A round-up of this month's engineering news from around the world with a regional focus on China.
The world’s first small-series production line for hydrogen fuelling stations was opened in Vienna, bringing widespread use of fuel-cell cars one step closer. Launched by the Linde Group, the world’s largest industrial gas company, the new facility comes at a time when first global car makers move towards mass production of fuel-cell vehicles.
The first of 48 nuclear reactors shut down in Japan after the Fukushima disaster received a preliminary restart approval and may be put back online in a few months. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority reviewed a report submitted by operators of the Sendai Nuclear Power Station and concluded the plant is now sufficiently secured against natural disasters comparable to the 2011 earthquake.
Microsoft announced the biggest job cuts in its history, planning to shed about 18,000 jobs worldwide. The announcement came five months after the tech giant completed acquisition of Finnish smartphone maker Nokia. It is expected that responsibility overlaps that occurred during the integration of Nokia will form a substantial, though not the only, part of the redundancies.
Australia, one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters, scrapped a controversial carbon tax imposed on the country’s biggest polluters by the previous government. Australia’s conservative-dominated senate decided against keeping the tax and said an alternative scheme would be introduced using tax payers’ money to fund incentives for businesses to use cleaner energy.
South Korea plans to start production of its own mid-level fighter jet. Part of the KF-X programme, the jet’s development is foreseen to cost £4.8bn. South Korea’s only jet builder Korea Aerospace Industries is expected to work on the project together with US defence giant Lockheed Martin. They will aim to commence commercial deliveries in 2025.
A Mexican postgraduate student designed an electronic nose that allows robotic platforms to follow the path of certain odours. The olfactory system is based on artificial intelligence algorithms that enable the detection of the scent of alcohol, but with modifications it could be adapted for search and rescue missions by making it recognise other odours such as blood, sweat or human urine.
The wreckage of Costa Concardia arrived at a port near Genoa to be broken up for scrap. A convoy of 14 vessels accompanied the ship from the island of Giglio in Tuscany, after engineers managed to re-float it from an underwater platform by filling 30 metal boxes, known as sponsons, with air.
Business Secretary Vince Cable announced that trials of self-driving cars on public roads in the UK could start as early as January 2015. To speed up the development, the Treasury has also said it would create a £10m prize to attract towns and cities interested in becoming a testing ground for autonomous vehicles as researchers fine-tune algorithms and sensor camera systems.
Bulgaria signed a deal that paves the way for Westinghouse to build a new £3bn nuclear reactor that will help reduce its energy dependence on Russia, which currently supplies all its nuclear fuel. The agreement requires the approval of the next government after elections in October, but should see Westinghouse construct an AP1000 nuclear reactor and supply fuel at the Kozloduy site.
Egypt chose a consortium including the army to develop an industrial and logistics hub in the Suez Canal area. The country has for years had plans to develop 76,000 square kilometres around the canal to attract more ships and generate more income, and in January, Egypt invited 14 consortia to bid for project.