Upon first impression, mine may appear to be a story of failure. At the age of 17, the idea of deciding what to do with the rest of my life was quite daunting. I didn’t know where to start. I chose the option that required the least amount of effort; do what my parents did and become a medical doctor. After applying and being rejected from medicine for two years in a row, I thought I’d better try something else!
Meanwhile, a blue and orange ‘whynotchemeng’ leaflet had found its way into my hands. I remember being impressed by the wide variety of areas chemical engineers can work in. And of course, drawn to the ‘high graduate starting salaries’… I felt like I would have a choice at the end of this degree. As I didn’t have a strong answer for ‘why not chem eng?’, I decided to try it out and see where it took me!
Engineers at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) have developed a stretchy fuel cell that is powered by sweat. The ‘epidermal biofuel cells’ stick to the wearer’s skin and can power devices like LEDs and Bluetooth radios.
Fuel cells work by turning the chemical energy in hydrogen-based fuels into electrical energy when the fuel is exposed to oxygen. The chemical reaction takes place at the fuel cell’s electrodes and produce electrically charged particles. These are carried from one electrode to the other, completing the circuit and producing a current.
Combining chemistry, advanced materials and electronic interfaces, the team have made an exciting breakthrough. Their new cells can generate 10 times the power per surface area than any existing wearable biofuel cells.
Around 25,000 aircraft take to the skies every year. Together, they burn 1.5 billion barrels of jet fuel and pump out more than 780 million tonnes of CO2. While this accounts for only a fraction of the world’s CO2 emissions, there is a growing need for aviators to clean up their act.
One popular way to cut the CO2 from flights is to switch to alternative fuels. Sustainable biofuels are a promising candidate to shrink the industry’s huge carbon footprint.
Dating back to the 1600s, chemical engineers have changed the world. The industry’s roots lie in the ancient practice of alchemy, before a shift towards modern-age chemistry. While they never quite turned lead into gold, early alchemists did lead the way in manufacturing handy chemicals like sulphuric and hydrochloric acid.
Two hundred years later, George E Davis made a name for the industry with a revolutionary book. In “A Handbook of Chemical Engineering”, he noted the defining characteristics of ‘the chemical engineer’, and made the case for their distinction from chemists.
The Thames Deckway is an exciting green transport infrastructure project in London. We aim to tackle some of the big urban challenges facing our city and others like it.
With the support of Innovate UK, we are currently working towards realising our technology demonstrator in east London in 2018.
New figures from Transport for London (TfL) show that more people are cycling in the city than ever before. Despite this, currently one bicycle journey in every 515,000 ends in death or serious injury. At the same time, air pollution from vehicle emissions results in a wide range of health impacts, which significantly reduces life expectancy within the city. Compounding on these issues, projections of future climate change paint a bleak picture. For example, with much of the transport network below ground, more than 57 tube stations would be at risk of climate induced flooding.
In just one hour, our sun provides enough energy to supply the world’s electricity for an entire year. This, and many other arguments for solar energy, have made their way into people’s awareness since the 1960s. More recently, concerns over our changing climate have led to an increased interest. Yet solar power has still not been fully embraced. At the time of writing, solar power accounts for a meager 1% of total global energy production.
The technology to capture solar energy exists. Additionally, cheaper and more efficient solar cells are racing their way to industrialization., But ‘more efficient’ doesn’t always ensure adoption by consumers, homeowners and cityscapes. More importantly, adopting a green technology doesn’t always ensure green behavior by the those who use it!
We’ve all been there, crossing our legs in the crowd as our favourite band tears up the stage, putting off the inevitable trip. Eventually, however, we all have to admit defeat and give in to the reveller’s worst nightmare: The Festival Portaloo.
Combining a minimalistic design with some innovative engineering, industrial design engineer Virginia Gardiner has found the answer to festivalgoer’s prayers. Loowatt is an environmentally friendly, waterless-flushing toilet, bringing high-tech hygiene to the campsite; the award-winning design captures waste and turns it into clean, green electricity.
Greenpower is an electric car challenge that requires students, guided by their teachers and industry mentors, to design, build and then race an electric car.
The project was first launched in 1999 with just a handful of schools taking part. Since then, Greenpower has expanded greatly and is now working with over 8000 students in 500 schools across the UK. Students taking part in the initiative race their hand built cars in heats to qualify for the final race and be in with a chance of winning the title. However, the project isn’t just about winning. Greenpower is about gaining essential skills and knowledge in STEM subjects that could encourage students to consider a career in one of those areas.