. These include anti-glare glassdisposable nappiescanned food and the mechanical e-book. The difficulties of access to education and the social rejection to which millions of women have been subjected for centuries have not prevented them from becoming the originators of brilliant devices.

 

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

  • Innovation and technology
  • Gadgets

Some food supplies are hanging by a thread due to the invasion of Ukraine. Credit: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

  • Tungsteno

The keys to averting a global food crisis

The invasion of Ukraine has helped fuel a global food crisis that could last for years if left unchecked, according to the United Nations. While millions of people are already suffering the consequences, several powers are looking to technology to combat the hunger that inevitably follows wars.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has brought the world to the brink of an unprecedented global food crisis. The situation, fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, rising fuel prices and climate change, could lead to "hell on earth if we don't respond immediately," according to David Beasley, director of the World Food Programme, a branch of the United Nations. We look at the real scale of the problem and how technology promises to help alleviate the crisis.

A threat to the world's food supply

Even before the invasion of Ukraine began, food and fertiliser prices were reaching record highs. "Between 2019 and March 2022, cereal prices increased by 48%, fuel prices by 86% and fertiliser prices by 35%," Derek Headey and Kalle Hirvonen, researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), told The Conversation. According to the World Bank, as of 29 July 2022, the Agricultural Price Index was 19% higher than in January 2021. Maize and wheat prices increased by 16% and 22%, respectively, in the same period.

Ukraine and Russia produce a combined total of 14% of the world's wheat and 30% of wheat exports, as well as 60% of all sunflower oil, according to an editorial in the reputable scientific journal Nature. Russia is also responsible for 13% of the world's fertiliser and 11% of oil exports.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has put the world on the brink of an unprecedented global food crisis. Credit: The Economist.

Catastrophic impact on the most vulnerable

Supplies of these and other products are hanging by a thread because of the situation facing Ukrainian farmers and Russia's suspensions of exports and fertilisers. Other countries have also been forced to restrict food exports, contributing to inflation. In recent weeks, Ukraine and Russia have taken steps to end the blockade on Ukrainian grain exports. Under a UN-backed deal, the two countries have agreed to create a corridor for grain trapped in Ukraine to pass through ports to global markets without being attacked by the Russian navy. The first grain ships sailed from Ukrainian Black Sea ports during the first week of August.

The impact of this crisis may be particularly catastrophic for some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people. At least 26 countries, including Somalia, Senegal and Egypt, depend on Russia or Ukraine for between 50% and 100% of their wheat. IFPRI researchers say that, in addition, farmers in many parts of Africa struggle to access fertiliser, even at inflated prices, because of transport and currency exchange problems. "If the war continues, many countries already saddled with pandemic debt could be forced to borrow more to subsidise staple foods, creating more hardship," says the editorial published in Nature.

Ukraine and Russia have been trying to reach an agreement to end the blockade on Ukrainian grain exports. Credit: DW News.

Technology to alleviate the food crisis

To alleviate the crisis, the World Bank plans to invest $30 billion to boost food and fertiliser production, improve food systems, facilitate increased trade and support vulnerable households and producers. In 2021, before the Russian invasion, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said that the massive use of technological tools can help avert food crises. "Better technology and data means we now have the tools to better understand - and predict - crises and their impact," the agency said.

Now various powers are looking for ways to use all the data from all these technological tools to anticipate and try to reverse the effects of the food crisis. Headey and Hirvonen believe that "major grain producers must do everything they can to increase food supply". To do so, they suggest resolving logistical bottlenecks, freeing up stocks and resisting the temptation to impose restrictions on food exports.

Technological advances promise to help farmers optimise their harvests and prevent crop losses. Around 90% of crop losses are due to weather events and 25% of these losses could be avoided by using weather forecast-based predictive modelling on farms, according to the consulting firm EOS Intelligence. In addition, there are devices that can constantly monitor soil fertility, temperature and humidity conditions or the optimal time for sowing and harvesting. There are also devices that can programme the application of chemicals on fields and analyse irrigation requirements.

Technology can help farmers optimise their harvests and prevent crop losses. Credit: Unsplash.

