In this blog series, which is part of our Sustainability Hub, we’re speaking to chemical engineers across the world making a difference to make sustainable practices and products a reality and more accessible to all for the wider benefit of our society and globe.
In today’s blog, Fotis Spyropoulos shares his work researching ways to create foods that are healthier – by reducing fats, sugar, and/or salt – but that still ensures their compounds and components are structurally-sound to make them commercially viable, as well as tasty and appealing for consumers. He gives an insight into the challenges he faces, as well as the critical chemical engineering skills to provide solutions ensuring the products hit the shelves.
Every month throughout our centenary year, we will be asking an IChemE member to write a blog about each of the centenary themes. The themes have been selected to highlight and celebrate the enormous contribution that chemical engineering has made to society over the last century.
IChemE member Dr Laura Malhi, who was part of the editorial panel looking at food and water, picks out her choices of elements to celebrate, communicate and inspire.
This week our IChemE journals have much to celebrate. The latest figures from Thomson Reuters have revealed two journals, which we published in partnership with Elsevier, have increased Impact Factors.
So how does he plan to make the role his own? We caught up with him to find out.
Name: Ian Wilson (DI Wilson on papers – I’m called by my second name) Education:
Undergraduate, Chemical Engineering, University of Cambridge, UK
PhD, Chemical Engineering, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada Job Title:
Professor of Soft Solids and Surfaces, University of Cambridge, UK
Joint Editor-in-Chief, Food and Bioproducts Processing Membership Grade: Fellow Special Interest Group: Food & Drink Research interests: How processing microstructured materials such as foodstuffs determines their structure and properties. This has led me to work in rheology, fouling and cleaning, and heat transfer.
On 24 May 2016 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Professor Jonathan Seville was inaugurated as IChemE President for 2016-17. The Executive Dean of Engineering at University of Surrey delivered his Presidential Address on the subject of relevance. Jonathan challenged us all to think: how will the Institution and the profession stay relevant in a world that is rapidly changing?
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.
From practical problem solving at BP to travelling the world with work for Syngenta, it’s clear to see that life as a chemical engineer brings great benefits and opens up a world of opportunities.
Today it’s time to shine a spotlight on the lads and lasses at Mondelez International – one of the world’s largest confectionery, food and beverage companies. Their products and brands, including Cadbury, Philadelphia and Oreo fill the shelves in shops and supermarkets all over the world.
So what’s it like to be a chemical engineer at Mondelez?
Are they the modern day Willy Wonkas? Check out the videos and find out for yourselves:
(1) Chemical engineers at Mondelez work out new and inventive ways to produce more with less
Benjamin Hodges, a graduate trainee at the Mondelez Bourneville factory in Birmingham, UK, talks about the demands on a chemical engineer in the food industry – from reducing waste to increasing raw material yield:
Day 362, four blogs to go. Four more opportunities to highlight chemical engineering in action.
In the Christian tradition, the four horsemen of the apocalypse are the harbingers of the end of the world.
Other faiths offer different views, but for the purposes of this blog post I’m taking a look at four big challenges that present a serious threat to life on earth: water scarcity; increasing energy demand; food security; and climate change. What are chemical engineers doing to tackle these issues and avert the apocalypse?
I have previously observed that we run the risk of sleep-walking towards climate catastrophe. But it’s more complicated than that. The water, energy, food and climate change challenges are interrelated.The former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, Sir John Beddington, used the term Perfect Storm to describe this phenomenon arguing that climate change will intensify pressure on resources further, adding to the vulnerability of both ecosystems and people.
Chemical engineering can provide shelter from John’s ‘Perfect storm’. Here are some examples.
It’s always a pleasure to pick up a newspaper and read about the latest achievements of a fellow chemical engineer, and in this case, an IChemE member.
Many chemical engineers are discouraged from talking about their work. Particularly when an employer doesn’t want you to let the cat out of the bag and give away a secret formula, process or recipe.
So I was particularly pleased to discover that Alan Gundle, the chief analytical scientist for the leading global confectionery, food and drink manufacturer Mondelez International, had spoken about his work in a leading UK broadsheet newspaper.
The article is truly inspirational, and based on Alan’s comments, I’ve compiled a list of things that can help the chemical engineer to succeed in the food and drink industries.
It’s my own personal list and it’s not exhaustive, but here’s my starter for ten:
If you’re a fan of the Olympics, and swimming in particular, you’ll be familiar with the size of the pool (50 m x 25 m). But have you ever wondered how much water it holds and how long it might take for one person to drink it?
Depending on depth, the pool will hold between 1.25 million litres of water (1 m depth) to 2.5 million litres of water (2 m depth). And if you assume we all drink between 2-4 litres of water each day, that would take over 3,400 years for one person to consume.
In fact, many of us will consume all the water in the smaller size swimming pool in just one year. It’s all due to the amount of ‘hidden water’ we consume in our food.
These numbers may be hard to believe but here’s a few examples of how easy it is to build up your water footprint based on three main meals a day – even without dessert!
International demand for fruit and vegetables is growing. We all want affordable fresh food available all-year-round, everywhere.
To ensure that your food arrives to you unspoiled and ready to eat food suppliers pick unripe fruit, transport it and then trigger the ripening process using ethylene.
The ethylene used to do this comes from the steam cracking of fossil fuels. With government aims to reduce the use of fossil fuels, fruit ripening needs to go green too!
Researchers, including engineers, biologists and physicists, from the University of Trento in Italy have developed an Escherichia coli strain which can produce ethylene to help ripen our fruit, removing the need for fossil fuels.
Often when we think about reducing food waste we focus on being more efficient and doing less with more.
But sometimes I think we forget that the packaging our food comes in has been specially designed to ensure that our food lasts as long as possible – once you take food out of the pack it drastically reduces its shelf-life.
Over 100 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the European Union. And if nothing is done this is expected to rise to 126 million tonnes by 2020.
The wasting of food is not only an economic and ethical issue but it also depletes our natural resources. There are 805 million undernourished people in the world today, anything we can do to stop food being wasted will help reduce this inequality.
In January this year saw the conclusion of the IQ-FRESHLABEL research project set up to develop intelligent labels to help reduce our food waste.
Globalisation has created opportunities for many industries, but the growth of some fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) – especially fresh foods – continue to be limited by their relatively short shelf lives.
For some countries, like Australia, it places an unwelcome cap on their exporting potential and economic growth.
For nations with burgeoning populations, especially in South East Asia, the scope and volume of ‘fresh’ food imports can be constrained and place additional burdens on ‘home-grown’ food supplies.
Smoking, passive-smoking and tobacco-related products like ‘chewing tobacco’ still kill around six million people a year. Despite all the education, controls and stigmatisation of smokers over many decades, the casualty rate is expected to rise even further to eight million by 2030.
But humanity is likely to face an even bigger killer in the future – obesity.
Worldwide obesity has doubled since 1980. Current estimates suggest 3.4 million adults die every year as a result of being overweight.
They may not call themselves ‘chemical engineers’, but ‘process engineers’, ‘product engineers’, ‘process technologists’ [and a multitude of other job descriptions] are busily working away in the food industry to make the brands we know and love.
Producing tasty, safe, consistent, attractive, stable and value-for-money foods on a large scale is a remarkable achievement. Without those product values and others, glitzy marketing will always fail.