Shell and tube heat exchanger
“What is the most popular type of heat exchanger?”
Let’s think of a design for a simple heat exchanger. First, let’s take a bundle of tubes and put it into a shell. Then, let’s run one fluid through the tubes and another around the tubes, both at different temperatures. Over time, the heat from the hotter one to the colder one. This setup is known as a shell and tube heat exchanger. Shell and tube heat exchangers come in two varieties, single phase (which have the fluids in only one phase) and multiphase (which uses both gases and liquids simultaneously). Because of their simple construction, shell and tube heat exchanger have become the most popular in the world.
“What houses the controls for cyber-physical systems?”
Mechatronic systems require controls software in order to function correctly. However, how is this implemented physically into the system? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to find out. We know that microcontrollers can perform simple controls tasks. So what if we were to hook a number of them together and program them with software to make a controls unit focused on one task? Well, this piece of technology is known as an embedded system and can be found in electro-mechanical operations worldwide. Examples of embedded systems include braking systems in vehicles, thermostats, and the motors on NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover!
“How can we carry waste heat to an end user?”
We have a problem. Residential communities often require heat for their everyday needs. But for each building to have their own heating unit would be very difficult, costly, and inefficient. So how could we use our engineering mindset to solve this problem? Well, what if we were to have a central energy generation location that would heat up fluids which would be transferred throughout a network using insulated pipes? Well, this is the idea behind district heating and is used to warm homes everywhere.
“How can we fight pollution using economics?”
There are many tools available to achieve sustainable development. The ones most often talked about on this blog are technological in nature. However, engineering is not the only way to fight for a cleaner future, and another tool at our disposal are those of economic nature. So let’s think of one possible solution using financial motivation. Well, it is commonly known that individuals do not like to have money taken away from them. So what if we were to take money away from people who pollute too much? This is the fundamental idea behind a carbon tax and can be used by policy makers to influence people to adopt more sustainable practices.
“Can we make a computer from just a single integrated circuit?”
Modern day computers are complex behemoths, employing dozens of integrated circuits to perform computational work. However, is it possible to have much simpler computers that only work with one integrated circuit? Well, it turns out that not only is this possible but that such machines can be seen every day in the form of microcontrollers. Microcontrollers are simple computers that are used for mechatronic control tasks, whether it be in dictating the motion of servo motors for robotic manufacturers or in controlling electric braking systems. Microcontrollers are easily purchasable and have a large number of dedicated hobbyist followers.
Thermal control systems
“How can engineers control the temperature of machines?”
Machines do a lot of work. Whether it be an assembly robot making a solar panel or a spacecraft launching into space, work is done. However, these machines often need to operate within a certain temperature range. So how can we ensure that our engineering systems can be kept within their safety zone? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to find out. We know that we can use sensors to monitor the temperature and that we can also use devices to change this temperature. So what if we were to simply implement this? Well, this is known as a thermal control system and can be found in mechatronic systems all over the world.
“Why do computers seem to be getting exponentially faster with time?”
If you are keen on technology, then you have probably seen a pattern. Specifically, it seems that computers are getting exponentially faster with time. Well, why exactly is this? Well, after many years of speculation, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore noticed that the number of transistors that could be held in an integrated circuit were doubling every two years, leading to a proposition called Moore’s law. In recent years, Moore’s law seems to be leveling off since transistors are now getting so small that quantum tunneling effects are beginning to appear, rendering transistors inoperable.