Fighting the hunger that follows wars

One of the challenges now is to set a roadmap to increase the resilience of nations to hunger following wars. Some believe that policy measures should be implemented to reduce the dependence of countries on food imports., even if that means making choices that may harm the environment. For example, according to Nature, one alternative would be to cut down forests so that more cereals and crops can be grown closer to domestic markets.

On the other hand, others advocate taking advantage of the situation to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable future. Intensive agriculture not only contributes to biodiversity loss, but also generates high greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, one third of all food produced globally is lost in the production chain or wasted once it reaches households. Some technologies can help improve harvesting and storage methods to reduce these losses.

More research is still needed to determine the impact of these alternatives in combating the hunger that follows wars. For now, millions of people living far from the war in Ukraine are already suffering from this global food crisis. If the conflict continues and sufficient action is not taken urgently, the consequences could be catastrophic. Some economists estimate that by the end of 2022 there could be between 100 and 150 million more acutely hungry people in the world. As Ertharin Cousin, former director of the United Nations World Food Programme, says, "each day that this goes forward, each planting season that we miss, each opportunity for moving food from one part of the world to another that we miss, the more challenging the problem becomes."

 

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

  • Farming
  • Natural resources

Petra has attracted the interest of architects, scholars and tourists from around the globe. Credit: Unsplash.

  • Tungsteno

The secrets of Petra, a wonder of the world erected by desert nomads

To carve the ancient city of Petra into sandstone walls, while protecting the lives of workers, the Nabataeans resorted to carving giant steps in the mountain. With their ancestral engineering (and work safety) techniques, this nomadic people created the monuments of this emblematic architectural treasure in the middle of the desert two millennia ago.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

Nestled between gigantic canyons, Petra became a very rich and powerful city bustling with life, lush gardens, ornate houses and markets overflowing with exotic goods from India, Arabia and Egypt. This iconic site, which was once home to up to 20,000 people and has survived for more than two millennia, was carved directly into the rock in the middle of the desert in what is now Jordan. After investigating the construction of the Roman Colosseum and the Great Wall of China, we now look at how another of the seven wonders of the modern world was built.

Giant steps to avoid accidents

The Nabataeans, a group of Arabian nomads, constructed Petra between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD. Before settling here, these merchants moved from place to place with their camels, sheep and goats. Over time, they gained control of the main trade routes along which spices and incense flowed from Arabia to Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. Despite Petra's strategic location, it remains a mystery to this day why the Nabataeans would abandon their goatskin tents to build the great houses and monuments that make up this city.

Through 3D laser scanning, some historians have determined that giant steps were cut into the mountain to erect these structures. This way, it was not necessary for workers to be hanging by ropes or dangling dangerously off cliff faces. "They wanted to make sure the masons were safe because these people were very skilled and there weren't many of them—nobody wanted them to die moving things," structural engineer Steve Burrows, who has worked on landmark projects such as Beijing's National Stadium—commonly known as the "bird's nest"— tells BBC Science Focus.

Petra became a very rich and powerful city due to trade in exotic goods from India, Arabia and Egypt. Credit: BBC.

A city carved into sandstone walls

Petra is replete with tombs, monuments, temples, amphitheatres and houses carved into enormous sandstone walls. The design of the massive columns, staircases and classical statues show the influence of contact with Greece and Rome. These structures were hand-chiselled into the pinkish-red rocks and then covered with stucco and painted with bright colours.

Sandstone from some quarries was also used. If almost the entire landscape of Petra is filled with this type of rock, why were some sites selected for quarrying and not others? This decision was influenced by factors such as distance from the structure to be built, geomorphology, landscape, and the quality and size of the blocks, as Shaher M. Rababeh explains in his book How Petra was Built: An analysis of the construction techniques of the Nabataean freestanding buildings and rock-cut monuments in Petra, Jordan.

