Category Archives: Energy

Energy.

Women in Science and Engineering

Women in Science and Engineering: Tunable Laser Inventor Mary Spaeth

One of the most accomplished engineers I have had the privilege of interviewing was Mary L. Spaeth, a specialist in the field of laser optics.

Spaeth was a pioneer who discovered the world’s first “tunable” laser.

While researching ruby lasers at Hughes Aircraft Corp., Spaeth “came to believe that dyes would make excellent lasers.” Dyes are strongly colored chemicals that can be used to add color to a material, such as hair or cloth.

The year was 1966, only six years after the first laser was invented. Continue reading

Women in the Lead: Smart Cities

Women in Science and EngineeringBy Holly B. Martin

Cities large and small are buying in to the Smart Cities movement, addressing the challenges of increasing urbanization using data and technology. Women in particular are prominently positioned as leaders in the movement, seeking to create more livable, efficient and sustainable cities through their technical, business and civic know-how.

As more and more people flood into cities worldwide, local governments are being called upon to help provide more services such as healthcare, economic development, infrastructure and safety to their burgeoning populations.

At the same time, the state of technology multiplies exponentially the amount of data being collected—as well as the possibilities of what can be done with this data. Continue reading

Women in Science and Engineering: Flex Fuel Pioneer Roberta J. Nichols

Women in Science and EngineeringIn honor of Women’s History Month, this will be the first in a series of posts on women in science and engineering. As a woman engineer myself, and later as a technical editor and writer, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and interviewing a number of remarkable women in science and engineering whose achievements equal those of their political, artistic and pedagogical counterparts.

Today I’d like to highlight the first woman engineer I ever covered—in an article I wrote for The Orbiter, employee newsletter of The Aerospace Corporation, El Segundo, Calif.

Woman Engineer Dr. Roberta J. Nichols advanced methanol as the best alternative fuel for cars.

Woman Engineer Dr. Roberta J. Nichols Credit: The Aerospace Corp.

The year was 1985, and Dr. Roberta J. Nichols, a former employee and Aerospace Woman of the Year, had been invited back to speak during the company’s annual Women’s Week celebration.

Working with her Dad

Nichols’ story may sound typical of many women engineers of that era. According to the LA Times, she was born in 1931 and grew up following her father around to junkyards and learning to weld as they fixed up old cars together. Later, her hobbies included dragboat, hydroplane and vintage car racing. Happily, she was able to carry over these passions into her professional life. Continue reading

Turning Trash into Electricity

Recently I had the opportunity to tour the Covanta “waste-to-energy” facility in Montgomery County, Md., where I saw first-hand how one county’s trash is converted to electrical power, economically and practically pollution-free.

Montgomery County’s 1,800 tons of garbage per day are collected at a transfer station and shipped to the Resource Recovery Facility (RRF) in huge rectangular steel waste containers loaded onto rail cars. These cars, on a dedicated rail line, pass through radiation detectors to prevent contamination from radioactive sources in discarded medical equipment or industrial gauges. Continue reading