Science News

London’s Car-Frying Skyscraper

London’s skyline has had a new addition recently, the ‘Walkie Scorchie’, which sits on 20 Fenchurch Street. The ‘Walkie Scorchie’ had previously been known as the ‘Walkie Talkie’ because of its resemblance to an enormous two way radio. However the 37 storey building which will be completed next year has gained a rather bad reputation, also becoming known as the death ray and the fryscraper. [1]

The south facing concave wall concentrates the sunlight into an intense beam of sunlight which hits the buildings on the opposite side of the road. Ironically the building is about 30 yards away from where the Great Fire of 1666 started – London’s burning, again!

Because the walls of the ‘Walkie Scorchie’ are concave the sun rays hit the walls of the skyscraper they then are reflected off the building and are focused to a point which is what has been causing all these problems! Some journalists have even managed to fry an egg with the heat from the skyscraper, even in September! This intense beam of light has also melted parts of a Jaguar and made tiles on the outside of near by buildings fall!  When it comes to the Jaguar, scientists and the architects that created the building that the reason why it melted was because of the colour. Apparently the Jaguar was black, which is an excellent absorber of light which would have raised the hot spot temperature which has been recorded as high as 91.3 degrees Celsius  to a much higher temperature. Some plastics, such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride) can melt at temperatures as low as 100 degrees Celsius but they can soften before that temperature. However since this has happened the Walkie Scorchie’s developers have since paid out £1,000 to the owner of the Jaguar. Even the fruit has suffered! A lemon left in the window of the shop became blackened and bubbly!

So, what do they do to solve this problem? Architects believe that there are a number of potential solutions, for example they could coat the windows in effort to reduce the reflection, but the downside of this would be that this would limit the amount of light entering the building. Another potential solution is putting up a sunscreen, to block the light from damaging buildings and cars.  However these solutions wouldn’t necessarily be a permanent fix. A totally permanent fix could cost millions.

References:

1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/architecture/10283702/Whats-fryin… 2. http://www.building.co.uk/news/%E2%80%98walkie-scorchie%E2%80%99-heat-ra… 3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-23948811 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23944679

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