Moving large blocks of stone in a mountainous landscape can be quite an odyssey and it is not entirely clear what methods the Nabataeans employed to do so. Some historians believe that the blocks were probably cut to size at the quarry and then moved on sledges. In addition to sandstone, some white and greyish marble—imported from outside the region—granite columns and wood were also used. Researchers believe that the Nabataeans used wood to stabilise masonry walls against earthquakes, to support roof structures, and to build scaffolding and formwork for arches and vaults.

Petra is replete with tombs, monuments, temples, amphitheatres and houses carved into huge sandstone walls. Credit: Unsplash.

 

Rock-hewn canals and underground pipes

It is also possible that these structures were somehow protected from the rain, according to Burrows. "It only rains for a short period of time [each year], but very violently. So, what happens with sand and rain? The sand washes away!" he exclaims. The water that fell during these periods not only did not damage the structures of this city, but was used for the rest of the year thanks to the construction of "huge bodies of water in the desert."

The Nabataeans found a way to collect and store this precious liquid in the middle of the desert by means of watertight holes or cisterns. Hidden underground, these cisterns kept the water safe from both evaporation and enemies. A sophisticated system of rock-hewn canals and underground pipes carried water from these seasonal streams and other permanent springs to keep crops fertile and gardens well-watered.

Not only did rainwater not harm Petra's structures, but it was meant to be harnessed for the rest of the year. Credit: Unsplash.

Under the Nabataeans, Petra expanded as trade flourished. Merchants from all over the world passed through the city, leaving behind new ideas and some of the cultural styles of places such as Egypt, China and Greece. However, Petra was not simply a trading centre, it also became a cultural centre.

Over the centuries, Petra passed first to the Romans and then to the Byzantine Empire. But from the 6th century AD onwards, changing trade routes and earthquakes in the area led to the eventual abandonment of the iconic city. Even its location was forgotten. Then, in 1812, it was rediscovered by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Since then, as well as being the setting for many legends and fictional stories, it has attracted the interest of architects, scholars and tourists from all over the world. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, it has become one of the world's most famous archaeological treasures.

 

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

  • History
  • Desert
  • Buildings

Ukraine uses satellite imagery to detect possible war crimes. Credit: Maxar Technologies.

  • Tungsteno

This is how satellites fight the war in Ukraine

Hundreds of satellites gather information from the sky about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Some can even track troop movements at night and detect tanks hidden under trees. They are used to plan strategies, detect possible war crimes and track refugee flows.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, satellites have become an indispensable weapon for armies, intelligence services and humanitarian groups. Hundreds of images captured from the sky document troop movements, damage to infrastructure and even refugee flows. We look at how these devices are being used to assess the situation on the ground and make strategic decisions in this conflict.

 

The 'spies' in the sky

 

Even before Russian troops crossed into Ukraine, commercial surveillance satellites were mapping the Kremlin's plans. In February, a few days before Russia invaded the country, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that troops massed on the border were being withdrawn. However, as The Wall Street Journal reports, the satellite images said otherwise and showed, moreover, that Russia had built a bridge from Belarus so that tanks could cross a river into Ukraine. The imaging company Planet Labs PBC, which works with the Pentagon, detected the bridge thanks to its fleet of about 200 satellites that scans the entire country once a day.

While US government satellites are expensive and can take years to build and deploy, commercial satellites are relatively inexpensive and can provide very useful information. While they may not offer images of the highest quality, they have one major advantage: data can be easily shared without the security restrictions that many government satellites are subject to. In addition, there are technologies that can improve the quality of the captured photographs. For example, the Spanish company Tracasa uses deep learning to increase the resolution of images from the European Space Agency's (ESA) Sentinel-2 satellites fourfold, from 10 metres per pixel in each image to 2.5 metres per pixel.

 

Some technologies can boost the resolution of satellite images. Credit: Tracasa.

 

Satellites keeping watch in clouds and darkness

 

Ukraine has benefited from the information gathered by numerous commercial surveillance satellites with different capabilities. In addition to capturing optical images, some can see through clouds and track troop movements at night. This is especially important given that "Ukraine is a tricky place and there is a lot of cloud cover and night operations," says Mike Greenley, CEO of Canadian space technology company MDA. He points out that some satellites can detect where vehicles have moved, even in bad weather, and tanks hidden under trees.

