The climate change phenomenon has been lingering around for a long time. Specific human activities have contributed to the increasing concerns of climate change, which is often referred to as global warming. The release of greenhouse gases has caused the average global temperature to rise by about 1°C since 1880. It may not seem a lot, but it has caused the Antarctic ice sheets to melt, and raise the sea level by about 12 inches in the last 50 years. The citizens of today need to be more cautious with greenhouse emissions and chemical wastages to control global warming. So how can chemical engineering contribute to the environment and save the world from climate change?
One of the easiest way to control emissions is to do more with the same amount of input. A majority of the energy produced today is wasted in the form of heat, water, or other emissions. The chemical sector being the most energy-intensive needs to take initiatives to improve energy efficiency. Chemical engineering can figure out ways to improve the overall efficiency within the chemical industry.
The chemical industry currently has a large carbon footprint, which is negatively impacting climate change. A straightforward way to reduce such carbon footprint is the use of renewable energy in the form of solar, wind, and water. However, the problems with such renewables is the matter of cost-efficiency as such technologies have an enormous upfront cost. Chemical engineering can solve such problems of cost efficiency by working on ways to produce low-cost renewable energy sources. For instance, using spray-on solar cells can improve its ability to capture and retain more energy than usual.
Nuclear energy is also considered to be a renewable source of energy and has been contributing towards decarbonizing the global energy economy. Its ability to provide power on a continuous basis without emitting greenhouse gases is proving vital in controlling climate change. Chemical engineering plays a vital role to ensure smooth operation of a nuclear power plant as they ensure efficient plant design, standards of safety, and higher environmental performance.
Energy storage and grid management
There’s a lot of factors to consider in the process of efficient power distribution. The process starts right from energy generation and extends till storage and distribution. In case of solar and wind energy, peak performance occurs at certain times, and such energy should be stored in batteries. Improving the efficiency of such batteries can translate to improved power management. The chemical engineering sector is making progress in the development of efficient batteries, which waste less energy during conversion and has higher storage capacity.
Although it looks innocent, the food and agriculture sector is one of the largest contributors towards greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions come from livestock such as cows, rice production, and agricultural soil. Livestock accounts for the majority of the emissions, with the release of methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. Chemical engineering can come to the rescue by designing fertilizer in a low-energy way, reusing food waste, and making food production more efficient.
As the world gets depleted of their fossil fuel reserves, scientists start looking for alternatives, of which biotechnology seems very promising. However, certain challenges need to be overcome to produce energy from food crops like maize and sugarcane. To save the world from climate change, we need to turn towards chemical engineers to develop efficient technologies and make bioenergy production cost effective.
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