IChemE’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are an essential way for our members to share knowledge and collaborate on initiatives, which are of significance to their sector.
Today is World Water Day, and our Water SIG is a hugely important part of providing expert advice and consultation to the innovations that could change our world. Water is essential to life, it must be sustainable or we cannot survive. Chemical engineers are an important part of making sure water provision is sufficient, clean, economical, and environmentally-friendly.
Chris Short, Chair of the IChemE Water SIG, explores in more detail the current challenges for the water sector in today’s blog post. Read on to hear his thoughts, and feel free to join the conversation on Twitter using #WorldWaterDay or by leaving a comment below:
Name: Chris Short Job: Consultant and Chartered Chemical Engineer Company: Chris Short Water Quality (previously Yorkshire Water) Special Interest Group: Water, Chairman
Today is World Water Day, and I’ll be attending a conference in Leeds, UK, on Innovations in Wastewater Treatment. The focus will be on the recovery of value from wastewater and I expect to hear how leading-edge technologies are performing and what new processes are being evaluated by researchers.
We are all heavily reliant on personal computers. At home, at work and on the move. However, we have all experienced the noise and annoyance of the cooling fan in our computers when we push their processing power too hard.
If we define status in terms of precious metals and elements, platinum nestles in second place below diamond, but above gold, silver and bronze.
Just a few hundred tonnes are mined each year from naturally occurring sources and as a by-product of nickel and copper processing.
Most of it comes out of Africa and its rarity, combined with its uses, make it precious and sought after by both investors and industry.
Platinum has a high resistance to corrosion even at high temperatures. It allows the transmission of electric current and is used in many products including pacemakers, solar cells, electrodes, drugs, oxygen sensors, spark plugs.
It is also a valuable catalyst and around half of platinum’s annual production is used to control vehicle emissions in catalytic converters.
Demand for platinum is high and during the economic meltdown in 2008, its value rose to nearly £50 per gram (US$70 per gram).
Once the dust has settled after the merriment and celebration of welcoming in the New Year, it’s only natural to reflect on the year that has passed. 2014 was a great year for me, full of new experiences and meeting new people, which obviously includes a lot of chemical engineers, through my role as IChemE president.
So, on reflection, I’d like to share with you my personal and professional chemical engineering highlights of 2014.
1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Synthesis Report
The issue of climate change has been top of my agenda for some time, and communicating across the seriousness and urgency needed by our global society to mitigate the effects has been a personal mission of mine.
Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I have spent my career focusing on carbon capture and storage and I am always on the lookout for new ways to deal with climate change.
For a new method of carbon capture to be a success it has to be sustainable and economically viable, but if it can make a profit, it is even better!
When I came across this story of a company, Liquid Light, made up of chemical engineers, chemists, environmental engineers, physicists and mechanical engineers using carbon dioxide to make plastic bottles, face cream and wood glue, it made me think that this could be a real solution to our problem.
A Golden Age is a concept that implies a period of great advancement and outstanding achievement for a civilisation or topic. This concept can be applied to chemical engineering.
Although chemical engineering is a relatively new profession, it could be said that it has already gone through two such periods of change and has now entered a third Golden Age of practice, thought and impact. With many great opportunities and challenges that accompany it.
One of the biggest frustrations that many scientists and engineers face, both in academia and industry, is short-termism. For issues like sustainability it’s problematic.
Investors and politicians can be nervous about taking the long-term view. Business likes quick wins; figures it can report quarterly and give annual performance targets.
By contrast, the journey to sustainability is often gradual, steady and long-term. For many of us it is a continual process of improvement – a step-by-step process of finding ways to use less energy, reduce waste and generally improve.
With some exceptions, many countries, including the UK, have just been through the worst recession ever. Even now, nations have still to return to 2008 economic output levels.
If you managed to survive the last six years, you’re likely to be leaner and more efficient, but still cautious. As economists say – confidence is the magical word to drive investment, jobs and expansion.
As a professor of energy engineering at Imperial College London I am often asked about the future. What we know for sure is that there is going to be major change with climate change, dwindling fossil fuels and an extra two billion people on the planet all playing their part in the various scenarios and possibilities.
There are other factors too, but it’s always interesting to look into the crystal ball through the eyes of some of the various stakeholders in the chemical and process industries.