With all this information coming from the sky, Russia has found it difficult to conceal its military actions. Apart from fighting Russian forces, Ukraine also uses satellite imagery to get public opinion on its side by reporting possible war crimes and civilian killings, tracking refugee flows and detecting mass graves in the country. In fact, some humanitarian groups also use the information gathered by satellites to map the chaos and evacuate civilians.

 

Ukraine uses the imagery to assess the situation on the ground and make strategic decisions to counter the invasion. Credit: Maxar Technologies.

 

The Russian counteroffensive

 

Russia is also trying to exploit the potential of satellites in the conflict, but it has a limitation: some analysts suspect it has long been using a small and inadequate fleet of communications and surveillance satellites. These devices, in some cases, rely on obsolete technology or imported parts that are now harder to obtain due to Western sanctions. "In principle, Russia is already practically blind in orbit," Bart Hendrix, a Brussels-based analyst and expert on Soviet and Russian space programs, told US radio corporation Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

Pavel Podvig, an expert on the Russian military and senior fellow at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research in Geneva, points to another potential problem: data processing. "It's one thing to have satellites; it's another thing to be able to use them. [Russia] needs a system that allows it to quickly transfer information from satellites to the right people who will process it and transfer it to people responsible, for example, for target designation," he says. "The fact that Russia has some satellites still flying does not mean that such a system exists, and if it exists, it is difficult to say how good or bad it is."

The world's major powers are aware of the potential of the images collected by these satellites beyond the invasion of Ukraine. These eyes in the sky can be useful in unravelling the details of all kinds of conflicts. Now, thanks to this kind of imagery, governments can no longer take large-scale military action without everyone knowing about it. As Planet Labs PBC co-founder and CEO Will Marshall notes, “we are moving to a transparent and accountable era through these technologies.”

 

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

  • Satellites
  • Services

Improving safety in lane closures with drones

Sacyr Conservación has launched a pilot test using drones and 360o recordings of our operators as they close off lanes on the highway.

We are always working to guarantee health and safety on our projects and to find the best ways to improve our processes. So, Sacyr Conservación has launched a pilot test using drones and 360o recordings of our operators as they close off lanes on the highway.

We hope to improve road safety by reviewing current procedures used when closing off lanes on the road and prevent risks to our operators which might have gone unnoticed previously. 

“Lane closure is part of the daily routine in road maintenance. It is critical in terms of safety, when setting out and then removing the signage and elements. The team pulls over on the hard shoulder, then you have to get out of the vehicle, cross the road carrying heavy signs... Our staff are trained and aware, but routine can make you a bit too relaxed, and we need a new focus on risk prevention in our ongoing training” explains Simón  Maestra, (Delegate, south area)

“We have made drone and 360o camera recordings that we will use to create training content. We are getting together with operators from different centres to analyze and discuss the operation seen from the outside. By doing so, we believe that we can reach some very valid conclusions to minimize risks,” explains Simón Maestra, South Area Manager of Sacyr Conservación.

Using virtual reality, we can create custom audiovisual experiences through 360º videos that incorporate multimedia content.

 

 

“This allows our operators to actively engage and interact with the VR scene. The possibilities are tremendous because the worker can view the different operations and technical procedures from various perspectives. This allows us to engage with the worker and take action that will improve their performance as required. It is good to evolve and to put preventive actions in place,” says Marco Antonio García (Business Partner PRL Sacyr Conservación).

The idea is for the workers to see themselves, see when they pick up the signs, and when and how they cross the road, see the most critical points, so that they can perceive their own work as seen from the outside.

We have done it in Granada, on the A-44, and we plan to do it on the AP-7, in Castellón. The idea is to create a training session for all our centres, to draw conclusions and extrapolate our findings to the whole company. To create a general company-wide internal training programme. 

  • Drones
  • Road maintenance
  • iFridays

Sacyr and Innovation, an inseparable pair

Like every year, June’s iFriday focused on internal innovation at Sacyr. Some of the supervisors of the most innovative and sustainable projects at Sacyr shared how they were developed and what their progress is like.

