WPV3 has not been detected for more than two years. The last reported case of Wild Poliovirus Type 2 (WPV2) was in India in 1999.
The completion of polio eradication was declared a programmatic emergency for public health in 2012, and the international spread of Wild Poliovirus Type 1 (WPV1) was declared a public health emergency of international concern in May 2014.
The efforts needed to interrupt all indigenous WPV1 transmission are now being focused on the remaining endemic countries: Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Mankind’s ability to transform public health in this way is impressive. Let’s hope we can achieve the same results with Ebola.
Scotland is home to some of the finest and most famous foods and drinks in the world. Few are bigger – and more important to the national economy – than Scottish Salmon and Whisky.
And now – with a sprinkle of chemical engineering expertise thrown in – these two iconic industries are forging closer ties with the help of a new company established by Heriot-Watt University, called Horizon Proteins.
Horizon Proteins will exploit a by-product of whisky to feed and grow another – salmon.
Horizon Proteins has developed a method of using pot ale, or the spent liquid residue left over from the whisky making process, to produce sustainable protein for fish food for salmon farming.
I’m now officially half way through my presidency and I’d like to thank everyone for their support and encouragement over the past six months.
But let’s get back to business with today’s blog.
In recent years, significant efforts have been made to turn the world’s citizens into recyclers of waste.
In parts of the UK such as England, the household waste recycling rate reached 43.2% in 2012/13. Over the previous decade, the amount of waste going to landfill has fallen by over 60 per cent.
This data is encouraging, but 34 per cent of local authority managed waste in England still went to landfill in 2012/13 – over a hundred kilogrammes for each man, woman and child.
I suspect for large parts of the world this is a similar picture, but the trends are positive and the number of landfill sites is decreasing and new developments are being scaled back as we find ways to re-use our waste.
But one aspect of recycling that get’s less attention, is what to do with the waste already buried in tens of thousands of landfill sites across the world.
In today’s blog we are heading towards Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico, which is a small town with a population of around 5,000 people located just south of the US border near Columbus, New Mexico.
It’s a part of the world that has an average annual rainfall in the region of 361 mm (14.21 inches). In comparison, parts of the UK has more than ten times this level (4,577 mm or 180.2 inches).
Water supplies for North and South of the border are drawn from the same aquifers, some of which are contaminated with arsenic and fluoride.
On the US side, the water is treated using a reverse osmosis system to provide all residents with clean water.
On the Mexican side, the water supply is only disinfected with chlorine. The levels of arsenic and fluoride contaminating the water supply is toxic to the people who drink it over a long period of time.
If you had to sit down in front of the three biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world – China (29 per cent), USA (15 per cent), and the European Union (10 per cent) – and persuade them to scale back their use of fossil fuels what would you say?
Would you take the emotive approach and appeal to their sense of humanity by highlighting the risks they are storing up for our children and grandchildren in the future?
Or would you lead with the science articulated so determinedly by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in its Synthesis Report at the start of this month?
Either way, it does seem that nations – and even within nations – the world’s biggest game of poker is underway.
Our leaders are literally gambling with our planet, and the odds are getting worse if you agree with the IPCC.
This game of cards moved on recently when China and the US unveiled new pledges on greenhouse gas emissions.
US President Barack Obama said the move was “historic”, as he set a new goal of reducing US levels between 26 per cent-28 per cent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels.
China did not set a specific target, but said emissions would peak by 2030.
But there are other lines of work, some of which have been under way for a while, seeking different solutions.
One of these is to increase our understanding of ‘natural’ interventions – like the food we we eat – to reduce the risk of infections in the first place.
If you have been unfortunate enough to suffer from a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), you’ll know they can be painful and uncomfortable. They usually pass within a few days or can be treated with a course of antibiotics (if not resistant).
When you consider that half of all women in the UK will have a UTI at least once in their life, and, to illustrate the numbers in a different way, 13,000 UK men are likely to need treatment every year, it is easy to see how prevention is better than cure.
I did, however, blog about one of the short-listed entries, preventing blindness with a sleep mask, before the event and I’m happy to report that they won the Innovative Product of the Year Award on the night – so congratulations to Polyphotonix!
Another winner on the night was by Huntsman Pigments, based at their Greatham site in Hartlepool, UK, for their innovative project which improves titanium dioxide efficiency in the manufacture of titanium dioxide pigments.
They bagged the Chemical Engineering Project of the Year Award sponsored by Sellafield Ltd.
If you enjoy change, it’s always exciting when there’s the chance to re-write the rules. How we work, shop, meet people, communicate, play and even be entertained has all changed dramatically in recent years as a result of the internet and technology.
Where we can do these things has changed as well – just about anywhere.
