on May 31st, 2021

At its core, engineering is the application of science and math to solve problems. However, it is when it becomes a human experience where engineering feats truly shine.

There are many feats of engineering across the world that make people stand back in awe. From the Statue of Unity in India to the Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge in China, these colossal projects are a testament to the skills of engineers globally.

Here are five impressive feats of engineering that we think are worth a mention.

1. The World’s Fastest Rollercoaster: Formula Rossa

From the project engineers that plan the design to the mechanical engineers that complete coasters with vehicles, chains, and lifting systems, and brakes, engineers are vital in bringing the thrilling experience of roller coasters to life.

And they went above and beyond for the Formula Rossa roller coaster.

Found within the Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, Formula Rossa uses a hydraulic launch system to send riders hurtling around the track at a top speed of 240 kilometers per hour. The hydraulic launch system begins with hydraulic pumps rapidly pumping hydraulic fluid into accumulators with two separate compartments divided by a piston. As the fluid is pumped into one compartment, compressed gas forms in the other.

When the pressurized fluid is released, it drives several motors which in turn spin a large winch drum. The winch rotates contracting a cable attached to a catch car under the train. As the cable contracts, the train is propelled down the track at incredible speeds.

Experiencing a release velocity similar to that of steam catapults on an aircraft carrier, riders experience up to 1.7 G-force during acceleration and up to 4.8 g throughout the ride. During construction, the roller coaster was marketed as emulating "the thrilling sensation of being in a Ferrari F1 car".

For added safety, riders are required to wear protective glasses due to the high speeds and occurrence of sand storms in Abu Dhabi.

Other Record-Setting Roller Coasters

  • For an upside-down experience, The Smiler at the United Kingdom-based Alton Towers Resort will flip riders upside-down 14 times. This is the most of any ride operating today.

  • The oldest roller coaster that is still in operation can be found at Luna Park in Melbourne, Australia. The Scenic Railway opened in December 1912 and it is still going.
Diagram of hydraulic launch system
Diagram of a hydraulic launch system.

2. The World’s Longest Bridge: Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge

From crossing a creek to spanning oceans, the prototypical bridge is quite simple. However, the growing challenge of modern engineering problems has resulted in the creation of inspiring megastructures.

This includes the Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge in Qingdao, China. The bridge spans a total of 164.8km, making it the longest bridge in the world.

The bridge was created as a solution to railway traffic in the city but has evolved to be an important highway system in Qingdao. Its length is a result of combining several smaller structures, with the longest self-supporting part of the bridge spanning 42.5km.

The road bridge used 450,000 tonnes of steel and 2.3 million cubic meters of concrete throughout its construction and cost a staggering $8.5 billion. As the main link between Qingdao’s Red Island and Cangkou Island, it currently averages 30,000 vehicles a day.

The impressive structure is designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and a direct hit from naval vessels which can weigh up to 300,000 tonnes. The construction of the bridge took just over four years with a workforce of 10,000 people.

Under the list of record-holding bridges, many are suspension bridges. These bridges get their support from the cables that are anchored in concrete and steel blocks that connect to the towers of the bridge, as well as the main cables that connect the towers at the top of the bridge.

Further support is derived from the secondary cables that run to the bridge deck. But suspension bridges and cable-stayed bridges are often confused because they can look very similar.

Cable-stay bridges have support from the cables that run on the deck of the bridge that connects it to the bridge towers. As a result, the towers are often reinforced and then secondary cables connect to the tower for added support. These bridges are known to handle high winds better.

Other Record-Breaking Bridges

  • The Evergreen Point Floating Bridge in Washington State, America is home to the world’s longest floating bridge. At 2350m in length the bridge connects Seattle with its neighboring city Bellevue.

  • The world’s widest cable-stay bridge can be found in Cairo, Egypt. The Tahya Bridge was a massive undertaking with 4000 engineers, construction works, and technicians involved in the project to construct the 12-lane bridge.

  • The largest Lego sculpture in the world is also a functioning bridge that can be driven on by actual Service Utility Vehicles. The sculpture is a recreation of the London Bridge and used 5,805,846 individual pieces of Lego to complete.
Lego bridge
Largest Lego sculpture in the world. Credit: Guinness World Records

3. The World’s Tallest Statue: Statue of Unity

Tallest feat of engineering
By Vijay B. Barot - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Around 3000 workers and 300 engineers worked just under four years to create India’s Statue of Unity, the tallest statue in the world.

The Statue of Unity is a full-body representation of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the First Deputy Prime Minister of India, and is made out of 135 tonnes of iron.

The construction required 180,000 cubic meters of cement and concrete, a total of 18,500 tonnes of reinforced steel, and 6,500 tonnes of structured steel. Other requirements included 1700 tonnes of bronze and an additional 1850 tonnes of bronze cladding to add fine details to the exterior.

The significance of the statue is that it holds the record for the quickest development and construction of a mega-statue. In comparison, the Spring Buddha Statue in China took 11 years, while the Statue of Unity took only 33 months to complete.

The 300 engineers that worked on the statue had a bevy of challenges which they overcame. This included the location of the statue. Although it offers panoramic views, its placement in the middle of the Narmada River had to be expertly planned. The statue had to be able to withstand strong winds of up to 180 km/h while standing up to earthquakes measuring up to 6.5 on the Richter scale. 