Last June 24, we held our last iFriday before the summer holidays, under the title “Sacyr and Innovation, an inseparable pair”. 

So far in 2022 we have had multiple innovation agents over that have served as inspiration to the company. In this first half of 2022, we spoke about gastronomic innovation with Nino Redruello, in February, some women in the STEM field visited our offices, in March, Antonio Oliva, Director of R&D at New Growing System discussed sustainable agriculture, Yaiza Rubio, from Telefónica brought us the metaverse in April, and in May, we learned about renewable energies with Gonzalo Sáenz de Miera from Iberdrola.

Like every year, June’s iFriday focused on internal innovation at Sacyr. Some of the supervisors of the most innovative and sustainable projects at Sacyr shared how they were developed and what their progress is like. 

 

 

Life HyReward


Patricia Terrero, Head of R&D+i at Sacyr Agua, presented project Life HyReward. The goal of this project is to explore how to generate electricity from brines resulting from desalination to make it more sustainable. The project seeks to assess how viable it is to settle on a new, more sustainable desalination process, combining reverse osmosis, a water desalination process that pressure filtrates salt water through membranes that do not let salt through, and reverse electrodialysis, which generates electricity from the saline gradient between two solutions with differenty degrees of salinity, like salt water and fresh water.

The incorporation of this process with conventional technologies allows to improve electricity generation in desalination processes, by recovering electric energy from the brines obtained in desalination before releasing them back into the sea, which in turn also reduces CO2 emissions.

“While our planet is called the blue planet, the availability of fresh water is very scarce, and we have a significant water deficit which is likely to aggravate in the next few years due to the effects of climate change. We need to look into unconventional resources to ensure demand supply, using desalination to obtain fresh water”, explained Patricia Terrero. 

 

 

Microuwas-BIO

 

The new hybrid process aims to be environmentally-friendly, generate clean and 100% renewable energy, without any negative consequences for the environment, contributing to reducing emissions and mitigating climate change. 
Then, Juan Pablo Antillera, Technical Director of Waste treatment of Sacyr Circular and Paloma Mingo, Manager of R&D projects of Valoriza, presented the project Microuwas-BIO.

This project seeks to design and develop a small-scale anaerobic digestor to identify and analyze the intervening microorganism colonies. This way, we achieve unprecedented levels of biotechnological control. The final goal is to increase the volume and quality of biogas and reduce the amount of waste bound to landfills and its biological and chemical reactivity. 

“This project focuses on anaerobic digestion. This project consists of the degradation of organic matter by microorganisms, always without oxygen, which on the one hand generates biogas, a methane and CO2 rich gas with high energy values, and digestate, on the other, a solid component that can be used as compost or a supplement to remediate degraded soil after composting”, clarified Paloma Mingo.

“The project has two distinct phases. As for the microorganism identification phase, we have spent the past 12 months taking samples in one of the digestors, which performs thermophilic anaerobic digestion, and is located in an eco-park in La Rioja, in a facility run by Sacyr Circular. All the samples were taken from the same digestor to assess how they evolve in time, by extracting DNA from all the samples taken over time. The results are promising, but they also give us a glimpse of how complex the ecosystem in the digestors is”, concluded Juan Pablo Antillera. 
 

 

Tunnel 4.0

 

Lastly, to conclude the session, Pablo García del Campo, technical director of Cavosa, and Miguel Martín Cano, Manager of innovation projects and knowledge of Sacyr Engineering and Infrastructures, spoke about Tunnel 4.0, an inititative that aims to improve the tunnel construction process through four action lines: use of live voice and data technology through tunnel lighting, machine sensorization for predictive analysis and machine monitorization, the development of real-time of excavation positioning; development of web applications to automate calculations.

Pablo García del Campo spoke of excavation control: “We’d noticed that workers couldn’t see properly while they were excavating. Without a reference, and even if they had it, they needed to wait for topographers to give the indications, which delayed works. Project Tunnel 4.0 was created to improve this process by creating a Google Maps of sorts, for the excavation equipment. This way, workers can see what their position is at any given time”.