However, one of the great limiters is energy and the opportunity to re-charge some of the fantastic devices we use.
There are some exciting developments such as the Upp is a personal energy device based on hydrogen fuel cell technology that gives instant energy anytime, anywhere to portable electronic devices such as smartphones and MP3 players via USB.
Two projects have caught my eye recently that may give some hints about where we might build some of our power stations and processing facilities in the future.
Quite rightly, land-based power stations and industrial units are subject to careful scrutiny before planning permission is given. The fact they are so visible and close to communities means the opinions of thousands of people may need to be considered.
Even offshore facilities like fixed wind farms, visible from coastlines, bear the scars of public consultation.
But what if we generated our power or processed raw materials further out into our seas and oceans, beyond the horizon. Would that offer a new solution?
The World Health Organization estimates that antibiotic treatments add an average of 20 years to all of our lives.
But life spans are now under threat caused by the rise of antimicrobial resistance, which is threatening to make antibiotics less effective in the future.
In in the 80 years since the discovery of penicillin, our overuse of antibiotics has put pressure on bacteria to evolve resistance, leading to the emergence of untreatable superbugs that threaten the basis of modern medicine.
Many chemical engineers will be familiar with bubbles and foams. They are used widely in foods, drinks, cosmetics, cleaning products… just to name a few.
The benefits of bubbles in products like these are generally self-evident, but, remarkably, they are also being used to help us understand how the very first living cells on Earth might have survived billions of years ago.
The video above demonstrates how tiny, soapy bubbles can reorganize their membranes to let material flow in and out in response to the surrounding environment. Billions of years ago, such emergent behavior could have allowed the earliest living cells to adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Those of you with long memories will remember a classic space movie from 1956 called Forbidden Planet. The film (and subsequent cult stage play) features an unusual cinema icon – Robby the Robot.
Full of personality, Robby clanked his way around the film and has been doing so ever since in film and TV cameos up to the present day.
Robby has helped to set an image of our mechanical friends that lingers today, but in reality the world of robotics is much more diverse, and can even appear stranger than fiction itself.
One of the latest robotics projects involving chemical engineers is work being undertaken at the University of Michigan. They are attempting to create robots smaller than a grain of sand and have already shown how chains of self-assembling particles could serve as electrically activated muscles in tiny machines.
Many consumers find the energy markets frustrating and, whichever country you live in, it is likely that the choice of where you get your gas or electricity from will be limited, even if provided by the private sector.
The most ubiquitous, successful and competitive model we currently have for ‘buying’ energy is the petrol station. The first makeshift ‘filling station’ appeared in 1888 in Germany. The first purpose-built ‘gas station’ was constructed in the USA in 1905.
Today, there’s in excess of a million petrol stations dotted around the world, and it is infrastructure on this scale, along with public acceptance, that are important enablers to the widespread adoption of any technology, especially energy.
Most of us, at some point in our lives, have been in the situation where our phone batteries have run out of power at the most inconvenient time. And waiting for it to recharge takes longer than expected; it can be one of the most frustrating things in modern day life.
Our stationary supplies would not be the same without the Post-it note. Imagine if we couldn’t bookmark our pages as easily, or write reminders to ourselves and co-workers – life would be less organised, and perhaps less colourful.
Post-it notes are available nowadays in a range of sizes, colours, and even fragrances with sales of the product estimated to be US$ 1 billion per year.
At IChemE, we even use jigsaw shaped Post-it notes as a method of engaging with our members through our technical strategy, Chemical Engineering Matters. I even flew to the other side of the world to attend the Chemeca 2014 conference in Perth, Australia, with a supply of Post-it notes safely packed in my luggage.
The company that invented Post-it notes was 3M, and in fact, it was a chemical engineer called Arthur Fry who thought up the genius idea of the sticky notes we know and love.
It took over a decade for Post-it notes to be released to the market from its inception. The invention of the Post-it started in the 1968 when Spencer Silver, a senior chemist at 3M, was conducting experiments in order to develop a strong acrylate copolymer-based adhesive for the aerospace industry.
When I meet with up and coming chemical engineers – and via this blog – I often get asked for advice on what career route they should take.
My guidance is always to look at all the options; do your research; talk to family and friends; gain work experience if possible; and analyse your own strengths and weaknesses. In some cases you may even seek professional careers advice.
But, importantly, the decision must be yours, especially as it may prove to be the most dominant and consistent feature of your life for 50 years or more.
However, one of the options is a career in academia and I hope you find this information useful background to any decision you make.
Relatively few chemical engineering graduates continue on into further study; for example in the UK, 33.1 per cent of chemistry graduates carry out postgraduate study compared with 16.5 per cent of chemical engineering graduates.
