7 Wonders of Civil Engineering

by Modis on July 23, 2018

civil engineering Civil engineers use physical and scientific principles to build structures that solve problems and help society. They design, construct and maintain bridges, tunnels, canals, dams, power plants, buildings, pipelines, harbors, walls, roads and railways.

Here are seven modern marvels of civil engineering that are sure to impress you!

The Gotthard Base Tunnel

The world’s longest and deepest traffic tunnel is the Gotthard Base Tunnel, a 35.5-mile railway tunnel through the Swiss Alps, which opened in 2016. The straight, flat tunnel runs up to a mile and a half deep through the mountain range, providing a faster, more direct route from Northern to Southern Europe. Passengers can ride high-speed trains through the tunnel in about 20 minutes, traveling at 125 miles per hour. The 28 million tons of hard rock excavated to create the tunnel converted into concrete for lining the tunnel walls, or used to level the terrain and create artificial islands in a nearby lake.

The Falkirk Wheel

Canals and locks crisscross the U.K., allowing commercial and pleasure boats to traverse the island kingdom. The Union Canal and the Forth & Clyde Canal in Scotland were originally joined by a set of 11 locks to navigate their difference in height of 115 ft. In 2002, the Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift shaped like a Celtic double-headed ax, replaced the old locks. The 115-ft. diameter wheel raises boats 79 feet in the air from the Forth & Clyde level to an aqueduct that takes them through two more locks before they reach the Union Canal.

Burj Khalifa Tower

Since 2008, the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is the tallest skyscraper in the world at 2,722 feet high (including the antenna on top). The reinforced concrete structure stretches over 160 stories. This features a special glass and metal cladding system to reflect the heat. The tower’s water system contains 62 miles of pipes pumping 250,000 gallons of water each day, with another 132 miles for the fire emergency system and 21 miles supplying chilled water for the air conditioning system.

Yangshan Deep Water Port

When completed, the Yangshan Deep Water Port 20 miles off the coast of Shanghai will be the world’s biggest container port, stretching 12½ miles long, with berths for 50 ships. The port will be able to process 70,000 containers a day, with 160-ft. tall cranes that unload and reload the ships in record time. Engineers built the port using thousands of millions of cubic meters of soil sucked from the ocean floor and sprayed into the deep water around some natural islands. A six-lane concrete bridge connects the port to the mainland.

Itaipu Power Plant

Spanning the border of Brazil and Paraguay, the Itaipu Power Plant creates hydroelectric power at the highest rate in the world. In order to build the plant, engineers removed 60 million cubic meters of rock and soil from the bed of the Parana River and built a concrete dam 5 miles wide and 65 stories tall to create a giant reservoir. The hydroelectric plant pumps water from the reservoir at high pressure down to the machine room, where it spins 20 giant turbines, each of which generates up to 700 megawatts of power – enough to supply 15% of Brazil’s electricity and 75% of Paraguay’s each year.

Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier

The Oosterscheldekering, or Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge barrier protects the southwestern delta of the Netherlands from floods and storm surges off the North Sea with a series of three movable flood barriers and two artificial islands. The 5½ mile long barrier is a type of dam with metal sluice gates that stay open to allow passage of fishing boats and sea life, but slide shut when the weather turns bad. Engineers designed four special ships to build the barrier, including the Mytilus.  This ship is equipped with 60-ft. long “vibration needles” that drilled down into the seabed and vibrated to compress the mud and make it more stable.

Trans-Alaska Pipeline

The 800 mile long Trans-Alaska Pipeline System crosses the entire state of Alaska, transporting oil from Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope, 250 miles above the Arctic Circle, to the Valdez Marine Terminal on Prince William Sound. The 48-inch diameter welded steel pipeline passes through 11 pumping stations along the way. The oil comes out of the ground on the North Slope at 120°F, so to avoid thawing the permafrost, engineers set much of the pipeline on vertical supports above ground. It takes about 12 days for the oil to make the trip across mountains and rivers, traveling at about 3.7 miles per hour.

The passionate dedication of civil engineers looking to improve our world contributed to all these incredible structures – and many more.

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