According to Miguel Martín, one of the most dangerous and complicated tasks for geologists is to detect fissures in an excavation. “We have developed a browser and mobile app to help us recognize the majority of parameters, automate calculations and increase personnel safety. Thanks to this program, just by taking a picture, we can apply a series of filters able to define, detail and measure fissures and their size to preemptively detect them”. 

  • Water
  • Waste management
  • Tunnels
  • reverse osmosis
  • Services

Recycled rubber that protects joints from falls and injuries

Sacyr Ecorubber creates shock-absorbing pavement solutions out of rubber powder from end-of-life tires, so that in case of fall, users experience as little damage as possible.

Falls and injuries can cause significant impact on an athlete’s professional careers. While the floor where they practice sports or where the fall occurs may seem irrelevant at first glance, the material that it is made of does matter. 
 
If the floor properly cushions the fall or the impact from the activity, joints experience less stress, and any potential trauma will be less severe. That is Sacyr Ecorubber’s intention with its rubber powder from recycled tires: to create shock-absorbing pavement to minimize any chances of harm.
 
This material is often used to make rubber safety pavement in children’s playgrounds, and it also has biomechanical properties for physical activities. 

“We use shock-absorbing materials, such as encapsulated SBR, EPDM or TPV and we apply it on children’s playgrounds and running tracks. Reusing tires that are already past their prime is an application of circular economy principles, as 100% of the components (rubber, textile and steel) are recycled”, explains Diego Ruiz García, sales manager of Sacyr Ecorubber. It is also UV-resistant.  

 

 

 

“These materials have biomechanical properties for athletes, as they contain elastomers, that increase elasticity and shock-absorption properties, so that joints experience less shock. We have recently installed it on a fire station in San Sebastián de Los Reyes, where the fire fighters exercise daily. If they were to exercise on concrete, they would experience joint-related injuries and discomfort in the long term”, explains Diego Ruiz.

Additionally, it is also used on football fields as an infield, for its biomechanical properties; in bituminous mixes to make roads, improving their durability and specifications; in pools and waterlogged areas, for its anti-slip properties; as well as other prefab pieces, such as street bollards, parking bumpers, traffic lane separators… for its anti-shock properties.

With larger grain sizes, we also make elastic flooring systems to lay under children’s playgrounds, where the floor thickness depends on the height of the playground equipment in the face of a child potentially falling, and it ranges from 4 to 16 cm thick”, explains Diego Ruiz García.

 

 

 

There are also elastic bases installed under football fields, like in the Real Madrid City in Valdebebas, where they were looking to preserve their players’ sports health. Elastic flooring systems are mandatory in certified fields and pitches intended for contact sports where falls are more frequent, such as rugby or hockey, 

It also has muffling properties, and it can also be used as a noise insulator. “We have installed it as punching bag filling in gyms and CrossFit clubs, for its shock-absorbing biomechanical properties”, highlights Diego.

Biomechanical properties are also applicable to animal welfare, so it has also been installed on equestrian facilities, to protect the joints of the horses.

 

 

Pedagogy-driven games and scupltures


Sacyr Ecorubber stresses the importance of play and physical activity on health and physical and mental development of children, which is why its flooring is on many playgrounds. 

This flooring often includes pedagogy-driven games, such as hopscotch, tic-tac-toe, etc. The materials can also be used to make sculptures.

“We are working on 2D and 3D rubber figures that children can play with, and help in their development”, stresses Diego.  

  • RAR X
  • Tires

Lillian Moller Gilbreth taught at multiple universities and advised six U.S. presidents. Credit: Purdue University Library

  • Tungsteno

The first lady of engineering

Lillian Moller Gilbreth has gone down in history as one of the first people to integrate psychology into industrial management concepts. In addition to advising six US presidents, she optimised the way domestic tasks were carried out with inventions such as the foot-pedal for the rubbish bin.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

From the suggestion box to rest periods for employees, these are some of the contributions of engineer and psychologist Lillian Moller Gilbreth to the field of industrial management. In addition to advising several presidents, she is known for some inventions that are now present in millions of households, such as the shelves on the inside of refrigerator doors. We look at how her psychological insights became the basis of modern business management and how her ideas for optimising household management still resonate today.