Yes, you did read the title correctly! Chemical engineering is such a big area that sometimes we need look no further than our colleagues to come up with the right solution.
Collaboration and multidisciplinary study have been the buzzwords of research for a long time. But sometimes we forget how broad the field of chemical engineering is and that sometimes it is enough just to learn from other chemical engineers.
One of the common gripes I hear is that major companies are not willing to recruit chemical engineers from different sectors.
In November 2014, Chevron Oronite president and IChemE past president, Dr Des King, gave a presentation on the nexus at AIChE’s research conference in San Francisco. His thinking outlined the complex challenge of population growth, urbanisation and the expanding ‘middle class’ in developing economies; all of which are driving up demand.
One of the most important roles that chemical engineers can play is improving safety.
A good example of this is the IChemE Safety Centre (ISC) which sets up a new impetus and framework for process safety.
Despite the good work of chemical engineers in mitigating dangerous events, they still occur.
Often the reason given for these incidents is a lack of understanding of what process safety is and how it differs from occupational safety.
For example people often use this to explain why the BP Texas City refinery explosion and fire, which sadly killed 15 people and injured 180 more, occurred. It has been suggested that there was too great a focus on reducing the high number of occupational safety incidents, rather than the more infrequent but much more serious process safety incidents.
I have put together this list of ten differences between process and occupational (personal) safety to help dispel this (however it should be noted that this list is my opinion and there is a lot of overlap between process and occupational safety – hence the confusion!):
Few professions have the power globally to shape and improve the future.
Chemical engineers have this privilege and this year’s IChemE Global Awards once again illustrated how our profession is setting new standards in healthcare, energy, water, safety and a more sustainable planet, including supporting some of the poorest people in the world.
The Awards finished just over an hour ago and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. IChemE was joined by nearly 500 people, who were treated to some excellent entertainment, food and the chance to mingle with colleagues and friends from around the world.
But, as always, the highlight of the evening was the awards and the chance to showcase some of the best chemical engineering talent, innovation and success from around the world.
And in 2014, the night belonged to Australasia, which collected a clutch of awards and highly commended entries, including the overall prize.
A common image of mankind’s influence on our planet is to show its impact on nature and wildlife.
In relation to climate change, the plight of the polar bear is often highlighted. But should that image now include humans?
By the end of the century it may be a reality – certainly the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) think so.
In my role as a professor of energy engineering and my previous stern warnings about our dangerously low rate of progress in reducing carbon emissions, you can imagine that I had been eagerly anticipating last Sunday’s release of the IPCC’s Synthesis Report.
One of the surprising aspects of my search for some of the best chemical engineering stories across the world is the role of the profession in the fight against disease and serious injury.
Working alongside medical professionals, chemical engineers appear to be innovating at a prodigious rate. There are some excellent stories to tell and the media knows that health and wellbeing issues are of great interest to the public.
Brazil (1,648), India (1,638), Russia (1,197) and China (1,169) and Japan (1,004) have an impressive number of institutions, with USA heading the pile with 3,301.
It is always an impressive thought that in many of these Universities there are chemical engineers looking to solve some of the world’s dilemmas and challenges.
Of course, there’s always a risk that research is done in isolation. Thankfully academics are very good at sharing their work, and professional bodies like IChemE host events regularly to bring leaders in education, industry and government together.
My blog has also been created to highlight some of the best chemical engineering stories from around the world. Today we head to Spain, where the UPV/EHU University of the Basque Country is working to develop alternative fuels.
In two days time, many people across the UK will be heading outdoors to enjoy an annual festival called ‘Bonfire Night’, which celebrates the failed attempt by Guy Fawkes and others to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
It is a nervous time, leading up to, and on the night for the rescue services with fireworks used widely. Accidents inevitably happen.
In the chemical and process industries, the fireworks industry is one of the most hazardous to work in.
In 2013, there were eight reported accidents in firework factories worldwide including China (3), India (2), Italy, Canada and Vietnam killing at least 48 people and injuring over a hundred.
The worst incident in Northern Vietnam’s Phú Tho Province killed 26 people and damaged an estimated 1,300 households in a three kilometre blast radius.
Routinely there are calls and initiatives to boost the number of school pupils who pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in school and beyond.
In the UK there are different campaigns from Government, industry, charitable organisations and professional bodies. Many of you will have heard about IChemE’s whynotchemeng initiative.
It’s useful to remind ourselves that there are challenges and strategies in place in other areas of the world too.
This month, the Australian government announced an AUS$12 million investment in school STEM subjects. There is a realisation that the STEM skillset is essential to national and international economic growth and competitiveness.