People often confound the idea of tourist destinations in beaches, old ruins, national parks, and temples. However, modern engineering provides amazing sceneries for travelers. Humankind has always had great engineering marvels such as the great wall of China and the pyramids of Giza. Modern-day engineers have pushed the limits of human genius. The growth of human creativity, competition, and genius shows that engineering marvels will keep developing. This article will discuss some of the most exciting engineering marvels in our time.
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What makes something an engineering marvel?
A marvel leaves many people in admiration as they try to conceive the process leading to their existence. Therefore, engineering marvels encompass feats of construction such as bridges, skyscrapers, tunnels, and railways. Engineering marvels stretch human imagination and almost defy the laws of physics.
1. The Channel Tunnel
The channel tunnel, also referred to as the Eurotunnel, is an underground railway tunnel running between France and England. It is 50 kilometers long. It has three tunnels; two rail tunnels and one in the middle for security and services. This tunnel ferries both passengers and freight. Passengers can travel on rail coaches or cars on special rail coaches. The trip takes only 35 minutes as the trains cruise at a speed of 160km/hr.
The Channel Tunnel also has the most extended submerged portion of a tunnel that spans 37.8kms. The idea of a tunnel came about after consideration after the proposals for building a very long suspension bridge between England and France seemed not feasible. The tunnel-digging commenced in both countries simultaneously. The tunnel was opened in May 1994. In 2007, the Channel Tunnel was linked to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, also commonly referred to as High Speed 1 (a highway speed railway), to connect the channel to London. The high-speed railway is 108 km long, with a small portion crossing under the Thames river. Trains on this Channel reach speeds of up to 300km/hr.
2. Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is simply magnificent and a great engineering wonder as it is the longest suspension bridge in the world. It is located in West Japan and was officially opened in April 1998. The bridge is a six-lane bridge that connects two cities; Kobe, located on Honshu island, and Iwaya on Awaji Island. Another connection then links this bridge to Shikoku island on the South West. The walkways in the bridge offer unique views, and the bridge platform is 50 meters above the water. The central towers supporting the bridge also go to a height of 297 meters, making the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge among the tallest bridges globally. The bridge spans a distance of 3.91 km. Engineers built this bridge in a seismic-prone area that often experiences terrible earthquakes and storms. Engineers, therefore, used a system of pendulums, counter-weights, and complex girders to allow the bridge to withstand these adverse conditions. The bridge contracts and expands up to two meters in a day. The many innovations from the construction of this bridge improved people's ideas in developing wind tunnels and cable technologies.
3. International Space Station
Many perceive the International Space Station as the most complex technological and structural advancement of our time. The International Space Station is the most significant structure humans have ever launched to space, and it is a multi-national endeavor. The national collaborating agencies were Nasa from the USA, Jaxa from Japan, Roscosmos from Russia, ESA from Europe, and CSA from Canada. Governmental agencies agree upon the usage of this space station.
The space station moves at speeds of 28000 km/hr circling the earth once every 90 minutes. It is at an average altitude of 400kms. It covers the distance from the earth to the moon and back in a day. On the space station, astronauts undertake various experiments in a controlled environment. They also maintain and repair the space station regularly. Astronauts also take at least two hours a day for exercise and personal care. People travel to the Space Station using the Russian Soyuz as the US shut down its Space Shuttle program in 2011. However, in 2020, the privately-owned company SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon Capsule to ferry people to space.
4. Burj Khalifa
Since topping out in 2009, Burj Khalifa has been the tallest structure globally, claiming the throne from Taipei 101, which previously held that status. The Burj Khalifa boasts a height of 829.8 meters. The intended building's height was a well-kept secret throughout construction, which builders revealed in 2009. The construction began in 2004, and it was completed some five years later. A Chicago-based firm was responsible for the architectural design, with Adrian Smith serving as the architect and William Baker serving as the structural engineer.
The building is made from reinforced concrete, and some of the structural steel used came from East Germany. The building is Y-shaped, which plays a critical role in reducing the wind forces acting on the tower. It also has a hexagonal core that is further reinforced by a series of wings. With the increase in height, the wings spiral back, thus changing the building's shape and wind effect. Dubai saw the need to diversify from an oil-based economy and construct the Burj Khalifa to gain international recognition. The building is a multi-purpose structure that houses several residential, commercial, industrial, and hospitality enterprises. The building also broke numerous height records, including the highest outdoor observation deck, the highest occupied floor, and the tallest free-standing structure.
5. Millau Viaduct
The Millau Viaduct was opened in December 2004, and it set high standards in construction and design. It is one of the most significant cable-stayed bridges in Europe for it is 2.4 kilometers long with a height of 270 meters above sea level. It forms the final link of the highway linking Paris to Barcelona. One of the biggest challenges in constructing this bridge was its crossing over River Tarn. A Brit, architect Norman Foster proposed using seven towers instead of the typical three used in such designs. The bridge looks delicate and transparent. Each section spans 342 meters, and there are supporting columns ranging from 75m to 235m in height. One of the perks in construction is that the bridge uses minimal material, thus lowering construction costs. Since it is a cable-stayed bridge, it is supported by multi-span cables in the middle. The cables have empty spaces at their extreme ends to allow for expansion and contraction. The bridge is exposed to wind speeds of up to 150km/hr, and therefore hide screens are used to break the wind speeds. The bridge is applauded as one of the most impressive engineering structures even in modern times.
6. Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam is on the border of Arizona and Nevada, USA. It is an arch-gravity dam built on the Colorado River. It was built during the great depression and was dedicated by President Frank Roosevelt in 1935. It is among the highest concrete arch dams globally and the highest in the United States. Behind it, it impounds Lake Mead. The dam is used for silt control, production of hydroelectricity, water supply, and irrigation. It is a significant sightseeing destination for tourists around the globe. The dam is 221 meters high, with four reinforced concrete intake towers that divert water to big steel pipes from the reservoir. After the descent, the water is used to power the hydroelectric plants at the dam's base. The dam produces about 2080 megawatts of electricity, with half of it powering districts in Southern California.
7. National Stadium (Beijing, China)
The Beijing National Stadium, also referred to as the Bird's nest is one of the unique engineering marvels in modern times. The stadium was a crucial venue in the Olympics held in the summer of 2008. Its outer shell is steel, making it the largest steel structure ever constructed and one of the most complex Olympic stadiums. Traditional ceramics and art inspired its shape. The goal was to create a modern stadium and portray some elements of Chinese culture. A team of architects and engineers was involved in construction, and they had to meet design requirements that make it world-class and flexible for future use. It is the world's most significant enclosed space with a capacity of 91,000 people. The stadium is located in one of the hottest seismic zones globally and was thus designed to be earthquake resistant. It also has retail facilities, shops, restaurants, and restrooms. As random as the roof might look, it follows all rules of geometry and engineering, following the Chinese philosophies of harmony and balance.
8. Palm Islands
Dubai is known for its megaprojects, and the Palm Islands are perhaps one of the boldest mega projects in Dubai. These islands are the most famous human-made islands, and they derive their name from the palm tree as they imitate the palm tree shape. They have become a popular tourist destination due to their unique shape and the fast-growing rate of Dubai's tourism sphere. The Palm Islands in Dubai are comprised of three islands, namely Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali, and Palm Deira. Palm Jumeirah is the only island open to visitors as the rest have residential properties. There are numerous shopping malls, over 5000 waterfront apartments, health spas, villas, luxury hotels, and cinemas. These Palm Islands were completed in less than four years and attracted many tourists to Dubai's coastline.
9. The Bailong Elevator
The Bailong Elevator, located in Zhangjiajie, China, is the world's tallest outdoor lift. Its construction began in late 1999, and it was completed in 2002. This elevator has a height of 326m. It is in a scenic view among very tall stone pillars. These sandstones stretch up to a height of 3000ft giving one an illusion of floating mountains. The Bailong elevators have three elevators that run parallel to each other providing beautiful views of the surroundings. Each of the elevators has a carrying capacity of 4,900 kilos and carries 50 passengers. Typically, the ascent to the top would take 68 minutes, but the elevators move fast, making the ascent in only 32 seconds. The elevator stirred up a lot of environmental concerns. Environmentalists argued that it would create a huge tourist attraction that would put a lot of strain on the park's infrastructure. However, supporters of the elevator counter-argued that the elevators indeed preserved the environment as climbers can now altogether bypass mountain trails reducing damage to the environment.
10. Three Gorges Dam
The Three Gorges Dam is the biggest hydroelectric project in the world. It has an electrical capacity of 22,500 watts. This dam has a height of 181 meters, and it extends upstream for a distance of about 600 kilometers. Construction began in 1994, but it was completed in 2006. Because the dam was built in phases, it reached its total generating capacity in 2012. The dam has submerged extensive areas of Qutang, Wu, and Xiling gorges. This creates a giant deepwater reservoir that helps ocean-bound freighters navigate large dam stretches. The dam carries ships of up to 10000 tons. As much as the construction of this dam is an engineering marvel, it involved a lot of controversies. The dam displaced over 1.3 million people during construction and destroyed rare architectural sites. There was also an increase in earthquakes and landslides in the region, courtesy of the dam. The dam, however, has helped in flood control and reduced the potential loss of lives.
11. The Large Hadron Collider
The Large Hadron Collider is the largest particle accelerator, and it has played a tremendous role in modern cancer treatments. It is 175.26 meters long and has a circumference of 27.26 kilometers. It uses powerful magnets to direct sub atomic beams into each other and make particles collide with each other. Scientists then study the resultant of collided particles. This project has developed many imaging, manufacturing, and radiation solutions.
Engineering marvels not only solve problems in the engineering field, but they also leave a sight to behold. Transportation engineering marvels reduce congestion, and superstructures improve land use in major cities. The strides made by engineers in the modern-day only show that innovations will only keep increasing with time.