 

The mother of modern management

 

Gilbreth was born in 1878 in Oakland, a Californian city on the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay Area, into a wealthy family of German origin and was educated at home until the age of nine. Although she graduated from high school with straight A's, her father didn’t support her desire to continue her studies; however, she was determined to overcome her father’s opposition. She didn’t want to devote herself exclusively to the home and raising a family, and she went far beyond studying; she ended up becoming one of the first female engineers to obtain a doctorate in psychology.

If Gilbreth has been recognised for anything, it is for her contributions to the field of industrial management. Early in her career, she ran a construction company with her husband. She realised that each engineer had his own way of working—no two used the same method—and concluded that they were approaching their technical problems without taking psychology into accountShe set about analysing in detail how each employee moved. She wanted to identify the best movements and find out whether, as well as optimising efficiency, they made them happier. Her goal was to redesign machinery to better adapt it to workers' movements, improve efficiency and reduce fatigue.

A few years later, in 1912, the Gilbreths left the construction business to become management consultants. During this period they implemented some ideas that were very novel for the timesuch as a suggestion box for employees, rest periods and process diagrams. They also made a commitment to hire people with disabilities so they could become productive members of the community. As her biographer Edna Yost points out, Gilbreth's legacy lives on in many companies of all sizes.

 

Lillian Moller Gilbreth was one of the first people to integrate psychology into industrial management concepts. Credit: Purdue Industrial Engineering.

 

The ideal height for the sink and other appliances

 

In 1924, Gilbreth's husband died suddenly of a heart attack. For the next 45 years, Lillian would continue to research on her own what psychology could contribute to industrial management. She never forgot the importance of the human factor. During this time, she applied psychology to solve problems in many areas, such as hospitals, the sports industry or kitchen appliance companies.

In addition to working for General Electric, she helped several companies redesign household appliancesAmong her most notable inventions were the shelves in refrigerator doors and the pedal-operated rubbish bin. She was concerned about the challenges women faced in running a household, raising a family—she had 12 children—and working outside the home. Her goal was to find the "best way" to do housework. She also interviewed over 4,000 women to design the best height for stoves, sinks and other kitchen fixtures and accessories.

 

Lillian Moller Gilbreth, who had 12 children, was concerned about the challenges associated with home and parenting. Credit: Purdue University Library.

 

A role model who advised presidents

 

Lillian Gilbreth was not alone in adapting scientific-management principles to the home, or in asserting the importance of the psychological impact of work. "Lillian’s work perhaps is better known today than other women who promoted the efficient household because of her association with her husband, but also because she moved among influential people who recognized her work," writes Lisa Nocks, a historian at the IEEE History Center.

This does not prevent Gilbreth, who died at the age of 94, from being a major figure in the fields of industrial and home management. In addition to teaching at various universities, she served on committees appointed by six U.S. presidents. During World War II, she worked as a consultant to the government and oversaw the conversion of factories into military bases and munitions plants. All her ideas and work as an industrial engineer, psychologist and consultant led to many achievements. In addition to receiving dozens of awards and honorary degrees, she became the first woman to be inducted into the US National Academy of Engineering.

 

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

  • Engineers

The value of several cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, has plummeted in recent months. Credit: Unsplash.

  • Tungsteno

Cryptocurrency collapse and dot-com déjà vu

The dot-com crash of the early 2000s lurks in the memories of many seasoned Wall Street investors. Two decades on, some are comparing that event to the current slump in cryptocurrencies. We analyse whether this is just another downturn in a particularly volatile market or another tech bubble about to burst.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

The collapse of cryptocurrencies in recent weeks has shaken the faith of those who believed in the bright future predicted by some big investors. While Bitcoin seemed to have no ceiling in November 2021, a few weeks ago its value had fallen by more than 50%. And the situation looks no better for other cryptocurrencies such as Ether or Luna either. Although these currencies have suffered big drops in the past, there are those who predict that now is the beginning of the end. Are we facing another tech bubble comparable to that of the dot-coms in the early 2000s?