Other Impressive Statues

  • Located in the Henan Province in China, the Spring Temple Buddha is the world’s second tallest statue. It is a well-known pilgrimage site for Buddhists and was constructed with gold, copper, and steel.
  • The third tallest statue in the world is also a depiction of Buddha and was also completed in 2008. Known as Laykyun Setkyar the statue is located in Monywa in Myanmar.

4. The World’s Largest Unreinforced Concrete Dome: The Pantheon

Ancient feat of engineering
By Mohammad Reza Domiri Ganji - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Western concrete dome roofs still use the principles of construction that were used to complete the Patheon in Rome, Italy. The massively popular tourist site in The Eternal City boasts the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome almost two thousand years after it was built.

The dome of the pantheon measures 43.44 meters in diameter and is supported by the rotunda. It has several exterior columns that help support this heavy feat of civil engineering. Due to the pantheon being built entirely out of concrete, it has zero reinforcements.

So how was it built?

According to a paper by Engineering Rome, the pantheon’s dome was built in layers with only one casting of concrete. To reduce the load and stresses, higher layers of the dome were made with concrete mixed with lighter stones. As a result, the bottom of the dome is much thicker than the top. 

To reduce the massive weight of the dome, the middle point was opened as a round hole. This not only became a natural light source inside the Pantheon but also ensured the self-weight of the dome didn’t accumulate at the top. 

The pantheon’s construction dates back to 27 BC, but the original building was damaged in a fire around 80 AD. It’s still a mystery whether the Pantheon was rebuilt after the fire or only restored. The exact date of the construction of the Pantheon that stands today is still undetermined. 

More Impressive Domes

  • Once the largest dome in the world, London’s famous Royal Albert Hall is still impressive, and one of the most famous domed roofs on the planet. It features an iron frame that weighs 338 tonnes and has 279 tonnes of glazing. 

  • The Taj Mahal in India, which was completed in 1653 is a perfect slice of symmetry but its white marble dome is the standout of its design. Measuring 35 meters in height it sits on a round drum to keep its weight. To make it more impressive it is decorated with a distinct Lotus flower design.

5. The World’s Most Successful AR Mobile Game: Pokémon Go

Digital feat of engineering

An engineering feat in the digital sense, Pokémon GO changed mobile gaming by vaulting the usage of augmented reality (AR) technology into the spotlight.

In 2016, the mobile game Pokémon Go sent hundreds of millions of players wandering the streets in search of virtual monsters. In the process, it helped popularize AR technology, which overlays computer-generated imagery in real-world environments.

When developing Pokémon GO, the creators used Ingress, GPS, and augmented images to allow players to engage at real locations. The game uses local geographic data to place Pokemon in appropriate habitats.

According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in America, the game’s use of location information relies on geographic information system data. This is the same data scientists use to create models of population information and infrastructure data that maps the demand for essential services like water and electricity in specific areas. 

Furthermore, the game uses your phone's clock to track the time, so if you’re out hunting at night, you’re more likely to see a fairy or nocturnal type.

In May of 2018, the app had over 147 million monthly active users, reaching over one billion global downloads by early 2019. As one of the first mobile apps to offer affordable access to AR technology, it was a movement that symbolized the next step in the digital revolution.

References

BBN Times, 2019. The Science behind roller coasters. [online] Available at https://www.bbntimes.com/science/the-science-behind-roller-coasters [Accessed on 10 May]

Guinness World Records, 2014. 8 Roller coaster records for national roller coaster day. [online] Available at https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2014/8/8-roller-coaster-records-for-national-roller-coaster-day-59634 [Accessed on 10 May]

Study,com, 2017. Danyang-Kunshan Bridge: Construction & Facts. [online] Available at https://study.com/academy/lesson/danyang-kunshan-bridge-construction-facts.html. [Accessed on 28 May]

Archeroma. Pantheon. [online] Available at: https://www.archeoroma.org/sites/pantheon/ [Accessed on 18 May]

Engineering Rome, 2019. Ancient structures in Rome: The Colosseum and Pantheon. [online] Available at: https://engineeringrome.org/ancient-structures-in-rome-the-colosseum-pantheon [Accessed on 19 May] 

Royal Albert Hall. Explore our history. [online] Available at: https://www.royalalberthall.com/about-the-hall/our-history/explore-our-history/building/roof/ 

Tourtopia, 2020. 14 World famous domes. [online] Available at: <https:www.touropia.com/famous-domes/> [Accessed 19 May]

Statue of Unity, 2019. SoU Features. [online] Available at: https://www.statueofunity.org/about_sou/sou-features/ [Accessed 18 May]

World Atlas, 2018. The 20 Tallest statues in the world. [online] Available at: <https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-tallest-statues-in-the-world.html#:~:text=The%20Tallest%20Statues%20In%20The%20World%20%20,%20%20360.00%20%206%20more%20rows%20>

WEF Highlights, 2016. Researchers share the science behind Pokémon GO. [online] Available at: news.wef.org/researchers-share-the-science-behind-pokemon-go/ [Accessed May 20] arsandbox.ucdavis.edu

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