Importance of Mechanical Engineering: From Tool Calibration to Turbine Farms

Power plant  generatorAs the global workforce embraces more and more technological innovations, industries will continue to rely on mechanical engineering. Mechanical engineering is a discipline that applies engineering, physics, mathematics, materials science, and more to design, analyze, manufacture, and various mechanical systems. Though it’s an integral part of the modern workforce, it’s one of the boldest and broadest disciplines across the engineering sector.

Everything from maintaining energy plant efficiencies to calibrating an individual tool, which involves comparing measurements of two instruments; one with a known magnitude or correctness, against an instrument that is measured.

“Mechanical engineering is problem solving,” said Jennifer McInnis, a mechanical engineering faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). “It’s applying science and math and other specific knowledge to design solutions to a problem. You might be working in an analysis role, creating systems, predicting how things will perform or explaining why things behave the way they do. Sometimes mechanical engineers are in charge of large systems and thinking about how a lot of factors are working together, while others will design the minute details of a part.”

As industries across the country and globe face increasingly stringent legal requirements, manufacturers and mechanical engineers will need to focus on accurate calibration much more and utilize the latest standard operating procedures (SOPs).

According to PHYS.org, mechanical engineering is imperative for the turbine industry, as well, as engineers have developed a way to drastically improve turbine farm productivity.

“We’ve been designing turbines for use by themselves, but we almost never use them by themselves anymore,” said Paolo Luzzatto-Fegiz, mechanical engineering professor at UC Santa Barbara.

There are two types of land-based turbines: heavy frame engines and aeroderivative engines. Wind turbines have historically been used in small groups or individuals, but thanks to some innovative mechanical engineering, these turbines can now produce exceptional efficiency levels.

“These turbines are now very good at extracting power from wind, but they also form these very big wind shadows,” Luzzatto-Fegiz added. “So, you can see that it’s not a matter of packing more turbines on your piece of land, because at some point you hit these diminishing returns. There’s a point where if you keep adding turbines the amount of power you get becomes less.”

Luzzatto-Fegiz and Colm-cille P. Caulfield, a professor at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., published “Entrainment models for fully-developed wind farms: Effects of atmospheric stability and an idea limit for wind farm performance” in the American Physical Society journal Physical Review Fluids. In the paper, the authors note that the best way to get around the issue of diminishing wind returns is to give all the turbines on the plant access to high-velocity airflow.

This innovative approach can help extract a greater amount of energy for each individual turbine and the entire energy farm.

The models developed by mechanical engineers and researchers could lead to higher production across wind farms, as well as decreasing costs. Additionally, the models could result in customized solutions pertaining to a farm’s environment and weather patterns.

“We’re really excited that we can model all that very accurately,” Luzzatto-Fegiz added.

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