One of the central messages in my presidential address was the resolute assertion that chemical engineers should stand up and speak out. We need to tell the world about the difference that we make.
I’ve been repeating this mantra pretty much ever since. Indeed that’s the driving purpose behind this blog.
But there’s a key consideration in all of this that engineers of all types frequently overlook. We have to talk to the public in a language that they understand. This sometimes proves challenging because let’s be honest, some of the stuff that we do is pretty complicated.
Thirty years ago we could get away with fobbing people off with the argument that “it’s over your head; don’t worry; leave it to us…” But that won’t wash today. We have a duty to explain what we do and we must be able to explain things simply and lucidly.
BP has been asking STEM undergraduate students across the UK to compete in their annual Ultimate Field Trip competition Since 2010. Teams of three students are asked to propose a solution to real-world global energy challenges.
This year’s challenge was based on water – How to address the effective, efficient and sustainable use of wastewater from the production of oil, gas and biofuels.
Students were tasked with developing a novel technical solution to reduce water usage or find an effective use for water produced from operations.
The Students’ Union bar sometimes proves a more attractive option than completing that tricky course work and I have often wondered if extra-curricular high jinks might be the reason behind some of the dazed expressions that greeted me during the dreaded 9 o’clock Monday morning lecture.
But given that brewing is one of the earliest examples of chemical process engineering, maybe we shouldn’t be too hard on those who enjoy the end product. Nonetheless, beer like many other chemically engineered products is best enjoyed in moderation!
Chemical engineers are still working to improve the brewing process and today I am highlighting the work of students from Newcastle University, UK and the University of Sheffield, UK, who have shown great entrepreneurial spirit and brewed their own beer.
Stu Brew, is a sustainable microbrewery managed by students for students. It was set up in partnership with the School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials at Newcastle University. The microbrewery acts as a research unit for sustainable brewery design, with some students involved as part of their academic studies.
As an academic, I know that chemical engineering matters in the research space. And IChemE recognises the importance of forums and meetings where chemical engineering researchers can share their work with their peers.
One such important UK research meeting for chemical engineers is the annual ChemEngDayUK conference.
This event brings together researchers, engineers and scientists from chemical engineering departments across the UK to showcase their latest technological advances and research to leading experts within the field.
There is also specific emphasis placed on collaboration between academia and industry.
As we advance our knowledge of renewable energies is it important that we are able to reduce the cost of producing them, to make them affordable and widely available.
In an earlier blog I discussed charities working to alleviate energy poverty by building a new economy around solar power.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Department of Physics and Astronomy have developed a method to produce spray-on perovskite solar cells.
This is very exciting as it offers a way of developing a low-cost method of producing solar energy cells.
I’m not too sure how many scientists collaborate with poets, but that’s just what’s happened in Sheffield, UK.
Simon Armitage, Professor of Poetry at the University, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Science Professor Tony Ryan, have created a catalytic poem (I think we can safely say this is a world’s first… but you never know).
So what is a catalytic poem? Well, between the pair of them, they’ve produced a huge poster of the poem called ‘In Praise of Air’. The poster material contains a formula invented at the University of Sheffield which is capable of purifying its surroundings.