Engineering The Megacity

How Technology Can Make Our Urban Future Better

4 min read
Engineering The Megacity
Photo: Peter BIalobrzeskI/laIf/redux

Cities—whether you love them or hate them, before long most of us will be living in them. By 2008, more than half the world’s population will be urban dwellers. By 2030, 4.9 billion, or 60 percent of us, will call the city home.

This special report focuses on how to solve some of the big engineering challenges we face as the world’s cities multiply, grow, and mature, particularly as they are being played out in the largest and most complicated urban habitats human beings have ever lived in: megacities. In 1950, there were just two cities with populations of 10 million or more: New York–Newark and Tokyo. But by 2015, according to the United Nations, there will be 22 megacities, and 12 of these will have populations of 15 million or more.

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New Faraday Cages Can Be Switched Off and On

Built out of a novel material called MXene, these cages could block and allow signals as desired

3 min read
New Faraday Cages Can Be Switched Off and On

Radio waves interacting with a MXene film.

Chong Min Koo

Advanced new Faraday cages—the metal mesh enclosures that can block wireless signals—can also be switched on and off for reversible protection against noise, a new study finds.

In addition, these new shields can be easily fabricated through a technique akin to spray-painting, which could help them find use in electronics, researchers say.

Similarly to how window blinds can help adjust how much visible light enters a room, engineers want dynamic control over the electromagnetic waves used in wireless communications. This ability would let devices receive and transmit signals when desired but also protect them against electromagnetic interference, such as static and jamming, and hide from being spied on.

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Designing a Silicon Photonic MEMS Phase Shifter With Simulation

Engineers at EPFL used simulation to design photonic devices for enhanced optical network speed, capacity, and reliability

4 min read
Designing a Silicon Photonic MEMS Phase Shifter With Simulation
EPFL

This sponsored article is brought to you by COMSOL.

The modern internet-connected world is often described as wired, but most core network data traffic is actually carried by optical fiber — not electric wires. Despite this, existing infrastructure still relies on many electrical signal processing components embedded inside fiber optic networks. Replacing these components with photonic devices could boost network speed, capacity, and reliability. To help realize the potential of this emerging technology, a multinational team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) has developed a prototype of a silicon photonic phase shifter, a device that could become an essential building block for the next generation of optical fiber data networks.

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