 

An unprecedented crash

 

A few weeks ago, the worst predictions of some crypto-sceptics came true. In early May, owners of the cryptocurrency Luna saw their digital assets lose 99% of their value—from $80 to less than 10 cents—in just 72 hours. Both Twitter and Reddit were filled with posts from investors who lost much of their savings in the blink of an eye. "My friend […] tried to commit suicide this morning. He basically moved all his savings to crypto in 2021 and LUNA was a major player in his portfolio," one user commented on the forum.

Faced with the flood of such messages, the co-founder of Terra (the foundation responsible for the Luna cryptocurrency), South Korea's Do Kwon, tried to calm those affected with a message on Twitter: "I understand that the last 72 hours have been extremely tough on all of you - know that I am resolved to work with every one of you to weather this crisis, and we will build our way out of this. Together." A few weeks later, Kwon attempted to resurrect the cryptocurrency. The decision has not been without controversy.

 

The cryptocurrency Luna lost 99% of its value in just 72 hours in early May. Credit: Wall Street Journal.

 

The loss of confidence among many users also translated into further declines in other cryptocurrencies such as Solana and Cardano. While Bitcoin's price plummeted to its lowest point since 2020, Ether's price fell 30% in a week. "I never thought things would get ugly this fast," Ed Moya, a cryptocurrency analyst at trading firm OANDA, told The New York Times. Some even compared the crisis to the start of the 2008 financial crisis.

 

A bubble about to burst?

 

Although celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and tech moguls such as Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey have shown interest in cryptocurrencies, this collapse has highlighted the risk of investing in experimental and unregulated digital currencies. There are few reliable metrics to assess whether the excitement around a cryptocurrency is justified or a bubble about to burst.

More and more people have acquired cryptocurrencies and even some large banks allow cryptocurrencies to be traded. A Pew Research Center survey reveals that 16% of Americans now own some, up from 1% in 2015. Moreover, seven in ten institutional investors expect to buy or invest in digital assets in the future, according to a 2021 study. "As [the sector] became 'just another asset', it began to be affected by the same macroeconomic factors that influence traditional markets," finance experts Andres Urquhart and Brian Lucey tell The Conversation. Both the war in Ukraine and rising oil prices have "acted as a drag on cryptocurrencies in recent months."

 

Dot-com déjà vu

 

The dot-com crash haunts the memories of some seasoned Wall Street investors, and some are comparing that event to the current slump in cryptocurrencies. George Ball, chairman of investment firm Sanders Morris Harris, tells Fortune that "there’s a very strong similarity between the dot-com crash and the bear market that we’re experiencing today." "You would have thought that investors, broadly, professional or retail, would have learned their lesson in 2000. And yet, something eerily alike has happened," he says.

 

Some experts have compared the cryptocurrency collapse to the dot-com crash of the 2000s. Credit: CNBC Television.

 

Urquhart and Lucey note that, in response to these comparisons, crypto enthusiasts argue that the basic premise of dot-com stocks was correct—the internet was indeed the future. "They believe the same is true of bitcoin, predicting that the sector will recover," they say. "Economists have studied bubbles for centuries, however, and evidence shows many assets never recover nominal price highs after the market bubble bursts."

It is too early to assess whether this decline is simply another downturn in the volatile cryptocurrency market or the beginning of the end for this alternative asset class. Urquhart and Lucey see cryptocurrency investing as a rollercoaster ride with big gains followed by sudden drops. While "some see this market correction as a great time to 'buy the dip', others believe this is the end of the party for cryptocurrencies."

 

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

  • Finanzas

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These cookies allow us to count visits and sources of circulation in order to measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us know which pages are the most or least popular, and see how many people visit the site. All information collected by these cookies is aggregated and therefore anonymous.

Name Provider Purpose Expiration Type
_gat Google It is used to throttle the request rate - limiting the collection of data on high traffic sites Session HTTP
_gid Google It is used to store and update a unique value for each page visited Session HTTP
_ga Google This is used for statistical and analytical purposes for increasing performance of our Services Session HTTP