Motoring slowly towards the future (Day 221)

Car pollutionTowards the end of last year, car pollution came under the scrutiny of some UK politicians who recommended that new schools, care homes and hospitals should be built far away from major roads because of the dangers of air pollution.

In Europe, there was a similar anti-car theme, when, around the same time, the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, announced she wanted to ban diesel cars and the pollution they bring from the streets of the French capital.

The Mayor also wanted to limit traffic in pollution hotspots, by only allowing ultra-low emission vehicles within them. In addition, new speed limits were mooted of 18 mph (30 km/h).

These proposals would be a major challenge in France with around 80 per cent of the cars on the country’s roads being diesel-powered.

From next month, France will start applying stickers to vehicles emitting the most pollution; diesel cars more than 13 years old will get a red sticker.

It is clear there is a mini backlash against cars at present, but where does all this leave current transport policy and how can engineers influence it?

Continue reading Motoring slowly towards the future (Day 221)

The twelve (chemical engineering) products of Christmas (Day 209)

Seasonal lightsI have talked in my past blogs about the lack of recognition about what chemical engineering is and why it matters.

When explaining chemical engineering to people I often say look around you, everything you can see or touch wouldn’t be here without chemical engineering.

Christmas offers an excellent opportunity to showcase twelve products that you might miss the chemical engineering in, if you don’t know where to look:

Continue reading The twelve (chemical engineering) products of Christmas (Day 209)

Kick it, catch it, chemical engineer it (Day 203)

You may have noticed that there’s a lot of sport on TV. It’s big business and it underpins the marketing and commercial strategies of many broadcasters.

All of this money supports a growing and more sophisticated sporting industry with huge budgets and backroom teams.

In Formula 1, the Mercedes team employs… 700 staff to put just two cars on track at around 20 races each year. The McLaren Group, which includes McLaren Racing (the F1 team) employs 1,500 people and has revenues of nearly £300m (US$468).

In football, the England football team took more backroom staff than players to the Brazil 2014 World Cup including managers, technical coaches, fitness coaches, doctors, nutritionists, physiotherapist, sport scientists, chefs, video analysts, kit cleaners,  performance analysis, and more.

Even a tennis player like Andy Murray is supported by his fiancée, friends, coaches, fitness trainers (2), a ‘hitting’ partner, physio and management team (Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment).

So what about the chemical engineers – where are they in this entourage of specialists?

American football
Photo credit – Aspen Photo – Shutterstock.com

Continue reading Kick it, catch it, chemical engineer it (Day 203)

Even chemical engineers can pamper (Day 198)

EyesIn some countries, chemical engineers don’t receive the respect they deserve.

Our contribution is hidden from the public as companies don’t want people to think about the ‘chemicals’ in their products.

I discussed the perception that anything natural is good and anything man-made is bad in my blog ‘Can you lead a chemical-free life?’, which demonstrates that this is not the case.

The US gets a lot of bad press about the public perceptions of science and engineering, but one thing they are getting right is the respect that seems to be increasing for chemical engineers working in the cosmetics industry.

An excellent example of this is the company Living Proof, set up by a team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), including chemical engineering Professor Robert Langer, which initially focused on hair products.

The company has such a strong technological reputation that actress Jennifer Aniston (who I am told is famous for her hair?!) was not only was willing to advertise their products but also invested in the company as a co-owner.

Photo Credit | Living Proof Dr Betty Yu
Photo Credit | Living Proof
Dr Betty Yu

Living Proof is now launching its first skin product – Neotensil – spearhead by another MIT chemical engineering alumnus Dr Betty Yu.

Neotensil uses polymer technology to compress and flatten eye bags.

Continue reading Even chemical engineers can pamper (Day 198)